State Department

RFI President Thomas Farr Testifies at Congressional Hearing Reviewing U.S. IRF Policy

The National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to review the U.S. Government's role in advancing International Religious Freedom.

The hearing looked back at the impact of international religious freedom policy since the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, through to the amendment in the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, and recommendations for how to improve the policy to meet current challenges. 

RFI President Thomas Farr testified both of the strategic value and moral imperative for promoting religious freedom. It is intimately connected with American national security interests, along with being a vital humanitarian right. 

My message to you today is straightforward and hopeful: advancing religious freedom successfully in our foreign policy can help the victims of religious persecution abroad and increase the security of the American people.
— Thomas Farr

In his testimony (full text), Dr. Farr highlighted the need for developing arguments and action plans to effectively engage governments and societies to demonstrate that religious freedom is a strategic good not only for the United States but for every country. Religious freedom has direct links to undermining religion-related terrorism, boosting stability and economic growth, and protecting vulnerable communities. 

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Full Testimony - Dr. Thomas F. Farr: "Religious Freedom and American National Security" 
A Hearing of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, September 5, 2017

Opening Statement by RFI President Thomas Farr in testimony before the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee on October 11, 2017.

Kristina Arriaga, Co-Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, testified of the need for increased resources to implement the tools that exist to target violators of religious freedom. She also highlighted the unjust imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson who has been held in a Turkish jail for over a year on false charges. 

The hearing was chaired by Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Ranking Member Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and heard testimony from the following witnesses: 

  • Thomas Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute and first Director of the Office of International Religious Freedom - Written Testimony
  • Ambassador Michael G. Kozak, Senior Advisor, Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - Written Testimony
  • Kristina Arriaga, Co-Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) - Written Testimony
  • Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy, Human Rights First - Written Testimony

Executive Director Kent Hill Joins VOA News to Discuss Religious Freedom Around the World

Kent Hill, Executive Director, joined VOA News host Carol Castiel on the Encounter program to discuss the release of the U.S. State Department's 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom and the global challenges to religious freedom around the world. 

Encounter Religious Freedom VOA News.jpg

Dr. Hill was joined on the program by Katayoun Kishi, research associate at Pew Research Center, where she oversees the Center’s annual study on global restrictions on religion.

The conversation not only looked at the conclusions drawn from the report, but also critical issues related to religious freedom breaking down globally.

Religious freedom violations and religion-related violence are at the root of many global crises. Many of the more than 65 million people who have been displaced as refugees or internally displaced persons have fled from religion related conflicts. 

If we don’t do deal with root causes of conflict, refugees will keep spilling out. We need to be spending more time looking at what is causing folks to run.
— Kent Hill, Executive Director

Learn More about Pew Research Center's research on Global Restrictions on Religion: 

Global Restrictions on Religion Rise Modestly in 2015, Reversing Downward Trend

Thomas Farr Discusses Gov. Brownback's Confirmation Hearing for Ambassador-at-Large

On October 4, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as nominee to serve as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. 

RFI President Thomas Farr spoke with Travis Wussow, Vice President for Public Policy of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, outside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room about Governor Brownback and the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

The Senate Foreign Relations hearing, chaired by Senator Marco Rubio is available to watch here: Governor Sam Brownback Confirmation Hearing

Tom Farr joins Panel Discussing International Protection of Religious Freedom

On Friday, October 7, RFI President Tom Farr, joined U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, and the European Union’s first special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief outside the European Union, Jan Figel, for a lively discussion moderated by Brett Scharffs, Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs at the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University, on the status of protecting and promoting religious freedom globally. 

The event was hosted at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and co-sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.

Clearly religious freedom is a human right. It is important to be understood in that way. But religion is distinctive. We all share it in one way or another.

This is why I think religious freedom deserves its own niche: It is a source of other human and social goods. It contributes to the economy. It contributes to the stability of democracy. It can help undermine religious persecution and religious violence.
— Tom Farr, on why religious freedom matters on its own apart from other human rights

See more about the event here: INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

(Photo: Maria Bryk/Newseum)