10/16/2008 - Oct. 27 marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the International Religious Freedom Act, a law that made the promotion of religious freedom a basic aim of U.S. foreign policy. The passage of the legislation marked the culmination of a campaign of unlikely religious allies, who went on to champion other international human rights causes. Pew Forum Visiting Senior Fellow Allen Hertzke, an eyewitness observer of the birth and growth of the international religious freedom movement and author of Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights (2004), recounts what he witnessed in Washington, D.C., a decade ago and discusses the difference the landmark legislation has made in promoting religious freedom worldwide.
Allen Hertzke, Visiting Senior Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life; Presidential Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma
Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Web Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Question & Answer:
A decade ago, you were an eyewitness to the meetings that led to the crafting and promotion of the International Religious Freedom Act. What spurred your involvement in the issue?
I like to say that I stumbled onto the ground floor of an emerging social movement. A decade before the legislative campaign for the act began, I published a book, Representing God in Washington (1988), on religious lobbies. So I was pretty familiar with the religious scene in Washington, D.C., and the various alliances and divisions. In 1998, I was asked to present a paper in Washington at a conference that dealt with the issue of international persecution of Christians and the emerging movement to focus American foreign policy on their plight.
As it turned out, many of the activists in this new movement were at the conference. Because I expressed some knowledge of the situation, these activists basically suggested that I become the scribe of the movement. They opened their files to me, allowed me to sit in on strategy meetings and conduct interviews with them, and provided access to other activists.
Read the complete Q & A Ten Years of Promoting Religious Freedom Through U.S. Foreign Policy on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.