Human history is a story of religious strife. Even in the best of times and places, the most a religious minority could hope for was being tolerated—the right to live as a second-class citizen. Then America came along, and with it the promise not of toleration, but of religious freedom. It was the promise of political equality regardless of faith, and it was unheard of. In most of the world today it remains unheard of. I’m certain that when this nation was founded, all the emperors and kings of the world looked at our religious diversity and counted the days to our certain demise. We did not survive, grow, and become the most powerful civilization in human history because we were focused on our diversity. It is not our differences that make us stronger. It is our unity despite our diversity—unity of past, of principles, and of purpose that brought us out of many into one. What is beautiful about America is that from the soil of that unity, a great and peaceful variety has grown: a mixture of nationalities, of class, of expression, and most profoundly of religion. This type of nation of peace, prosperity, community, and freedom can neither rise from the “swamp nor be proclaimed from above. It demands a certain kind of people who stubbornly treat their fellow citizens—their neighbors—with respect. New offices, great words, or even new laws will have little effect unless every generation recommits to American ideals, embraces America’s past, and stands beside their fellow citizens for America’s future. If we do not, the kings and emperors of old will be proven right. The last great hope of freedom on this Earth will perish because it forgot who it was. Are we forgetting today? We face today a time of rising religious persecution. It’s not violent. It’s not done in the name of God. But it is a new orthodoxy, and it is intolerant of dissent. Nuns have been forced to put aside their lives of service to the elderly and the sick and have to go to court, humbly requesting that they not be required to pay for practices that end the lives of children. In my own state of California, pregnancy centers devoted to saving lives are forced, against their deepest beliefs, to advertise for an abortion industry bankrolled by the state. Now, in the past, this department’s silent refusal to defend our rights sent a very clear message: ‘Now is not the time for freedom, it is time for you to conform. What a difference a year makes. This same agency is now opening a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights devoted to nothing more than treating people fairly and with justice. To everyone in this agency, I personally want to say, ‘thank you.’ I know we’ve been working together this past year to protect religious freedom for the people of California and the United States. We still have much to do, and I have high hopes that violations of the Weldon Amendment and the arrogance of the California Abortion Mandate and AB 775 will be investigated and resolved quickly. But our investigations, our new offices, and passing legislation are only a part of the renewal of our country, however necessary each of those parts is. We, as a people, have to renew our nation every day. We did not create this great country, but by our daily choices and the choices of every person across this land, we either weaken our country or we make it stronger. If we don’t embrace the heroism of stewardship and preserve the freedom of all people to live in accordance with their faith, our unity is lost, and with that unity our peace, and with that peace, our diversity. But if we defend that freedom, answering the call of our country, America will remain the hope of all mankind and the closest the world has ever come to a brotherhood of man. Thank you and God bless.