Why International Religious Freedom Is Vital to International Development: Causal Connections and Policy Recommendations

Since the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, the U.S. government has had a legal mandate to promote religious freedom around the globe. Among U.S. State Department personnel, international religious freedom has often been treated as a human rights issue that, although consistent with American ideals, is not of intrinsic value in the promotion of U.S. interests or even as “real” foreign policy work. Yet, research has begun to show a broader strategic value in promoting international religious freedom, with benefits for U.S. national security as well as international political and economic development.

Regent University’s new International Development program in the Robertson School of Government partnered with Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Freedom to conduct a study evaluating efforts to integrate faith-based organizations into U.S. development efforts. This report also offers recommendations for how the U.S. government can better promote religious freedom through its international development efforts.

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