Press Release

Religious Freedom Day Celebrates Nation’s Pluralism Becket launches RFRA website showcasing its role protecting Native Americans, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over two decades ago, Congress declared January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, a day for honoring America’s first freedom. This Saturday, Becket launches RFRA Central to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the “Virginia Statute Establishing Religious Freedom” – the forerunner of the Constitution’s First Amendment Religion Clauses. Thomas Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute his crowning achievement and today it lives on in laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which gives life to the First Amendment’s guarantee that every American should be free to live out their beliefs in peace.

“On this Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the foundational rights in the Virginia Statute championed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that are enshrined in our Constitution and civil rights laws,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel of Becket. “RFRA plays an essential role in protecting the religious minorities of our time.”

In 1993, the same year Americans observed the first official Religious Freedom Day, Congress passed RFRA by nearly a unanimous vote, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The president and Congress called on American courts, through RFRA, to protect more vigorously Americans of all faiths against substantial burdens on their religious practices.

The new RFRA Central website is designed as a resource for all Americans, including journalists, lawyers and researchers, interested in learning more about this critical law.

RFRA Central highlights various aspects of this landmark civil rights law, including:

  • RFRA Stories: A collection of court decisions from around the country demonstrating how the federal RFRA (and its state counterparts) have protected Native Americans, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Santerias as well as Christians.
  • History of RFRA: A comprehensive review of RFRA’s history from Employment Division v. Smith to RFRA, RLUIPA, and state RFRAs.
  • RFRA Map: An interactive map highlighting which states have passed RFRAs as well as fast facts about states’ key court decisions invoking RFRA.
  • RFRA News: A list of news stories touching on nationwide RFRA issues.
  • RFRA Legal: A collection of legal publications and other RFRA resources.
  • RFRA Numbers: A collection of important statistics and facts related to RFRA.
  • RFRA Fact v. Fiction: An infographic addressing the myths vs. reality surrounding RFRA.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. 


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.