Welcome to the website of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, federal commission created in 1998 through the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF uses international standards, such as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to monitor violations of religious freedom or belief abroad. Such violations range from the denial of permits to build places of worship to the detention, torture, killing or displacement of individuals due to their holding or practicing a particular religion or belief. USCIRF also makes recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress to help protect, defend, and advance this essential liberty.
What is religious freedom and why is it so pivotal? It is the right of people everywhere to heed the call of conscience in matters of religion and belief, living out its dictates openly, peacefully, and without fear. Religious freedom is a broad and inclusive right that requires protection of the allied rights of expression, association, and assembly. The bedrock premise behind religious freedom is clear: No individual or entity has the right to force others to act against their conscience or prevent them from answering its call in a peaceful manner.
For humanitarian reasons alone, religious freedom merits our robust and continued support. From the depredations of ISIL in Iraq and Syria to the continued persecution of faith groups in Burma, China, Iran, Nigeria and elsewhere, we have seen the horrifying results of its being abused. Besides meriting our advocacy as an indispensable human right, freedom of religion or belief is critical to ensuring stability and security within and across nations. As a growing number of studies indicate, nations that honor this freedom tend to be less violent and more prosperous, less unstable and more democratic. Countries that fail to uphold religious freedom are more likely to be plagued by poverty and insecurity, tyranny and terrorism. Hence religious freedom belongs prominently at the table with economic and security concerns in the conduct of our foreign policy.
As events over the past year have confirmed, it is now more vital than ever to protect and promote this sacred freedom. To respect this liberty and other fundamental rights ultimately means to honor and favor our fellow human beings and the inherent dignity they possess. It is to acknowledge that in order to flourish, people must be free to address the deepest questions of existence and meaning so they may lead lives of authenticity and integrity by following the dictates of conscience, peacefully fulfilling what they firmly believe to be their religious and moral duties. Our Commission is dedicated to defending this great cause.