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8 Photos: Fredericksburg’s Annual Religious Freedom Day Celebration

By Susan Larson. Photos copyright Robert A. Martin for Fredericksburg.Today.

Area religious groups joined the local Knights of Columbus for their annual Religious Freedom Day parade and celebration January 10, 2016, commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Jefferson drafted the bill while in Fredericksburg in 1777 as part of a committee tasked with revising Virginia’s colonial laws, according to Karen Klugh, an organizer of the event. The bill was the basis for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“Each January since 1974, the Knights of Columbus have commemorated the bill and Jefferson’s role in preserving religious freedom,” Klugh said.

Members of the Knights Templar of Virginia (pictured in red trimmed cloaks) and Knights of Columbus (white trimmed cloaks) led participants along Caroline Street through downtown Fredericksburg to the Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Avenue. A variety of religious groups carried banners showing their support for religious freedom.

Retired Navy SEAL Rob DuBois — pictured at the podium during a brief rain shower — was the keynote speaker. He then carried a wreath to the base of the monument. DuBois is the author of “Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War.”

The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal benefit society founded in 1881 in Connecticut by Catholic Father Michael J. McGivney. According to their website, the order has grown to 1.9 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, Lithuania, Ukraine, and South Korea.

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