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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 14, 1997

President Clinton:
Expanding Religious Freedom and Promoting Tolerance

Today's Announcement - Issuing Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace

The President recognizes that America's religious diversity has been one of its greatest strengths over the last two hundred years. This diversity has promoted a tolerance of difference that is one of the most profound achievements of the American Experiment.

Because religious tolerance is so important, the President has worked with a broad coalition of religious and civic organizations - Christian, Jewish and Muslim, conservative and liberal - who are committed to protecting religious liberty. As part of this effort, the President is issuing Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace today. These Guidelines will ensure that federal agencies respect the rights of those who engage in religious practices or espouse religious beliefs.

These guidelines are based upon principles of neutrality and fairness -- federal employers shall treat employees with the same respect and consideration, regardless of their religious beliefs. Whether by allowing religious speech, preventing religious coercion or harassment, or making accommodations to religious practice, the government will act to ensure that the federal workplace is generous to followers of all religions, as well as the followers of none.

Building on the Progress We Have Made

Today's action continues the progress made by the President and a broad coalition of religious groups to promote religious freedom and diversity:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 -- The President fought for and signed this Act, which reaffirms the rightful and historic place of religion throughout our society. Although the Supreme Court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] as it applies to the states, RFRA continues to support religious liberty by protecting our citizens from any federal government action that unduly restricts their religious exercise.

Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools -- In 1995, the President directed the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, to provide every school district in America with a statement of principle addressing the extent to which religious expression and activity are permitted in the public schools. These guidelines have helped ensure that school officials understand that the First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door.

President Clinton recognizes that expanding religious freedom brings our country together amidst all our diversity so that we can find common ground and move forward together.

We can live together with our deepest differences and all be stronger for it.

--President Clinton, Remarks by the President on Religious Liberty in America, July 12, 1995