The U.S.’s Lagging Commitment to Religious Freedom

Washington Post, August 21, 2013, with Katrina Lantos Swett.

Although religious freedom is a pivotal human right, critical to national security and global stability, key provisions of the landmark International Religious Freedom Act are being neglected years after its passage. A number of studies demonstrates the link between freedom of religion and societal well-being, while its absence correlates closely with instability and violent religious extremism, including terrorism. Many governments, including those topping the U.S. foreign policy and security agendas, perpetrate or tolerate acts of religious repression, such as arbitrary detention, torture and murder.

The International Religious Freedom Act provides vital tools, including identifying and sanctioning the world’s worst violators. But over many years and different administrations, the executive branch has not employed them fully or in a timely manner. With a key deadline for action arriving this month, it is time to confront this unwise failure to act.

When the act was passed in 1998, it made the promotion of religious freedom an official U.S. foreign policy priority and established at the State Department an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The legislation also created a bipartisan and independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which we serve, to monitor this right worldwide and make policy recommendations to Congress, the secretary of state and the president….

Washington Post