RFI Announces Tom Farr as 2024 Defender of Religious Freedom Awardee

May 31, 2024, Washington, D.C. – The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) is delighted to announce Thomas F. Farr as the recipient of this year’s Defender of Religious Freedom Award.

The Defender of Religious Freedom Award is given on the occasion of the RFI Annual Dinner to “a person who defends religious freedom for everyone, everywhere from within his or her faith tradition.” This year’s award ceremony and dinner will be held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, November 13th. 

“I can think of no one better to honor with our 2024 Defender of Religious Freedom Award than Tom Farr, our very own Founder and President Emeritus,” said RFI President David Trimble. “Inspired by his deep Catholic faith, Tom has dedicated his life to the cause of defending religious freedom, through his time in public service, academia, and his leadership at RFI. A mentor and a dear friend, Tom has been and remains a stalwart champion of our precious first freedom, to the betterment of so many in America and around the world.” 

“Tom Farr has been a key leader and pioneer in the religious freedom movement for decades,” said Sam Brownback, who served as U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021. “He has been a scholar and practitioner of the highest order, bringing both together in his founding of the Religious Freedom Institute, which I relied upon as an ambassador and continue to look to in my work to defend America’s first freedom today. I count Tom a dear friend, whose counsel over the years has been immensely valuable to me.”

“I’m delighted that the Religious Freedom Institute is recognizing the extraordinary work and witness of Tom Farr,” said Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and Former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “No one has done more to advance the cause of religious freedom—both here in the U.S. and abroad—than he has done. An enormous amount of his work has been done quietly, behind the scenes. The fact that he has never sought accolades or recognition of any sort makes it all the more fitting that his exceptional contributions be acknowledged and celebrated by conferring on him the Defender of Religious Freedom Award.”

A leading authority on international religious freedom, Farr served for 28 years in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Foreign Service. In 1999, he became the founding director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF). He subsequently directed the Witherspoon Institute’s IRF Task Force, was a member of the Chicago World Affairs Council’s Task Force on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy, taught at the National Defense University, and served on the Secretary of State’s IRF working group.

From 2008 – 2018 Farr was Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. In 2011, he partnered with Kent Hill to launch the Religious Freedom Project, a research-based initiative at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, to examine the meaning and value of religious freedom. After several years of successful scholarship, Farr—along with Hill, Bryon Johnson, and Timothy Shah—established RFI to take their vast research, expertise, and experience and “put it on the ground” to advance religious freedom in the United States and around the world.

Throughout his tenure, Farr set the course for RFI’s vision of religious freedom, rooting it in the American Founders’ understanding of religious free exercise and the fundamental principle of human dignity, so central to the Catholic faith to which Farr has devoted his life. He has championed religious freedom as the cornerstone of a successful society—one that benefits everyone by contributing to a more virtuous citizenry, strong limits on government, increased economic stability, and greater social and political harmony. 

Read more about Farr in his biography here.

Register for the 2024 Defender of Religious Freedom Award Ceremony here.

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.

Media Contact: Nathan Berkeley