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Religious Freedom Day Parade

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The Religious Freedom Day parade hit the streets of downtown Fredericksburg Jan. 12 to commemorate the 243rd anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s drafting the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. 

The bill caused much debate and took nine years before passing the Virginia General Assembly Jan. 16, 1786. The bill was the basis for the religion clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Jefferson felt strongly about religion, and his notes were clear that the principle of religious freedom was meant to include every faith and denomination.

Since 1974, the Rappahannock assembly Knights of Columbus 1613 have commemorated the bill and Jefferson’s role in preserving religious freedom in a ceremony for all faiths at the Monument for Religious Freedom on Washington Avenue. The warm weather and sunshine were a pleasant gift to the more than 100 participants this year. The parade had been canceled the past two years due to inclement weather.  

Leading the parade was the Rappahannock Assembly Knights of Columbus followed by groups such as the Knights Templar, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Lutheran Church and members of the local Masonic Lodge. Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians followed behind explaining the parade’s significance to onlookers.

The celebration continued at the end of the parade route near the monument for Religious Freedom. A stage was erected with a number of special guests, including Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw who officially declared Jan. 12 to be Religious Freedom Day. 

Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, gave the keynote address praising the city of Fredericksburg for the healthy dialogue and relationships that exist between the city’s different religious groups. 

“The United States is an experiment started by Thomas Jefferson here in Fredericksburg,” said Father Rooney. “What does religion look like when it is unbound by political power? It is here that we can live lives of a truly spiritual context, free of war lords and prelates who would have political reasons to twist the truths of faith and use them for evil. Here is the place where all are free to be who they are spiritually, to live out their lives in a relationship with God in whom they have been formed.” 

Kassock is a freelancer from Fredericksburg. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020