International Religious Freedom


IRF) Roundtable

June 3, 2019

Impressions on the IRF Roundtable

Religious freedom is a foundational building block of American identity, as enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But how does the U.S. actively live out its mission to protect religious freedom at home and around the world?

In my first week as an intern at the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), I was introduced to an extensive network of international religious freedom advocates, most of whom I previously hadn’t known existed. In fact, I think few Americans understand just how many organizations and individuals are working to protect and promote religious freedom here in Washington, DC. And not only are there far more organizations working on this cause than one might expect, but many of these groups also meet together to harmonize their efforts. This is made possible through the coordination of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable, which is “a convener of NGOs and individuals from any and no faith that works for freedom of religion or belief” based here in Washington, DC.

The IRF Roundtable convenes at least twice per month under the facilitation of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Brownback previously served in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and as Governor of Kansas before beginning his ambassadorial tenure in early 2018. Brownback, a Roman Catholic, has a history of supporting religious freedom throughout his long career in politics. During his time as a U.S. Senator, Brownback was a key player in the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the law that has been instrumental in encouraging policymakers to incorporate international religious freedom into U.S. foreign policy. The Act created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as well as Brownback’s current role, the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Brownback, in his role as the facilitator of IRF Roundtable meetings, welcomes leaders from all religious backgrounds and nongovernmental advocates for religious freedom to the Roundtable meetings. In addition to planning the annual State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the Roundtable hears brief statements from members of religious communities that have historically or are currently facing religious persecution in any location in the world. In the two meetings that I’ve attended, I’ve heard speakers from the UAE, China, Iran, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Vietnam describe their experiences through these statements. Some statements celebrate success stories of instances in which international religious freedom has been advanced in a particular country or region. Some statements, however, are desperate pleas to Brownback to address ongoing religious persecution in particular locations throughout the world. Many of the latter are personal, painful, and gut-wrenching to listen to. But Brownback gives his complete attention to each one of these voices

In some cases, the best the Ambassador can do is listen respectfully to those who ask for his help. But in other cases, Brownback can provide tangible assistance to those who bring their requests before him. At the first IRF Roundtable meeting that I attended, a woman came forth and informed the Ambassador that several members of her church had gone missing while on a mission trip to an East African nation. She believed that those missing had been detained and imprisoned by local police. After explaining more of the specific details to Brownback, the woman asked the ambassador if there was anything he could do to help the members of her church return home safely. Brownback informed her that he would get in contact with the local embassy immediately and that he would try to bring the members of her church home.

At the second IRF Roundtable meeting I attended, which took place only seven days after the first, Brownback announced that those members of the woman’s church had, in fact, been detained and imprisoned, but that they had been freed and returned home safely to the United States. All of that, in less than a week! It is this sort of heroic work that takes place behind the scenes in Washington, D.C. that few Americans know about or appreciate. Accomplishments such as these are often ignored by major media outlets, meaning that some advocates for international religious freedom don’t receive any recognition for their valiant efforts. But many of those in D.C. who fight for international religious freedom don’t expect gratitude–for them, it is sufficient to know that their efforts produce meaningful advances in international religious freedom, regardless of the public recognition that they’ll likely never receive

One month ago, I had no idea that this network of advocates even existed. But after having experienced international religious freedom advocacy firsthand while interning at the IRD, I have truly been inspired by the sincerity and passion that motivates the members of the IRF Roundtable. I look forward to remaining actively engaged with this community throughout my internship at the IRD, and my hope is that more Americans pay attention to the noble work of advancing international religious freedom that takes places every day here in DC.

6 Responses to Impressions on the IRF Roundtable

  1. Diane says:

    Why not assist the Protestants and others in Catholic-run, tax-subsidized American hospitals?
    There are senior citizens in my retirement community who’ve authorized family members to move them, once stabilized, to secular-run hospitals should they be incapacitated & wind up being transported to the local Holy Cross hospital. Catholic-run hospitals can deny a patient’s advance end-of-life medical directives based on their religious beliefs. This is faith-based discrimination of non-Catholics. My aunt, a devout United Methodist, had an extremely difficult fifth pregnancy and her doctor advised a surgical procedure (tubal ligation) following delivery. He cautioned another pregnancy would endanger her life. In the next breath he informed her he couldn’t do the procedure, nor could the providers at the hospital he was affiliated with (Catholic) based on their “pro-life” beliefs. She was stunned that her life and personhood would be totally de-valued based on “religious freedom” in a taxpayer-supported healthcare institution serving the American public.

    • senecagriggs says:

      “She was stunned….” – sir, the world and the internet in particular are awash with “stunned” individuals. All these “stunned” people appear to assume that all of us must share their viewpoint. It is not going to happen. My advice: Be brave, soldier on.

      • Diane says:

        The year was 1962 – long before the Internet. As the Catholic network of hospitals buys up failing rural hospitals, leaving women in those localities particularly enslaved to their faith-based discrimination, suggesting they “soldier-on” is blatantly dismissive. Tubal ligation is a common surgical procedure for women of child-bearing age. Why should we be discriminated against in a tax-subsidized hospital? That’s absurd. And why should a feeding tube be inserted in a dying patient when their end-of-life advance medical directives clearly indicate this is not their wish.

        if medical providers want “freedom of religion”, they should choose another field or opt to work in a setting that receives no public assistance (taxes, Medicare payments, Medicaid, etc).

  2. Ryan Brown: “Religious freedom is a foundational building block of American identity, as enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

    WHY are alleged Christians so bent on promoting the First Commandment violating, polytheism-enabling First Amendment???

    Time for Christians to recognize and repent of their part in making this a reality by their promotion of the unbiblical rights culture created by the 1787 cadre of Enlightenment and Masonic theistic rationalists (aka the constitutional framers) when they replaced Biblical responsibilities (based upon Biblical law) with Enlightenment rights.

    For example, without the parameters of the Bible’s triune moral law (the Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments), the First Amendment is a toxic brew:

    “…Amendment 1 goes on to condemn the prohibition of speech, whether spoken or written. Does the Bible provide for free speech or does it limit speech?…

    “Freedom of speech and of the press has also been used to provide protection for those who promote false religions, infanticide, sodomy, pornography, drug abuse, violence, obscenities, and other abuses condemned by Yahweh. What about freedom of speech and freedom of the press as it concerns Yahweh Himself? Does He allow us freedom to curse Him or profane or blaspheme His name?…

    “The provision in Amendment 1 for United States citizens to assemble peaceably appears innocuous. But is it harmless to give sodomites, infanticide advocates, and Satanists the right to assemble peaceably? If you are a proponent of the Constitution and a defender of Amendment 1, you must also defend the rights of such criminals and anti-Christians to assemble and promote their wicked agendas.

    “Homosexuals and infant assassins claim freedom of speech and the right to assemble to combat Christians who speak out or assemble against these heinous people and their blatant immorality. By labeling what Christians do as hate crimes, these immoral people are able to employ Amendment 1 against the rights of Christians to freely speak and assemble….”

    For more, Google Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of free online book “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.”

    Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  3. Chris says:

    Well, God forbid we look to what The Almighty has to say about all this !

    This is what happens when the Caucasian people anywhere think they know best and make their own laws in opposition to The Almighty’s, allowing the stranger here on a permanent basis in the first place.

    You and all the rest of the so called “Conservative Christian” crowd continue to argue about your and their 1st Amendment “rights” and freedom of religion, etc., while completely ignoring what The Great I Am has to say about it !!

    “You shall make no Covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of Yahweh will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.” Deuteronomy 7: 2-4.

    “You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They SHALL NOT LIVE IN YOUR LAND, lest they make you sin (i.e., Law breaking. 1 John 3: 4) against Me; for if you serve their gods (i.e., their law system; think statutes, not statues) it will surely be a snare to you.” Exodus 23: 32.

    Arguing for respect of and “right” of anyone to practice any “religion” is the same as arguing for the “right” of Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Jews, Satanists or any other anti-Christ religion to practice theirs.

    And it’s the 1st. Amendment (along with the constitution itself) that’s the problem, not the solution. That’s what allows all these anti-Christ religions to exist here in the first place.

    This Constitution (and its 1st Amendment) opened the door for and allowed over time, by gradual increments, for His people to turn from their Christian ways and become, in essence, a pagan nation. Here’s just a couple of example of the numerous pagan symbols that most think nothing of:

    What do you think that big male erection (The Obelisk, Phallic Symbol) in the District of Criminals by the pool is doing there, just a nice decoration for the Park ?! How about the female goddess in the harbor ?!

    Moreover, the entire nation argues such matters before a court system symbolized by the Roman goddess Justitia (just to let you know what system of law you’re really under), with judges (i.e. “unbelievers”) in those wicked Admiralty/Maritime/Roman Civil law courts bearing her symbol (, that plague our nation with corruption like a cancer !

    There’s a whole lot more. And you’re in favor of 1st Amendment “rights” for the un-Godly ?

    Those of His People that argue for and/or practice such “religions” need to repent and Be fully Immersed in His Name. Acts 2: 38

    The only solution for this nation is to turn back to Him, His Laws, Statutes and Judgments, His Kingdom/Will on earth.

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