Press Release: Religious Freedom Institute Awarded 3-Year Templeton Grant for Pathbreaking Research Initiative

May 24, 2019, Washington, D.C. — The John Templeton Foundation has awarded a $1.7 million grant to the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) to lead a first-of-its-kind international inquiry into the meaning and impact of institutional religious freedom.

The Freedom of Religious Institutions in Society (FORIS) Project is a three-year initiative that will examine the health of institutional religious freedom in 15 countries, including China, India, the United States, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Among other things, FORIS will produce an index that measures the status of institutional religious freedom in these countries, paving the way for a broader international index.

To launch FORIS, RFI is holding a conference on May 29 at the Temple of the Washington Hebrew Congregation. The conference will feature a keynote address by Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad Jewish Community Center of Poway, California, followed by remarks from Mark Rienzi, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at The Catholic University of America and President of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Following the speakers, Timothy Shah, RFI Vice President for Strategy & International Research, will moderate a dynamic conversation with five scholars involved in the new initiative.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right that belongs to communities and individuals alike. It demands that communities, like individuals, be free from coercion so that they can organize their internal affairs on the basis of their religious convictions as well as express and act on them in public life. While institutional religious freedom reinforces individual freedom and contributes to society’s common good, it is often neglected by journalists, scholars, and policymakers. This project aims to provide compelling reasons to reverse that neglect.

The threats faced by religious communities vary widely. From violent attacks to intrusive government regulations and discriminatory treatment, these threats harm the religious institutions subjected to them, the societies in which they occur, and the common good.

“The global spread of restrictions on religious institutions is alarming and can be observed in countries as dissimilar as Indonesia and the United States,” said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at RFI and FORIS scholar. “Such developments demand sustained attention and opposition,” continued Marshall, who also holds the Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University.

“Despite the potential of religious institutions to advance the common good, many governments restrict their freedom and influential opinion-shapers tend not to appreciate their significance,” remarked FORIS principal investigator Timothy Shah. “This project will provide an unprecedented level of clarity on these issues that will be highly relevant to leaders in government and civil society in the United States and around the world,” Shah continued.

Media Contact:
Jeremy P. Barker

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.