The Bush Administration and America's International Religious Freedom Policy
June 1, 2009
In the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Berkley Center Senior Fellows Thomas F. Farr and William L. Saunders, Jr. explore how IRF policy fared under the George W. Bush Administration. In attempting to gauge success and failure, and strength and weakness, they focus on three issues: "the extent to which U.S. diplomacy actually reduced religious persecution, how well it advanced the institutions and habits of religious freedom, and what basis it provided the Obama Administration to make further progress." In each of these areas, they argue, "the record is, unsurprisingly, mixed. Our overall judgment is that the [Bush] Administration focused a critically important spotlight on governments that persecute and managed to free some number of religious prisoners. In at least three countries Sudan, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia, significant structural steps were taken. Notwithstanding these successes, however, the Bush Administration did not make significant progress toward either reducing persecution or advancing religious freedom. Surprisingly, it appears that IRF policy, isolated within the State Department, had virtually no role in democracy promotion, public diplomacy, or counterterrorism strategy."