Secretary of State Unveils New Religious Freedom Report

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week announced the State Department’s newest report on the status of religious liberty around the world. Highlighting that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives with significant challenges to religious freedom, Tillerson said, “Where religious freedom is not protected, we know that instability, human rights abuses, and violent extremism have a greater opportunity to take root.”

As mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the State Department assesses each year the atmosphere for free exercise of religion in nearly 200 countries and territories. This year’s report takes particular aim at the crimes of ISIS. In his preface to the report, Secretary Tillerson stated, “ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death.” Moreover, Tillerson reaffirmed that ISIS is guilty of genocide. Intending to “remove any ambiguity from previous statements or reports by the State Department,” Tillerson stated that genocide requires three elements: “specific act, specific intent, specific people.” He concluded, “Application of the law to the facts at hand leads to the conclusion ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled.”

Secretary Tillerson also made note of problems in Bahrain, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkey. In the latter, he specifically highlighted America’s call for the release of incarcerated Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Finally, as a testament to the Trump administration’s commitment to standing for religious freedom around the world, Tillerson pointed to the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be the next U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. He pointed out the importance of Brownback’s high rank and said, “We look forward to his swift confirmation.”

The full State Department report is here and video of this week’s announcement is available from here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: August 18, 2017


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