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Who We Are/What We Do

WHO WE ARE

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.  USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.  USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and Congressional leaders of both political parties.  Their work is supported by a professional, nonpartisan staff.  USCIRF is separate from the State Department, although the Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is a non-voting ex officio Commissioner.

WHAT IS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM  

Inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.  Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly.  While religious freedom is America’s first freedom, it also is a core human right international law and treaty recognize; a necessary component of U.S. foreign policy and America’s commitment to defending democracy and freedom globally; and a vital element of national security, critical to ensuring a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world.

WHAT USCIRF DOES

  • Issues an Annual Report by May 1st of each year.  The report assesses the U.S. government's implementation of IRFA; recommends countries that the Secretary of State should designate as "Countries of Particular Concern" for engaging in or tolerating "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom;" documents country conditions in around 30 countries; reports on significant trends; and recommends U.S. policies.
  • Documents Religious Freedom Conditions Abroad by meeting with senior government officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, victims of persecution, and others in countries including: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. 
  • Engages Congress by working with Congressional offices, testifying at hearings, and holding briefings on issues including: protecting international religious freedom; Iran's human rights record under Rouhani; human rights abuses in Egypt;  religious minorities in Syria; anti-Semitism; the persecution of religious and indigenous communities in Vietnam; persecuted Uighur Muslims in China.; and the plight of prisoners of conscience around the world. With the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, USCIRF launched the Defending Freedoms Project, working with Members of Congress to highlight religious prisoners and imprisoned human rights defenders worldwide.
  • Issues Reports with Policy Prescriptions, Press Releases, Op-Eds, and Journal Articles including: the global use of blasphemy laws; religious violence in Pakistan; religious freedom provisions in the constitutions of Muslim-majority countries; Russia’s failure to protect religious freedom; the status of religious minorities in Iran; religious violence in CAR; anti-Semitism; and the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers in Expedited Removal.  
  • Engages Multilaterally in meetings related to religious freedom and tolerance, including at the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, and with parliamentarians from across the globe.