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THE WILLIAMSBURG CHARTER

ON THE 1st AMENDMENT (1988)

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The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the basic guarantee of religious freedom in the US. It reads:
" 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."

In 1986, a group of individuals representing the main religious faiths in the United States (Protestant Christian, Catholic Christian, Judaism, Secularism, etc) met to draft a statement on religious liberty. It was extensively revised after seeking the input from political leaders, academics and leaders of many faith groups. It was named after Williamsburg VA in recognition of that city's role in the preservation of religious liberty.

It was signed by 100 national signers on 1988-JUN-25, the 200th anniversary of Virginia's call for a Bill of Rights. The breadth of political and religious belief among the signers is impressive. As President Clinton mentioned in 1995, it included:

"Presidents Ford and Carter; Chief Justice Rehnquist and the late Chief Justice Burger; Senator Dole and former Governor Dukakis; Bill Bennett and Lane Kirkland, the president of the AFL-CIO; Norman Lear and Phyllis Schlafly [Eagle Forum] signed it together -- (laughter) -- Coretta Scott King and Reverend James Dobson [Focus on the Family]."

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The Williamsburg Charter

The text is quite long, so we have divided it into 5 parts, each of which is 15k bytes or less:
  1. Introduction
  2. A Time for Reaffirmation of the first principles that underlie the religious liberty in American experience
  3. A Time for Reappraisal of recent public conflicts
  4. A Time for Reconstitution, of reappropriating the vision and ideals of the framers of the Constitution today
  5. Renewal of First Principles

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