The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order on “Advancing International Religious Freedom,” which elevates the U.S. government’s prioritization of religious freedom in its foreign policy; increases foreign assistance funding to $50 million annually; expands mandatory training on international religious freedom to more federal officials; encourages the utilization of economic tools; and more explicitly integrates international religious freedom into U.S. bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.
“We applaud President Trump for continuing to prioritize international religious freedom as a national security imperative and a foreign policy priority,” USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins stated. “This Executive Order encourages swift action by the U.S. government to hold accountable foreign governments that commit severe violations and substantially increases U.S. economic assistance to support programs that advance religious freedom around the world.”
According to the Executive Order, the Secretary of State will “develop a plan to prioritize international religious freedom in the planning and implementation of United States foreign policy and in the foreign assistance programs of the Department of State and USAID,” with a budget of at least $50 million per fiscal year for programs that advance international religious freedom. These programs will assist religious minority communities, promote accountability of the perpetrators for attacks, guarantee equal rights and legal protections for individuals and groups regardless of belief, improve the safety and security of houses of worship and public spaces for all faiths, and protect cultural heritages of religious communities.
“USCIRF has long called on the U.S. government to develop an overall strategy for promoting religious freedom abroad, as well as country-specific action plans, and we welcome the fact that this Executive Order requires the State Department and USAID to do exactly that,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. “We also appreciate the express reference to U.S. officials working for the release of religious prisoners of conscience, which is a high priority for USCIRF.”
USCIRF’s most recent recommendations to the Administration to advance religious freedom globally can be found in its 2020 Annual Report.