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10/9/04 - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN VIETNAM  - 2004-09-27

The Vietnamese government's record on religious freedom is documented in the latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom. Although the Vietnamese Constitution provides for the freedom of worship -- and forthcoming regulations may lead to improvements -- in practice, Vietnam has continued to engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom.

Religious organizations in Vietnam must register with the authorities. Vietnamese law prohibits what it calls, “abuse” of freedom of belief “to undermine the country’s peace, independence, and unity.” The law further says that religious activities must be suspended if they negatively affect the nation’s cultural traditions.

John Hanford is the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom:

“In Communist Vietnam, at least forty-five religious believers remain imprisoned, including members of the Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai faiths. Many ethnic minority Protestants have been pressured by authorities to renounce their faith, and some have been subjected to physical abuse. Hundreds of churches and places of worship in the central highlands have been shut down.”

President George W. Bush says religious freedom is the first freedom of the human soul. The United States is committed to the position that governments exist to protect human rights, not to restrict them.

Respecting international standards of religious freedom and protecting the rights of the Vietnamese people to practice their faith are in the best interests of the government of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.