Welcome to USCIRF, From Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair

Welcome to the web site of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  Thank you for visiting us.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, federal body created through the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).  Our Commission uses international standards to monitor the conditions abroad of religious freedom or belief and makes recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress to enhance this precious right.  Aided by an able staff, my fellow Commissioners and I assess, propose, and press for decisive responses to religious freedom violations that range from killing, torture, and detention to less dramatic abuses such as the denial of permits to build houses of worship.  We strongly believe that making the protection of religious freedom a key part of our foreign policy not only reflects our deepest values, but also supports our vital national interests by undermining violent extremism and helping to build more tolerant and stable societies.  Let's examine this a bit more closely.

Why is religious freedom important?  Along with being a cherished American value and an internationally recognized human right, it is also a practical necessity that is crucial to the security of the United States - and the world - as it builds a foundation for progress and stability.

Research confirms that religious freedom in countries that honor and protect this right is generally associated with vibrant political democracy, rising economic and social well-being, and diminished tension and violence.  In contrast, nations that trample on religious freedom are more likely to be mired in poverty and insecurity, war and terror, and violent, radical extremism.  Freedom of religion or belief also is intimately bound up with other freedoms, including expression, association and assembly.  As it is often the first right taken away, religious freedom serves as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, warning us that denial of other liberties almost surely will follow.

As such, religious freedom deserves a seat at the table with economic and security concerns as the U.S. and other nations conduct their affairs

Today, the stakes for the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief couldn't be higher, nor can the commitment of this Commission to respond with every tool at its disposal.