Fellows Brief: Religious Freedom Under President-elect Biden

On November 13, 2020 International Christian Concern convened a group of Washington, D.C.-based experts to discuss how best to advance international religious freedom (IRF) in the upcoming Biden administration.

The panelists began by considering the rising attention that IRF has enjoyed over the past several decades and, in particular, under the Trump administration. From the passage of the IRF Act under President Clinton in 1998 to the annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in 2018, the IRF issue has enjoyed wide bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., something that all the panelists agreed should continue under Biden.

Participants focused on the benefits that Biden will bring to the IRF issue and proposed ways that civil society could positively engage with his team going forward, including the potential for putting pressure on countries that have received little attention under the Trump administration.

Key Takeaways

  • There is good reason to believe that Biden and his team will take the IRF issue seriously and continue to use the weight of the United States’ influence abroad to push for the rights of religious minority communities
  • Civil society should devote time and resources to studying the issue of religious freedom and presenting it in an academic and impartial manner, facilitating the integration of IRF as a cross-cutting issue into other issue spaces, including development and the broader human rights movement
  • The Biden administration has great potential to move the dial on international religious freedom. Both parties have expressed widespread support for the issue for decades, and he comes to office on the tail of a historic rise in the role of IRF in multilateral relations
  • By continuing the pressure campaign on countries like China, Iran, and Russia and putting new pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and India, Biden can take great strides towards ensuring religious freedom for all

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