Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be the keynote speaker for Sunday’s Religious Freedom Day celebration.
The annual event recognizes Fredericksburg’s role in formulating what ultimately became the religion clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Cuccinelli, a Republican who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2013, will speak at the ceremony held on Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg where the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom monument stands.
The monument commemorates the January 1777 meeting in Fredericksburg of Thomas Jefferson and Virginia legislators that set in motion the state’s religious freedom statute, which was the precursor to the religion portion of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights—the First Amendment.
Sunday’s event, organized by the Knights of Columbus—Rappahannock Assembly, begins at 1:30 p.m. with a parade from the train station on Lafayette Boulevard to the monument site.
After the ceremony, a second event, sponsored by the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason, will be held at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, where University of Mary Washington professor Mary Beth Mathews will speak on religious liberty.
Mathews is a specialist on religion in America, said professor Craig Vasey, chairman of the department of classics, philosophy and religion. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and a doctorate from the University of Virginia.
This year, the coalition and UMW’s department of classics, philosophy and religion held an essay contest for middle-schoolers on the theme: Why is religious freedom important to us?
The contest was open to students in Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George.
A panel of UMW students, with oversight by faculty, chose three winners from among a dozen entries. Each student will receive $100 from the Fredericksburg Secular Humanists, a member organization of the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason.
The winners were Abigail Leidy, a seventh-grader at Spotsylvania’s Ni River Middle School, Cameron Close, a seventh-grader at Stafford’s Rodney Thompson Middle Schoo, and Grace Whitenack, a sixth-grader who is home-schooled and part of the Christ Covenant School Co-op.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972; firstname.lastname@example.org
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Sunday’s religious freedom celebration in Fredericksburg includes the following events:
1:30 p.m.—March to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom monument. The route travels from the train station parking lot at Frederick and Sophia streets to the monument on Washington Avenue.
2 p.m.—Religious Freedom Day ceremony with keynote speaker Ken Cuccinelli on Washington Avenue.
2:30 p.m.—Religious Freedom Celebration at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library Headquarters, 1201 Caroline St.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures religious freedom and four other rights to citizens of the United States.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”