The Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. The office is headed by Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook. We monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.
Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
- Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries;
- Assist emerging democracies in implementing freedom of religion and conscience;
- Assist religious and human rights NGOs in promoting religious freedom;
- Identify and denounce regimes that are severe persecutors on the basis of religious belief.
The office carries out its mission through:
- The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The report contains an introduction, executive summary, and a chapter describing the status of religious freedom in each of 195 countries throughout the world. Mandated by, and presented to, the U.S. Congress, the report is a public document available online and in book form from the U.S. Government Printing Office.
- The designation by the Secretary of State (under authority delegated by the President) of nations guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom as "Countries of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (H.R. 2431) and its amendment of 1999 (Public Law 106-55). Nations so designated are subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States.
- Meetings with foreign government officials at all levels, as well as religious and human rights groups in the United States and abroad, to address problems of religious freedom.
- Testimony before the United States Congress on issues of international religious freedom.
- Close cooperation with the independent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
- Sponsorship of reconciliation programs in disputes which divide groups along lines of religious identity. The office seeks to support NGOs that are promoting reconciliation in such disputes.
- Programs of outreach to American religious communities.
For information on religious freedom in the United States please check the website of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, which publishes a newsletter, Religious Freedom in Focus, covering cases involving religious freedom around the United States. In addition a number of NGOs who monitor human rights issues around the world also report on conditions in the United States