September 18, 2019, Washington, D.C. – The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) applauds today’s long-overdue Senate vote to confirm Robert Destro as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Destro has served as a law professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law for 37 years and is the founding Director of its Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion.
August 22, 2019, Washington, D.C. – The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) today observes the UN’s inaugural International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Earlier this year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming this day of commemoration in response to the alarming rise in persecution of religious persons and communities around the world.
July 15, 2019, Washington, D.C. — The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) today officially releases a first-of-its kind report titled, “Surveying the Landscape of International Religious Freedom Policy.”
To commemorate the report’s release, RFI is holding a public event today at the National Press Club from 1:30-2:00 PM.
July 11, 2019, Washington, D.C. — The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) continues to grow and make important organizational changes to become even more well-positioned to advance religious freedom for everyone, everywhere.
Dr. Eric Patterson recently joined RFI as its Executive Vice President. He comes to RFI from the Robertson School of Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia where he was dean and tenured full professor.
July 10, 2019, Washington, D.C. — RFI applauds the collapse of California Senate Bill (SB) 360, a bill that would have required Catholic clergy to violate the seal of confession. Such a mandate would have deprived the Catholic Church of its right to the free exercise of religion by encroaching upon a core tenet of its sacramental theology.
Alarmed by the bill’s provisions, the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) led a number of allies in bringing together a diverse coalition of religious leaders to issue an “Interfaith Statement on California Senate Bill 360 as a Threat to Religious Freedom.”
June 28, 2019, Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Department of State recently released its 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom highlighting the many threats to religious freedom globally, and the need to take action to protect this fundamental right for every person. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced the elevation of the Office of International Religious Freedom within the State Department. This announcement comes ahead of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, July 16-18.
June 24, 2019, Washington, D.C. — The United States Supreme Court held on Thursday that the Bladensburg Cross, a forty-foot cross honoring World War I veterans on public land in Maryland, does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition of established religion.
The Court’s decision, issued in the case of American Legion v. American Humanist Association, relied on American tradition and history to hold that monuments with religious meaning on public land do not run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause so long as they follow the Founders’ tradition of “respect and tolerance for differing views, an honest endeavor to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination.”
“The mass shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand represent the worst form of evil imaginable,” said Timothy Shah, head of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team. “This act of terrorism is an offense against human dignity and religious freedom. All ideologies that foster or sanction such acts must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Last month the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) sent a letter to Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, calling for the removal of “Smart Pakem,” an app available on the Google Play Store. The Indonesian government created the app to enable mobile phone users to report individuals suspected of “religious heresy.”
While Google has yet to respond to the letter, or remove the app, it recently joined Apple in “promising to investigate a Saudi app that lets men control women's travel,” according to a recent report. Google should treat Smart Pakem with the same degree of scrutiny.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) has relocated its Washington, D.C. office to the heart of Capitol Hill. The new address is 316 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 501, Washington, D.C. 20003.
RFI commemorated its move to the historic National Capital Bank building on Pennsylvania Avenue with an open house Wednesday attended by 200 friends and colleagues from government, business, media, higher education, and the NGO community.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) welcomes the U.S. Department of State’s recent announcement that it will host a second consecutive Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 16-18, 2019.
“We are grateful for Secretary Pompeo’s commitment to advancing religious freedom around the world,” said Thomas Farr, President of RFI and founding Director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
A group of leaders from across a broad spectrum of American religious life urged Senators to pledge their opposition to religious tests of any kind for nominees for public office.
A letter, organized by the Religious Freedom Institute, was delivered to the Senate majority and minority leaders today, the day after the United States celebrated “Religious Freedom Day.”
Signatories included representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, Sikh, Muslim, Baha’is, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant traditions.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) today issued a report, “Hanging by a Thread: Christians and Other Religious Minorities Are Fading into History on the Nineveh Plains.”
The report, based on a trip to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains last month, outlines the dire conditions in northern Iraq for Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. The report underscores the profound security and economic challenges religious minorities face in Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains and points to a looming threat to both Iraqi and American security.
Four years after ISIS laid siege to ethnic and religious minority communities in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. Congress voted unanimously late today to fund humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery assistance for victims of genocide. The bipartisan legislation will go to the President’s desk for signing before the end of the year.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) welcomes the decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to vacate the conviction and death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy. The woman, Asia Bibi, was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet of Islam during an argument with her neighbors.
On August 25, 2017, a wave of violence was unleashed against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state, Burma. In the nearly one year since those attacks the global response to this crisis has been shameful. In a new report, The Rohingya Crisis: The Shameful Global Response to Genocide and the Assault on Religious Freedom, the Religious Freedom Institute highlights this crisis and puts forward a call to action.
The Religious Freedom Institute applauds the successful conclusion of the three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The remarkable gathering of government and civil society representatives from across the world drove home the brutal nature of international religious persecution, and was marked by historic multilateral commitments to do more to stop it.
July 24, 2018, Washington, D.C.— The Religious Freedom Institute welcomes the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The unprecedented three-day gathering of high-level government officials, civil society representatives, and religious leaders presents an opportunity to elevate the foreign policy priority of religious freedom for the United States, for participating nations, and for the world.
“The twenty years since the passage of the landmark International Religious Freedom Act have confirmed its premise that religious freedom is a universal moral good. Unfortunately, these years have also demonstrated that the absence of religious freedom is destabilizing and dangerous. The Ministerial will focus on the strategic importance for international security and economic prosperity of this fundamental right,” said Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute and founding Director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
Global threats to religious freedom have never been greater. Over 6.1 billion people, 83% of the world’s population, live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion, according to the latest findings from the Pew Research Center. Millions are subject to violent persecution, including torture, rape, forced expulsion, and murder because of their religious beliefs or those of their tormentors. From Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to Russia, India, Myanmar, and China, to Nigeria, Nicaragua and Venezuela, violations of religious freedom are causing vast human suffering, undermining entire societies, and encouraging violent religious extremism.
These sobering realities form the backdrop to the global summit being convened by Secretary of State Pompeo and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. More than 80 nations are expected to send delegations, along with hundreds of representatives from civil society organizations, and religious communities from every corner of the globe.
In announcing the Ministerial, Secretary Pompeo stressed that “where fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, peace and peaceful assembly are under attack, we find conflict, instability, and terrorism. On the other hand, governments and societies that champion these freedoms are more secure, stable, and peaceful.”
RFI President Thomas Farr, who advised the State Department in planning the Ministerial, praised the Secretary and Ambassador Brownback for the action-orientated nature of the three days, as well as the emphasis on undermining terrorism and advancing economic development: “This gathering represents an historic opportunity for the United States. The time is now for our nation to lead a global effort in advancing this fundamental right, without which no human being, and no society, can flourish.”
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. The RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.
Media Contact: Jeremy P. Barker