The Williamsburg Charter

Rights | Responsibilities | Respect

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute affirms and applies the religious liberty principles that flow from the First Amendment, articulated in the Williamsburg Charter, which was signed by 100 national leaders on June 22, 1988, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights.

The charter articulates the “3Rs” of religious freedom:


Religious freedom, liberty of conscience, is a precious, fundamental, and inalienable right for people of all religions and none.


Central to the notion of the common good, and of greater importance each day because of the increase of pluralism, is the recognition that religious freedom is a universal right joined to a universal duty to respect that right for others.

Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guard for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves.


Conflict and debate are vital to democracy. Yet if controversies about religion and public life are to reflect the highest wisdom of the First Amendment and advance the best interests of the disputants and the nation, then how we debate, and not only what we debate, is critical.