In a statement marking the bicentennial of the Constitution, leaders of three major American Protestant, Catholic and Jewish organizations have expressed appreciation for the "protections of religious liberty" in the Constitution and its First Amendment.
At the same time, the religious leaders called for a "renewed commitment" to achieve full equality for all Americans.
Signing the statement were the Rev. Arie Brouwer, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, made up of 31 mainline Protestant and Eastern Orthodox communions; Msgr. Daniel Hoye, general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rabbi Henry Michelman, executive vice president of the Synagogue Council of America.
Following is the full text of the statement:
"We celebrate this year the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States, the first new nation to break free of colonial rule. That new nation established a government based on the principles of liberty and equality. The Constitution drawn up in 1787 has provided a stable yet adaptable framework that has endured for 20 decades and proved amenable to its own growth through amendments which outlawed slavery and enfranchised women.
"The religious community especially esteems the protections of religious liberty written into the original Constitution and expanded upon in the First Amendment. They have safeguarded the aspirations that brought many of our forebears to these shores and have created a continuing climate of voluntary devotion in which religion has flourished.
"We wish, however, to see gratitude for the blessings of the past joined with pledges of renewed commitment to achieve full equality and true freedom for all the peoples who make up this nation. Only then can we fulfill the spirit and promise of the Constitution. To that essential task we invite all the people of our faith communities and other persons of good will."