The Future of U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Recommendations for the Obama Administration

March 10, 2009

Building off three symposia on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act in 2008, Thomas Farr of the Berkley Center and Dennis Hoover of the Institute for Global Engagement crafted a series of detailed policy recommendations for the Obama administration. Their issue brief includes a thorough critique of U.S. international religious freedom policy to date. That policy has focused more on rhetorical denunciations of persecutors and the religious prisoners than on facilitating the political and cultural institutions necessary for religious freedom. The authors point out that U.S. initiatives are often viewed abroad, however unfairly, as a kind of cultural imperialism and a front for American missionaries. To be effective going forward, U.S. policy should be more carefully integrated into broad-based democracy promotion, public diplomacy, and counterterrorism programs.

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