January 18, 2017, Washington, D.C.—The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) calls upon the incoming administration to affirm that Muslim Americans—like all Americans—are entitled to religious freedom as articulated in our laws and in the First Amendment. The RFI opposes any immigration law or domestic policy that singles out Muslims or members of any other religious community and restricts their religious freedom.
The RFI is committed to achieving broad acceptance of religious liberty as a fundamental human right, the cornerstone of any successful society, and a source of national and international security.
RFI President Thomas Farr said today that “it is morally wrong and strategically unwise to attempt to identify dangerous immigrants based on their religion. A vigorous vetting should apply sensible criteria, such as a history of violence, expressions of violent intent, or intentional association with terrorists.” Farr was the first director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. He also directs Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Research Project.
“Any policy that stigmatizes an entire religion and all its adherents sends precisely the wrong message,” added RFI Senior Fellow Rebecca Shah. “Many thousands of Muslims have come to the U.S. seeking the same freedom and opportunity that motivated every previous generation of immigrants.” Shah is a London School of Economics-trained scholar whose pioneering work explores religion’s impact on the lives of poor and outcaste women.
For over two centuries, our nation has been committed to protecting the dignity and freedom of people of all faiths. In a political and cultural climate that is deeply divided, the Religious Freedom Institute recalls the timeless words of America’s first president.
Writing to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, George Washington emphasized that the new nation would not flourish without religious freedom. All Americans “possess … liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” he wrote. Washington continued:
[T]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. The RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C. www.religiousfreedominstitute.org