Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the United States’ defense of religious freedom around the world is “a moral imperative.”
“Every human being has the right to believe in whatever it is they wish, to change their faith, or to hold no faith at all. Indeed, we must affirm and fight for that truth now more than ever. More than eight in ten people in the world today live where they cannot practice their faith freely.”
One of those places is Iran. At the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the State Department in July, 2019, Secretary Pompeo noted that “Iranians who dare stand up for their religious freedom, for their neighbors, face abuse.”
Now the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom -- an independent, bipartisan federal body tasked with monitoring violations of religious freedom around the world –- reports that violations of the Iranian people’s religious liberty continue. USCIRF, as the Commission is called, writes in its most recent report that in 2019, “religious freedom conditions in Iran remained egregiously poor.”
“Iran harasses, fines and arrests those who dissent” from the government’s interpretation of Shi’a Islam, USCIRF notes. The Iranian government blamed Baha’is, without evidence, for widespread popular protests. Adherents of Sufi orders, which emphasize Islamic mysticism, were also targeted. Christians, particularly converts from Islam, were persecuted and imprisoned for their faith.
Last June, USCIRF reports, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that Iran’s execution of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community was necessary “according to moral principles.” And women who peacefully protested the government’s mandatory religious head covering were summoned, interrogated and arrested.
Secretary of State Pompeo has said that the freedom to believe or not believe according to one’s conscience is not a Western ideal, it is “the bedrock of societies.”
The United States, he emphasized, will not waver in its commitment to encourage all countries, including Iran, to recognize the fundamental importance of religious freedom to human life and dignity.