The United States is committed to promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world. This is why the United States Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The bill aimed to strengthen the promotion of religious freedom as a part of U.S. foreign policy. The law also established the bi-partisan Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Commission is independent from other government agencies, said current Chairman Tony Perkins:
“This was to create an independent watchdog organization that was separate from the administration -- a creation of Congress that could report with unflinching focus on religious freedom, undistracted by other issues, whether they be policy issues, diplomatic issues, we're focused on one issue and one issue only.”
The Commission’s nine members are appointed by the President and by the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. They hail from different political parties and different religious backgrounds, but are unified by their mission:
“We work to track abuse of religious freedom, persecution, raise awareness of the issue, but also we make recommendations to the president, to the secretary of state, and to the Congress on how to address these issues of religious persecution, so that people everywhere can have the benefit of practicing what the 1948 Universal Declaration of Rights says is a fundamental human right and that is the freedom of religion.”
These recommendations are provided throughout the year as the Commission interacts with Congress and the Executive Branch of the U.S. government. They are also promoted through op-eds, press releases and articles, and summarized in an annual report. The Commission meets with senior government officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, victims of persecution, and other stakeholders from around the world. The Commission’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project calls for the release of individuals who have been imprisoned for their beliefs by oppressive regimes. Chairman Perkins noted that countries that protect religious freedom enjoy greater economic and social stability.
“We can move the needle on this issue,” said Chairman Perkins.