Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order on advancing international religious freedom, appropriating $50 million for programs to further religious liberty around the world.
“Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative,” the order reads. “Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom.
“… Our founders understood religious freedom not as a creation of the state, but as a gift of God to every person and a right that is fundamental for the flourishing of our society.”
The order instructs Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop country-specific action plans for prioritizing religious freedom within the next 180 days.
The president has also ordered that all State Department foreign affairs employees go through training every three years on international religious freedom.
In a background briefing call with reporters following the signing of the order, a senior administration official referenced Trump’s remarks at the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom event during the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.
“The United States calls on all nations of the world to end religious persecution,” the president said in his speech.
“The executive order the president signed … is a key follow up to that speech,” said the official. “In a sense, it’s putting the administration’s money where its mouth is, showing our commitment to prioritizing international religious freedom in United States foreign policy.”
Religious freedom advocates applauded the president’s action, particularly the order’s call to provide 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 liberty.
“No one should ever be persecuted because of their religion or beliefs,” said Kelsey Zorzi, director of global religious freedom for Alliance Defending Freedom International. “Persecution against religious believers around the world must end. For too long, too many countries have violated the fundamental right 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.”