Thomas Farr on Religion, Religious Liberty & US Diplomacy
Date: June 13th, 2011

To what extent should religion and the promotion of religious liberty abroad be part of the United States’ foreign policy?  Prof. Thomas Farr – visiting associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs – brings 21 years of experience in foreign policymaking circles to bear on these questions.  (Thomas Farr is also the director of the Task Force on Religious Freedom at the Witherspoon Institute’s Center on Religion and the Constitution.)  Prof. Farr details his personal experiences working within the foreign policy bureaucracy, including a four-year stint as the director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.  Our discussion notes how diplomacy is often made from a “realist” perspective of the world and why US diplomats have often neglected the important role of religion, often intentionally turning a blind eye to this important aspect of life despite evidence that religion is increasingly important throughout the world (including the US).  We then talk about how the promotion of religious freedom can actually promote stable governance and why promoting religious liberty is in the national security interests of America (as well as other states).  Egypt, Afghanistan and a few other  nations are used to illustrate the importance of religious freedom abroad.  Tony plays the skeptic and wonders whether or not our diplomatic corps is capable of bringing about significant changes in other nations, but Tom lays out a convincing argument that things can, and are, changing for the better but it will take more public dialogue to change the way our top political leaders and career diplomats think about these issues.  We close by noting some recent changes being proposed to the International Religious Freedom  Act by Congressmen Frank Wolf.  Recorded: May 25, 2011.

RELATED LINKS

World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security, by Thomas F. Farr.

Prof. Farr’s website at Georgetown University and at The Witherspoon Institute.

Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs.

Witherspoon Institute Center on Religion & the Constitution.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress (May 24, 2011) referenced in the podcast.  Part I and Part II.

US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom (includes most recent IRF Reports).

Congressman Frank Wolf’s proposed amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act.

RELATED PODCASTS

Roger Finke on Religious Persecution.

Karrie Koesel on Religion & Politics in China.

Karrie Koesel on House Churches in China.

 


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