<!-- IMAGE -->
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was recently presented with the Roosevelt Institute's Four Freedoms Award. One of the fundamental freedoms championed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt is religious liberty -- a freedom that is central to American identity and is today a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.
The United States believes that the right to believe or not to believe, without fear of government interference or restriction, is essential to human dignity, civil society, and democracy.
Secretary Clinton said threats to freedom of worship come from authoritarian regimes as well as from societies' bias. The State Department's upcoming annual report on International Religious Freedom details how countries have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom, but also highlights progress made around the world.
Secretary Clinton stressed that "bias and discrimination by majorities toward minority faiths or hateful ideologies can threaten the freedom of belief. We must speak forcefully against these wrongs wherever they exist."
America's advocacy for religious freedom is grounded in its commitment to advance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. But protecting freedom of worship and combating hate cannot be accomplished at the expense of freedom of expression.
As President Barack Obama said in Cairo, "Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."
Secretary of State Clinton said, "An individual's ability to practice his or her religion should have no bearing on other individuals' freedom of speech. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views. ... These differences should be met with tolerance, not suppression of discourse."
One way to promote respect for others' religions is to encourage people of different faiths to come together in dialogue and in service. When religious people come together in projects ranging from malaria prevention in Africa to disaster assistance in South Asia, said Secretary Clinton, "We are laying a foundation for good works, and good relations among the world's religious communities."