Congress Hits Refresh Button on U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy
Note: this article by Judd Birdsall was originally published by Georgetown University’s Cornerstone blog on 6 June 2016.
In May the House passed a bipartisan bill that would bring America’s global religious freedom advocacy into the twenty-first century. The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150) provides a number of critical updates and upgrades to the existing International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The new bill—or Marco Rubio’s nearly identical Senate version (S. 2878)—merits the Senate’s prompt approval.
In its day the 1998 IRFA was an innovative, landmark piece of legislation. It created a vast architecture—an ambassador-at-large, State Department office, independent commission, reports, lists, sanctions, and other tools—for advancing religious freedom abroad. It became a model for other liberal democracies as they joined the fight for freedom of religion and belief worldwide.
But in the intervening 18 years, as scholarship on religion in global affairs has raced forward and the dynamics of religious persecution have morphed and complexified, the legislative mandate of U.S. IRF policy has remained stuck in the ’90s.
I served in the State Department’s IRF Office during the Bush and Obama administrations and experienced first-hand how the 1998 act created both important opportunities and conceptual, bureaucratic, and practical obstacles to a more effective U.S. promotion of religious liberty.
Continue reading at Cornerstone
News & Events
18th Jul 2017
Cambridge, UK – The Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies (CIRIS), a research centre based at Clare College, Cambridge, has received a three-year grant of $330,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation in support of its role as the secretariat for the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy (TPNRD). The TPNRD Secretariat facilitates communication, coordination, and […]
13th Jul 2017
13 July 2017 – CIRIS Graduate Research Associate Tobias Müller recently contributed a chapter in a report on Muslims in the UK and Europe published by the Centre for Islamic Studies at Cambridge University. Müller’s chapter, ‘Constructing Islam and Secularism in the German Islam Conference,’ argues that beyond the intentions expressed by government officials, the aims of the […]
At CIRIS, we aim to equip students and scholars in Cambridge and beyond with a robust and nuanced appreciation for the role of religion in international politics that they will take with them into their future research and/or practice around the world. To this end, we host public lectures, academic seminars, and other events. We are also pursuing research projects that draw on the contributions of Cambridge-based academics.
We use our platform at Cambridge to influence the public conversation on matters of faith and politics—in the UK and around the world. CIRIS enjoys strong links to key governments, media outlets, religious groups, NGOs, civic leaders, and scholars. We want our website and social media platforms to provide a dynamic space for disseminating and discussing the contributions of our staff, associates, and partners.
CIRIS serves as the secretariat for the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy. We facilitate communication and collaboration among this community of diplomats from Europe and North America who have a responsibility for religion-related issues within their respective foreign ministries. Our work in supporting the Network is a partnership with George Mason University and is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the British Council.
© 2017 Copyright, Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies
All rights reserved.