On Thursday, June 27, 2013, UCSJ’s President, Larry Lerner, and Associate Director, Maria Weissman, attended the second annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable event. The IRF is an informal alliance of over one hundred faith-based organizations, religious freedom advocates and NGOs. The event was held on Capitol Hill in the Cannon Caucus Room and was co-sponsored by Advocates International, Freedom House, Human Rights Law Foundation, The Mitchell Firm, the Institute for Global Engagement, and a number of other groups. Speakers included members of Congress, the U.S. State Department, USCIRF, the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook and a number of fellow NGOs.
During the first part of the day, Brian Grim, Senior Researcher and Director of Cross-National Data at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, David Kramer, President of Freedom House and Asma Uddin, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, discussed the link between restrictions on religious freedom and threats to national security.
Chris Seiple, President of the Institute for Global Engagement and Co-Chair of the IRF Roundtable, moderated the second half of the event in which Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chair of USCIRF, offered her remarks on how civil society and governments can work together to promote and advance international religious freedom.
A Government Panel followed, in which Jane Zimmerman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, DRL, Knox Thames, USCIRF Director of Policy and Research, Stephanie Hammond, Foreign Policy Advisor to Congressman Trent Franks (AZ), Sadaf Khan, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Albio Sires (NJ) and Lauren McCormack, Policy Advisor to Senator Roy Blunt (MO), spoke about strengthening international religious freedom policy in order to ensure greater worldwide security and stability.
As part of the Civil Society NGO Panel, Larry Lerner, UCSJ President, spoke about the critical link between a country’s state of religious tolerance and its level of democracy. Visit our YouTube page or view his speech below (and sign up for UCSJ’s Email List to receive the transcript!). Maggie Ardiente, Director of Development and Communication at the American Humanist Association, Jay Kansara, Associate Director of the Hindu American Foundation, Dr. Barrett Duke and Virginia Farris, Foreign Policy Advisor at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also shared their remarks and reflections on the importance of protecting the religious freedom of believers and non-believers alike.