DES MOINES, Iowa -- Monday morning state and religious leaders will celebrate religious freedom at the Capitol. Despite recent protests over religious legislation in Indiana and locally at Dowling Catholic High School, organizers say this event is not a political rally or call to advocacy.
This event was planned more than a year ago in part to celebrate Governor Branstad signing a proclamation for religious freedom in Iowa, designating January 16th as the official day. But because Branstad’s inauguration was scheduled for the same day in 2015, officials decided to postpone the event.
State senators from both parties decided to hold this event on April 13th as a way to celebrate Thomas Jefferson's birthday (April 13th, 1743), and his legacy in securing religious freedom. Jefferson penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which later became the precursor of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Leaders from all religions including atheism are welcome. Organizers hope the atmosphere will allow people to work together towards protecting religious freedom. State Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) says Iowa already does a decent job protecting these rights.
With no current legislation on the table Chapman says this is the perfect time for both parties to come together and discuss matters in an informal setting. "To have those kinds of interactions without pushing a specific legislation I mean I think benefits because it brings understanding, in building relationships and that's what this event really is about," said Chapman.
The bipartisan event will be held in the Capitol Rotunda (11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) with a short program featuring commentary from community leaders.