Executive Order will prioritize religious freedom as foreign policy priority
U.S. to provide $50 million per year for programs that advance international religious freedom
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a new Executive Order on international religious freedom that prioritizes international religious freedom concerns for United States foreign policy.
It specifically requires the Department of State and USAID to create long-term strategic plans on advancing religious freedom internationally, provides $50 million per year for religious freedom programs, and requires U.S. foreign service members to receive extensive training on religious freedom. The Order also provides for the greater use of economic tools, including reductions of foreign assistance, visa restrictions, and sanctions, to advance religious freedom in countries that have been deemed serious violators of religious freedom.
“No one should ever be persecuted because of their religion or beliefs. Persecution against religious believers around the world must end. For too long, too many countries have violated the fundamental rights of people of faith, as well as people of no faith, without any consequences. The President’s Executive Order ensures that religious freedom will be thoroughly incorporated into U.S. foreign policy. This Executive Order is a much needed boost to efforts to protect everyone’s inalienable right to religious freedom,” said Kelsey Zorzi, who serves as Director of Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.
Policy will target worst religious freedom violators
The Executive Order will direct executive agencies to focus its religious freedom efforts on countries that the U.S. State Department has seemed “countries of particular concern,” meaning that they have allowed or engaged in ongoing, systematic, and egregious violations of religious freedom. Also included as targets of the Executive Order are countries on the State Department’s Special Watch List, countries in which there are entities of particular concern, and any other countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom as noted in the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
The Executive Order also directs U.S. Missions to prioritize helping persecuted religious groups internationally. This includes supporting persecuted religious groups in diplomatic engagements with foreign countries, protecting houses of worship and religious heritage sites, and promoting accountability for perpetrators of attacks on individuals and communities because of their religion or beliefs.
The Executive Order is the latest in a string of actions by the current U.S. administration in support of international religious freedom. In July 2019, the U.S. State Department hosted over 100 foreign delegations at the Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. During the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019, the President hosted and delivered remarks at an event declaring a “global call to protect religious freedom.”
Recently, the U.S. helped create an International Religious Freedom Alliance of twenty-nine countries dedicated to advancing religious freedom.
Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International said: “Around the world, millions of people are facing persecution because of their faith. Christians, in particular, face widespread and severe persecution. We applaud those who uphold fundamental freedoms and promote the inherent dignity of all people. The Executive Order that was signed today is a promising step in the right direction. No one should turn a blind eye to the plight religious minorities face every single day.”