International Religious Freedom

International Religious Freedom: Toward a Model of Transatlantic Cooperation
A Policy Dialogue at Georgetown University
October 8-9, 2015

Over the past five years or so, several European countries, the European Union, as well as Canada have taken up religious freedom in their foreign policies in one way or another, thus following the precedent set by the U.S. Congress in passing the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998.  The potential exists, then, for significant transatlantic cooperation in promoting international religious freedom. 

However, differences in approaches among Western democracies are significant. They stem from varying understandings of the meaning and reach of religious freedom, especially in its public and political manifestations. These variances derive from differing histories, views on church-state relations, and ongoing internal religious freedom controversies. There are also inevitable difficulties attendant on the need for multilateral coordination.  Finally, there are divergent views (within and between Western democracies) over the potential effects of religious freedom on other goods, such as democratic consolidation, economic development, intellectual vitality, stability, and international security

The purpose of the two-day policy dialogue is to identify and explore these differences, and to find ways to accommodate or overcome them in order to build transatlantic bridges in the urgent task of advancing international religious freedom.

This policy dialogue is a partnership of two major initiatives. The first is a year-long series of events on policy associated with the International Religious Freedom Act, which will produce a revised edition of The Future of U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy. This series is hosted by the Religious Freedom Project, together with its partner, the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, and is being co-sponsored by The Review of Faith & International Affairs at the Institute for  Global Engagement and the Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs at Boston University.

The second is a “Bridging Voices” grant from the British Council, awarded to the Center for Civil and Human Rights of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Sussex, in partnership with the European University Institute and the University of Milan, to foster a transatlantic partnership on religious freedom. This will be the second of two policy dialogues on the subject, the first having taken place at Wilton Park, United Kingdom in February 2015. Generously co-sponsoring the dialogues are the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (BYU) and McGill University’s Birks Forum on the World's Religions.

Selected presentations will appear in the Review of Faith and International Affairs. The dialogue is also part of a semester-long exploration of the Global Future of Governance, under the auspices of Georgetown University's Global Futures Initiative.  



9:00 am– 9:15 am: Welcome
Thomas Banchoff, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs
Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame
Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project

9:15 am-10:45 am: Keynote Address: Toward a New Paradign on Religion and Modernity
Peter Berger, Boston University (keynote speaker)
Walter Russell Mead, Hudson Institute (moderator)
David Brooks, New York Times (respondent)

10:45 am - 11:00 am: Break

11:00 am -12:15 pm: The Case for Religious Freedom Policy
Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame (moderator)
Mustafa Akyol, Star and Hurriyet Daily News
Allen Hertzke, University of Oklahoma
Sofia Lemmetyinen, European Commission

12:15 pm – 12:45 pm: Lunch

12:45 pm – 2:15 pm: Keynote Conversation: Overcoming Differences Between Western Democracies in Developing a Common Religious Freedom Policy
Timothy Samuel Shah, Religious Freedom Project (moderator)
Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project
Silvio Ferrari, University of Milan
Ahmet Kuru, San Diego State University
Anne Leahy, McGill University

2:15 pm– 2:30 pm: Break 

2:30 pm – 3:45 pm: How Can Western Democracies’ Religious Freedom Policy Advance National and International Security?
Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project (moderator)
Sue Breeze, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Pasquale Ferrara, European University Institute
Nilay Saiya, SUNY Brockport
Monica Toft, Oxford University

3:45 pm – 4:00 pm : Break

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Keynote Address: US Religious Freedom Policy: What Lessons Should Other Western Democracies Learn From It?
David Saperstein, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom