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Religious freedom events include speakers, parade


Fredericksburg’s annual Religious Freedom Day events will be held this Sunday, Jan. 13. The events, organized by the Knights of Columbus Rappahannock Assembly, honor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Jefferson drafted the statute in 1777 in Fredericksburg with the help of other Colonial figures such as George Mason and George Wythe. This is the 38th year the Knights of Columbus have organized the local observance.

The day’s events begin with a 1-mile parade at 1:15 p.m. at the Fredericksburg train station and end with speeches at the Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Avenue near Kenmore.

Keynote speakers for the event will be Chesapeake residents Bishop E.W. Jackson and attorney Herb Titus. The Knights of Columbus chose Jackson and Titus because of their backgrounds in religious freedom work, according to event coordinator Rick Reschick.

Jackson is running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Last year, he ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, but lost along with others to George Allen.

Jackson, a minister, is the founder of the organization S.T.A.N.D., Staying True to America’s National Destiny. The national organization is “dedicated to restoring America’s Judeo–Christian heritage and values,” according to its website.

Jackson has appeared on news shows such as FOX News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and C–SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Titus was the attorney for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore when Moore was suspended in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he installed at the state judicial building in Montgomery. In last November’s election, voters re-elected Moore as chief justice.

Titus also does legal writing and research for organizations such as the Free Speech Coalition, whose purpose is to protect non-profits’ First Amendment rights, according to their website. For two years, Titus had a radio program called “That’s the Law” on the Christian radio station VCY America Inc.

Fredericksburg’s Religious Freedom Day gained national attention in 2003 when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recused himself from a major church–state case because of statements he made at the event earlier that year. During his speech here, he criticized recent court decisions that made expressions of religion illegal in public events.

The religious freedom ceremony is meant to include people of all religions—or those with no religion.

The Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason, an alliance of non-theistic groups, will participate again this year. According to a coalition news release, the group had the second-largest number of marchers last year, but the group was not granted its request for a speaking opportunity or seat on the platform.

The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m., with speeches by Jackson and Titus. The invocation, by Pastor Douglas W. Kittredge of New Life in Christ Church in Fredericksburg, will follow.

The Rev. Don Rooney of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fredericksburg will give the benediction and Del. Bobby Orrock, R–Spotsylvania, will be the master of ceremonies.

Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw will present the official proclamation for the draft’s anniversary.

Want to go?

What: Religious Freedom Day events

When: A 1-mile parade begins at 1:15 at the Fredericksburg train station on Lafayette Boulevard. Speeches start at 2 p.m. at the Religious Freedom Monument on Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg.

Who: Keynote speakers are E.W. Jackson, a minister and Republican candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor, and Herb Titus, a lawyer and the author of “God, Man & Law: The Biblical Principle.”

Emily Montgomery: 540/374-5417