Donald Trump says religious freedom is 'under attack'

Donald Trump said religious freedom was 'under attack'Reuters

Donald Trump has pledged to do more to protect freedom of conscience and belief at home and overseas on Religious Freedom Day. 

In his proclamation for Religious Freedom Day on Wednesday, the US President called upon all Americans to take part in events and activities 'that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and that teach us how to secure this blessing both at home and around the world'.

He said that the 'right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth'.

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in the US each year to commemorate the Statute for Religious Freedom enacted by Virginia on 16 January 1786. 

The statute was written by Thomas Jefferson to protect religious liberty as an inherent right and was the inspiration for the First Amendment in the US Constitution penned a few years later. 

'Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack,' said Trump in the proclamation.

'Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom — or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech — are on the rise.

'Over time, legislative and political attacks on religious freedom have given way to actual violence.' 

He recalled the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last year in which 11 people were killed.  It marked the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history. 

'Tragically, attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years,' Trump continued. 

'My Administration is taking action to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.

'The Department of Justice is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans.' 

Further afield, Trump said he was committed to furthering religious freedom around the world as he spoke of the 'tragic reality' of persecution. 

'Around the globe today, people are being persecuted for their faith by authoritarian dictatorships, terrorist groups, and other intolerant individuals,' he said.

'We are listening to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and we are listening to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.' 

Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo convened the first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at Trump's request.  It brought together faith leaders from around the world to discuss challenges to religious freedom and how to address persecution. 

In his address to the ministerial, Vice President Mike Pence said the US would continue to fight for religious freedom. 

'The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms. When religious freedom is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms are imperiled. That's why the United States stands for religious freedom yesterday, today and always,' he said.