The Latest IRF Report to Congress

This past June the International Religious Freedom report, which is compiled annually by the US State Department, was delivered to Congress.

The annual report covered the entire year of 2018, detailing areas where the State Department feels that freedom of religion is being threatened or compromised around the world.

Sam Brownback, who functions as Ambassador-at-large for the International Religious Freedom arm of the US State Department, told Congress that nearly eighty percent of the world’s population currently lives under regimes that regulate the free exercise of religion to a greater or lesser extent. He specifically named both China and Iran as the two most egregious states in the world today when it comes to either controlling or eradicating religious freedom.

The US State Department is unique among state ministries world-wide in that it is mandated by Congress to take stock of religious freedom world-wide each year and to submit its findings to Congress. Brownback says that this unique mandate means that Americans have a better understanding of the threats to religious freedom around the world than do any other set of citizens in any other country.

This mandate has been in force since passage of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. Several groups have lobbied Congress in recent years to rescind the law, claiming that it ignores the barrier between church and state that the Constitution mentions — but supporters of the law counter that the Act does not promote religion of any kind; it only empowers the federal government to collect information and data that can be used to help form foreign policy.

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