FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commemorates International Religious Freedom Day, marking the 21st anniversary of the signing of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). By enacting IRFA, Congress and the President elevated religious freedom as a priority in U.S. foreign policy. IRFA, passed with bipartisan support, provides that U.S. foreign policy includes condemning violations of religious freedom and assisting other governments in the promotion of this right. IRFA created a range of government tools and institutions to support this policy.
“Religious freedom is both America’s first freedom and a universal human right. As Americans, religious freedom reflects who and what we aspire to be as a nation and people. Bound up inextricably with our country’s founding and development, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution, and guaranteed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments, it merits our firm and dedicated support abroad, wherever it is threatened. IRFA affirms this historic commitment, and provides the practical tools needed, to promote and defend international religious freedom,” said Chair Tony Perkins.
Among its provisions, IRFA created the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Office at the State Department and USCIRF, an independent legislative branch agency mandated to independently assess and unflinchingly describe threats to religious freedom around the world; to evaluate U.S. policy, and to make policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress. The Commissioners are appointed in a bipartisan manner by the Congress and the President.
“On this historic day, it is important to remember that religious freedom is under serious and sustained pressure across much of the globe. Promoting and protecting this fundamental right has never been more challenging nor more important. As mandated in IRFA, USCIRF will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that advancing the right to freely exercise one’s religion, belief, or non-belief according to one’s conscience remains a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy,” said Vice Chair Gayle Manchin.
Earlier this year USCIRF released its 2019 Annual Report, the 20th since the Commission’s creation. The Annual Report includes a section assessing the U.S. government’s implementation of IRFA and providing recommendations to improve the U.S. government’s engagement on religious freedom, including appointing a Special Adviser to the President on International Religious Freedom within the National Security Council (NSC) staff, as outlined by IRFA. In May, USCIRF released a factsheet outlining the key provisions of IRFA.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or call 202-523-3240.