The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) held an Open House Wednesday to mark the relocation of its Washington, D.C. office to Capitol Hill at 316 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 501. The occasion gathered RFI leadership and staff with 200 friends and colleagues from government, business, media, higher education, and the NGO community.
The first guests began arriving on the fifth floor of the historic National Capital Bank building before 4pm and the last guests left after 7pm. It was an evening filled with serious conversation, good humor, and everything in between.
Thomas Farr, President of RFI, offered opening remarks. He pointed to the richness of the Capitol Hill setting, home to “some of the icons of America’s greatness,” that served as the backdrop of the event. He called the founders “geniuses who built our nation on the principle of limited government, in particular by separating its powers at the federal level.” They also created, he noted, “the most dynamic non-governmental civil society in history,” the cornerstone of which has been America’s religious institutions. Farr gave an overview of RFI, its five action teams, and its newest initiative, the Center for Religious Freedom Education.
After introducing RFI’s staff, Farr turned to Mark Winter, Chairman of RFI’s Board of Directors. Winter commented on the three core facets of RFI’s work: research, education, and impact. RFI conducts research for its own sake, but also to apply it in the real world. It educates to form leaders and influencers by teaching them the meaning and value of religious freedom. RFI’s impact lies in the shaping of policy and culture, which enables it to make a distinctive impact “on the ground” in defense of religious freedom.
Offering his bookend to a delightful evening, Kent Hill, Executive Director of RFI, closed the Open House by reflecting on how religious freedom is crucial to human flourishing. Pursuing answers to ultimate questions about the source and nature of reality, about God and our obligations to him, is integral to what it means to be human. As such, to deny religious freedom is to deny the core of human meaning and dignity. RFI’s work, Hill explained, flows from this premise.
RFI comes away from Wednesday’s Open House deeply appreciative of its friends and colleagues and encouraged by the commitment of so many of them to protect and advance religious freedom in the United States and around the world.