America Abroad: The First Freedom-Promoting International Religious Liberty
“And I had foreign officials saying, “Why do you Americans care so much about religious freedom?” They’d never run into this with any other governments.”
—John Hanford, former Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom
Chalk that up to the Pilgrims, or perhaps James Madison. After all, he established religion as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. Since then, religious liberty has been an American institution. But it wasn’t until 1998 that Congress commanded the US to promote religious freedom around the globe. And, in a world where religious intolerance and abuse is on the rise, the secular-minded State Department is conflicted over this mission of freeing the faithful and punishing the persecutors. Often, the promotion of religious freedom is sacrificed on the altar of strategic and economic worship.