International Religious Freedom: Toward a Model of Transatlantic Cooperation

October 8, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. EDT
Location: Copley Hall Copley Formal Lounge Map

Several European countries, the EU, and Canada have recently addressed religious freedom in their foreign policies. Given that U.S. policy is already shaped by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) passed by Congress, the potential exists for transatlantic cooperation in promoting religious freedom. However, differences among Western democracies are significant. This dialogue—the first in a year-long series on IRFA policy—aimed to identify these differences and find ways to accommodate or overcome them in the urgent task of advancing international religious freedom.

This day-long event featured many speakers from academia and the policy world, including one of the world's leading sociologists, Peter Berger of Boston University; New York Times columnist David Brooks; and David Saperstein, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

This event was hosted by the Religious Freedom Project and is the second in a series of transatlantic dialogues sponsored by the British Council. It has been generously sponsored by: the Institute for Studies of Religion; The Review of Faith & International Affairs; Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs; Center for Civil and Human Rights; University of Sussex; International Center for Law and Religion Studies; and Birks Forum on the World's Religions. The dialogue is also part of a semester-long exploration of the global future of governance, under the auspices of Georgetown University's Global Futures Initiative. Read more about the event and its sponsors here.


9:00-9:15 a.m. | Welcome 

Thomas Banchoff, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs

Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame

Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project

9:15-10:45 a.m. | Keynote Address: Toward a New Paradigm on Religion and Modernity

Peter Berger, Boston University (keynote speaker)

Walter Russell Mead, Hudson Institute (moderator)

Os Guinness, Author and Social Critic

11:00-12:15 p.m. | The Case for Religious Freedom Policy

Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame (moderator)

Mustafa Akyol, Star and Hurriyet Daily News

Allen Hertzke, University of Oklahoma

Sofia Lemmetyinen, European Commission

12:45-2:15 p.m. | Keynote Conversation: Overcoming Differences Between Western Democracies in Developing a Common Religious Freedom Policy

Timothy Samuel Shah, Religious Freedom Project (moderator)

Pasquale Annicchino, European University Institute

Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project

Ahmet Kuru, San Diego State University

Anne Leahy, McGill University

2:30-4:00 p.m. | How Can Western Democracies' Religious Freedom Policy Advance National and International Security?

Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project (moderator)

Sue Breeze, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pasquale Ferrara, European University Institute

Nilay Saiya, SUNY Brockport 

Monica Toft, Oxford University

4:15-5:15 p.m. | Keynote Address: US Religious Freedom Policy: What Lessons Should Other Western Democracies Learn from It?

David Saperstein, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

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Other Participants

Related Publication

Report October 9, 2015

International Religious Freedom: Event Summary

This report summarizes an event examining U.S. foreign policy shaped by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the possibility for transatlantic cooperation in promoting religious freedom, and how to identify and overcome religious freedom differences among Western democracies.
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