January 5, 1998

National Religious Freedom Day Ceremony to Recognize Steven Rockefeller

The Council of America's First Freedom will honor Steven C. Rockefeller, professor of religion and former dean at Middlebury College, with the 1998 National First Freedom Award during the National Religious Freedom Day Ceremony at Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., on Sunday, January 11 at 5:00 p.m. Two Richmond congregations will be similarly honored at the ceremony.

Rockefeller will receive the Council's 1998 National First Freedom Award for his efforts to promote dialogue and mutual understanding among the world's religions. He is the author of numerous books, papers and articles that explore the often complex relationship between religion and contemporary issues, and has appeared on Bill Moyer's "World of Ideas" series, and other public television programs. He received his Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York and a Ph.D. in the philosophy of religion and history from Columbia University.

Former recipients of the National First Freedom Award include Richard C. Holbrooke, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, and Dr. Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia.

National Religious Freedom Day, which celebrates the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, is proclaimed by the President of the United States and endorsed by the governors of 35 states. The Virginia Statute was written by Thomas Jefferson, inspired by George Mason, and guided through the General Assembly by James Madison. It articulates the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state that inspired the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Council for America's First Freedom, a not-for-profit organization based in Richmond, is dedicated to celebrating and extending the influence of the Virginia Statute through educational programs, sponsorship of National Religious Freedom Day activities, and through historical interpretation of the Statute at the site where it was enacted at the streets of 14th and East Cary, in Richmond.

The congregations of St. James Episcopal Church and Temple Beth Ahabah, both of Richmond, will receive the Council's 1998 Virginia First Freedom Award.

The ceremony is free and open to the public.