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August 2012

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International Religious Freedom
by Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
Text: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/20120730_Clinton.pdf
Reviewed by David T. Jones

On 30 July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered an address on international religious freedom (IRF) to the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Earlier in the day, the Department of State released the much anticipated/much delayed IRF report for 2011. But the report was worth the wait, notably because instead of a cameo statement upon the IRF release, she spoke at eloquent length on the value of religious freedom globally.

Clinton admitted immediately that “when it comes to this human right, this key feature of stable, secure, peaceful societies, the world is sliding backwards…” Such comes despite advances in democratic practice in a number of countries. Specifically, Clinton rejected rationales limiting religious freedom:

  • Those believing there is only one right religion and only one right way to practice it. These people have the right to so believe, but not the right to harm those that do not;
  • Those claiming that “democracy” permits limitations on religious freedom. These individuals confuse democracy with the “tyranny of the majority”; and
  • Those claiming religious freedom is a luxury and permitting it would spark instability. Instead, “absence of religious freedom is correlated with religious conflict and violent extremism.”

Clinton praised Libya's effort to promote greater religious liberty, but laid down cautionary notes regarding Egyptian policy. While noting instances of popular religious tolerance in Egypt, she reviewed clear Christian concerns for the future of their religious freedom in that country.

She concluded with a powerful retrospective of United States commitment to religious freedom (the first freedom itemized in the First Amendment to the Constitution). She emphasized that the United States is not only a national example of religious freedom, but stands for and promotes it globally as both a principle and a value affecting our security and stability.

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