January 16 in freethought history…

flagofvirginiaJanuary 16, 1786 - The Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (a.k.a.the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) is passed by the Virginia General Assembly. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, the Act sought to disestablish the Church of England in Virginia, and guaranteed religious freedom for all creeds. Although it opens with the words “Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free,” it was a leap forward for religious freedom, and had considerable influence on the development of the US Constitution.

January 16, 1964 – Italian/American biologist and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci is born in Monrovia, Liberia. Since his arrival in the United States, he has been an outspoken defender of scientific skepticism and science education, and a critic of pseudoscience and creationism. Pigliucci has debated several prominent creationists, including Duane Gish, Kent Hovind, William Dembski and Jonathan Wells. His books include Tales of the Rational, Denying Evolution, Making Sense of Evolution, Nonsense on Stilts and Philosophy of Pseudoscience. He also co-founded the Rationally Speaking podcast.

January 16, 2013 - Population control advocate Werner Fornos dies in Virginia, aged 79. Born Werner Farenhold in Germany in 1933, he made several illegal attempts to emigrate to the United States during and immediately after World War II. He was eventually adopted by the Fornos family and became a legal citizen. He served in the Maryland General Assembly, and was involved with Planned Parenthood and the Population Institute, and founded Global Population Education. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1991 by the American Humanist Association.

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