House Committee Highlights International Religious Freedom

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) was in the spotlight this week for members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Committee organized a panel including Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Dr. Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement. 

Reflecting on IRFA, Dr. Seiple, who also sits on the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of Wycliffe Bible Translators, stated, “To be sure, IRFA reminded us and institutionalized the best of this country’s founding…. America has not only been a voice for those persecuted and harassed for their beliefs, we have created a global standard against which all countries, including our own, should be measured. Meanwhile, foreign governments know that our government will hold them accountable.” However, he believes more work needs to be done.

Dr. Lantos Swett asserted, “Now more than ever, the U.S. government, including both the Executive Branch and Congress, needs to more fully utilize the tools that IRFA offers.” She also declared the importance of religious freedom for national security: “Conditions favoring religious freedom can help counter extremism by undercutting the message of extremists and fostering religious diversity and minority rights. As a fundamental right, religious freedom is a core component of a healthy society, as it encompasses other freedoms – including those of expression, association, and assembly.”

Find testimony and other resources from this hearing here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 14, 2013