On June 25, 1988, leaders in government, religion and business signed the Williamsburg Charter in Colonial Williamsburg. I felt privileged to be one of them.
The Williamsburg Charter is an historic document that reaffirms the first sixteen words of the Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free expression thereof.” We stand in awe of these men of Williamsburg who, more than 200 years ago, inspired these words. We salute their special genius. We admire their courage, for these sixteen words were to change, in a most remarkable way, the future course of history, both of our nation and the world.
People were to be free to pursue, without interference, those things about which they felt most deeply — those elemental questions of conscience that give meaning to life. Yet, the affirmation of religious freedom would have meant nothing without the protection of a strong, abiding sense of mutual responsibility for its preservation. We must always remember that, in the words of the Charter, “Rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish for themselves.”