International Religious Freedom Is 20 Years Old Now

October 31, 2018




Syndicated by: Montana News

Twenty years ago, on October 27, 1998, the International Religious Freedom Act was signed into law. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was bipartisan legislation to promote religious freedom as a foreign policy of the United States, to promote greater religious freedom in countries which engage in or tolerate violations of religious freedom, and to advocate on the behalf of individuals persecuted for their religious beliefs and activities in foreign countries.


In 2016, Congress voted unanimously to pass the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, an amendment to the 1998 law. The amendment, named after one of Congress’s most vocal champions of religious liberty, improves U.S. religious freedom diplomacy efforts globally, better trains and equips diplomats to counter extremism, addresses anti-Semitism and religious persecution, and mitigates sectarian conflict. Specifically, the amendment:


•           Created a “Designated Persons List” for individuals who commit egregious violations of  

            religious freedom

•           Created a comprehensive religious prisoners list—persons who are detained, imprisoned,  

             tortured, and subject to forced renunciation of faith.

•           Integrated religious freedom into every aspect of U.S. foreign policy

•           Strengthened the special adviser for religious freedom at the National Security Council

•           Requires international religious freedom training for all foreign service officers

•           Requires that the ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom report directly to the

            secretary of state

•           Elevates the position of the ambassador within the federal government

•           Created an “Entity of Particular Concern” designation for non-state actors like terrorist groups

•           Requires more frequent presidential actions to counter severe religious freedom violations


•           Created a “Special Watch List”—two-tier system at State (CPC countries/Special Watch List)

•           Sets congressional expectations for staffing of the IRF office and expansion of Religious

            Freedom Program grants.



Ambassador Brownback said that all nations should embrace religious freedom as it had been proven that this has the potential to bring about prosperity and more secure societies. He also stressed that the Trump administration is doing things differently from the previous administration, as evident in the first-ever International Religious Freedom Ministerial held last July. Ambassador Brownback stated the ministerial was “the launch of an expanded conversation” about the fundamental right of all individuals to do with their own souls whatever they choose. Liberty Counsel hosted a prayer breakfast which kicked off this historic event.


“I am proud that U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and the Trump administration are making great strides toward advancing religious freedom throughout America and the world,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Innocent people are imprisoned, tortured and persecuted for their faith. I’m grateful for leaders who are encouraging religious freedom and protecting people of faith instead of trying to control them,” said Staver.


Liberty Counsel is a News Partner of the Montana News

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