Making a Case For Religious Freedom and America's National Security

In early May, the Religious Freedom Institute, together with members from the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, met with senior staff of the National Security Council to discuss the critical role that religious freedom can play in increasing America's national security.

The meeting was led by Greg Mitchell, co-chair of the IRF Roundtable and RFI President Thomas Farr. Farr, together with Dennis Hoover of the Institute for Global Engagement, presented a policy brief with recommendations for the new administration. These included practical steps for incorporating religious freedom into foreign policy, including as a critical component of the U.S. National Security Strategy. 

RFI Senior Advisor Timothy Shah offered historical evidence that religious freedom can undermine religious violence and terrorism. RFI Senior Fellow Nilay Saiya, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the SUNY Brockport, presented a data-driven analysis confirming the causal linkages between religious freedom and reductions in religious violence and terrorism. Together, Shah and Saiya made a powerful case that religious freedom can contribute to stability abroad and national security at home.

The meeting came at a critical time, as preparations were being made for President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia. There he delivered a major speech on undermining Islamic extremism, and announced the launch of a new global center to counter extremism based in Riyadh. RFI will continue to press the administration to ensure that religious freedom becomes a significant part of its counter-extremism initiatives.