Thomas Farr, President
Tom Farr is President of the Religious Freedom Institute, an NGO working to achieve worldwide acceptance of religious freedom. Farr served in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service for 28 years. He has spent the last two decades advocating for religious liberty, including as founding Director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and from 2008-2018 as Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and also as Director of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center. Farr is a senior fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace. Arguments from his 2008 book, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Freedom is Vital to American National Security (Oxford University Press), have shaped U.S. religious freedom legislation and foreign policy.
Kent R. Hill, Executive Director
Kent Hill joined the RFI after six years as Senior Vice President at World Vision, one of the largest faith-based relief and development organizations in the world. He also served for eight years as Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), responsible for U.S. foreign assistance to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and, subsequently, all USAID health programs worldwide. Earlier in his career, Dr. Hill was President of Eastern Nazarene College, and President of D.C.'s Institute on Religion and Democracy. In 2010, as a Vice President at the John Templeton Foundation, Hill, along with Tom Farr, conceived Georgetown's Religious Freedom Project and secured funding to launch the project. Dr. Hill has published a book on Christianity and the Soviet Union. His Ph.D. is from the University of Washington.
Byron R. Johnson, Senior Advisor
Byron Johnson is among the world’s leading authorities on the scientific study of religion, including the salutary effects of religion and religious freedom on social behavior. His research makes the case that religious freedom encourages faith-motivated individuals and groups to develop innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to some of society’s most pressing social problems. Byron’s book More God, Less Crime (Templeton Press) has led skeptics to rethink the social value of religion and religious freedom. His publications document the effectiveness of faith-based interventions to foster offender rehabilitation and provide strategies for criminal justice reform. After teaching at Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania, in 2004 Byron was named Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, and the founding Director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion. Byron’s Ph.D. is from Florida State University.
Timothy Samuel Shah, Senior Advisor
Tim Shah is widely recognized as a leading authority on the history, meaning, and value of religious freedom throughout the world. He is a political scientist specializing in religious freedom as well as in the broad relationship between religious and political dynamics in theory, history, and contemporary practice. He and his wife Rebecca (also a member of the RFI team) have extensive experience in India, where they will establish an RFI office. Tim recently spearheaded a multi-year research project on Christianity’s indispensable contributions to the development and diffusion of religious freedom, and led a similar project on worldwide Christian responses to persecution. His arguments to high level U.S. officials—that religious freedom acts as an antidote to religious terrorism—are increasingly employed in official analyses of religion and foreign policy. He is author of Even if There is No God: Hugo Grotius and the Secular Foundations of Modern Political Liberalism (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2017) and, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, of God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011). Tim was previously the Director for International Research at the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs; and Research Professor of Government at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. His Ph.D. is from Harvard.
Rebecca Samuel Shah, Senior Fellow
Rebecca Samuel Shah is Senior Fellow of the Religious Freedom Institute and Associate Director of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team. A pioneering scholar of the impact of religious belief and practice on the social and economic lives of poor women in the Global South, Shah currently serves as Research Professor at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, where she is the Principal Investigator for the Religion and Economic Empowerment Project (REEP), funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. Born and raised in Bangalore, India, she holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and Economic History and a Master’s of Science in Demography, both from the London School of Economics. She is also an associate scholar with Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project, and is Project Leader of the Holy Avarice Project on religion and modern capitalism at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. From 1998 to 2002, Shah served as a Research Analyst with the World Bank’s Human Development Network.