More than 100 United States church, business, and media leaders will gather in Williamsburg, Va., this weekend to sign a unique document dedicated to religious liberty. The so-called Williamsburg Charter has been crafted over the past two years by church and secular representatives in an effort to promote greater religious tolerance in the nation.
In response to ongoing controversy and sometimes bitter confrontation between conservative fundamentalists and religious liberals, the charter calls for ``a fresh consideration of religious liberty in our time and of the place of the First Amendment religious liberty clauses in our national life.''
The document was originated by the Charter Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonecumenical, nonsectarian group which avoids taking political positions on specific issues involving religious beliefs.
Earlier this year the foundation sponsored a national survey on public attitudes on religious liberty, including the separation of church and state, and sponsored a conference on religious freedom at the University of Virginia.
Signatories of the charter include representatives of such diverse groups as the US Chamber of Commerce, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and the National Council of Churches. Various church leaders will also join in the event, including a director of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, which publishes this newspaper.
Former US Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter will add their names to the document later this year.
The June 25 signing date coincides with the 200th anniversary of Virginia's ratification of the US Constitution and that state's call for a bill of rights.