A group of scholars has urged U.S. religious communities to persuade President Barack Obama that the promotion of international religious freedom in his diplomatic policies is vital to national security.
During a panel discussion on the effectiveness of the U.S. international religious freedom policy at Georgetown University April 15, the scholars agreed the U.S. State Department has underused the International Religious Freedom Act in the decade since it was passed. They also said diplomatic efforts would flourish if U.S. diplomats reached out to foreign religious leaders more often.
"There is this erroneous notion that it's unconstitutional if we are talking to religious leaders around the world," said Thomas F. Farr, a former U.S. diplomat and visiting associate professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown.
For decades, the State Department has operated on the philosophy that religion must be kept out of U.S. diplomatic policy, Farr told about 100 students, faculty members and visitors at Georgetown's Riggs Library.