The United States observes January 16 as Religious Freedom Day; it is the anniversary of the first American law protecting religious freedom. In recognition of this day, we will present a series of entries on how the Department of State works to advance this universal right around the world.
The State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. The office carries out its mission through meetings with foreign government officials at all levels, as well as religious and human rights groups in the United States and abroad, to address problems of religious freedom; sponsorship of reconciliation programs in disputes which divide groups along lines of religious identity; and testimony before the United States Congress on issues of international religious freedom.
Each year, the office produces the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The report contains an introduction, executive summary, and a chapter describing the status of religious freedom in each of 195 countries throughout the world. Mandated by, and presented to, the U.S. Congress, the report is a public document available online.
As she introduced the 2010 report, Secretary Clinton said, "...We do this because we believe that religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society. This is not only the American view; it is the view of nations and people around the world. It is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and it is guaranteed by the laws and constitutions of many nations, including our own, where religious freedom is the first freedom listed in our Bill of Rights."