Why Religious Freedom Is One of the Most Important Issues of Today

3 minutes read time
Ambassador Brownback stands behind a podium on the right side of the photo, on the left (in front of the podium) journalists are seated taking notes. In the back of the photo, others sit watching.
Ambassador-at-Large Sam Brownback speaks at the release of the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on May 29, 2018, at the Department of State.

Why Religious Freedom Is One of the Most Important Issues of Today

Freedom of religion is America’s first freedom. The Founding Fathers understood religious freedom to be a universal human right to be protected for the benefit of all.   

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act affirmed the freedom of religion as a foreign policy priority of the United States. It created the annual report on International Religious Freedom, the report we released today, to give a voice to those seeking to live their lives peacefully in accordance with their conscience. It also created my current position, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, ensuring that there is a senior official within the Department to advise the Secretary of State and senior Administration officials on how to overcome challenges facing religious freedom worldwide. I take this role seriously, and my team and I are taking concrete steps to advance this universal right across the globe.   

While we have made important strides but much work remains. Governments and non-state actors alike abuse, harass and detain individuals for practicing their faith. Terrorist groups use messages of religious intolerance to instill fear and inflict violence. Promoting religious freedom is a moral imperative – but it is also a vital national security issue. Defending religious freedom the world over leads to greater peace, stability, and economic prosperity here at home and in the countries that guarantee this freedom. This is why the Trump Administration included the promotion of religious freedom as part of the U.S. National Security Strategy. 

Secretary Pompeo has announced the United States will host the first-ever global Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the Department of State on July 25-26. At this first-of-its-kind event, the United States will join with other likeminded governments, religious communities, and civil society leaders to find concrete ways to support the right of every person around the globe to live in accordance with their conscience.

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About the Author: Sam Brownback serves as the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Editor’s Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.