Title: America’s International Religious Freedom Policy Must Account for Competing Local Definitions of Religion and the Common Good
Authors: Chad Bauman, Robert Hefner, Timur Kuran, and Thomas Berg
About: This policy report, made possible by funding from the John Templeton Foundation, urges U.S. foreign affairs officials to consider how conceptions of religion and the common good vary across countries. U.S. diplomats, policymakers, and advocates for religious liberty will be less effective if they are unaware of these differences across societies or try to engage at the level of policy only without addressing these more fundamental issues.
In countries where the state intervenes in favor of what it defines as progressive, non-political, and/or orthodox religion, the institutions of legally disfavored groups are especially vulnerable to discrimination or other maltreatment and merit special consideration. These institutions act in society and can be acted upon. They are inescapably visible and public in nature and, thus, test the limits of religious freedom in a manner that is both deeply complex and urgent.
Local definitions of “the common good” influence limits upon religious liberty. Diverse peoples imagine the good society differently and such differences lead to competing conclusions as to how ideals like liberty and social harmony should be balanced.
The report encourages diplomats, policymakers, and proponents of religious liberty to advocate boldly for the preservation and expansion of religious freedom for the largest number of religious individuals, communities, and institutions possible, while also calling for the least intrusive and least coercive forms of religious regulation possible, even in cultural contexts where social harmony is valued as much as, if not more than, religious liberty.
Publication Date: May 2021
Recommended Citation: Bauman, Chad, Robert Hefner, Timur Kuran, and Thomas Berg. “America’s International Religious Freedom Policy Must Account for Competing Local Definitions of Religion and the Common Good.” Religious Freedom Institute, 2021.