Whilst the philosophical and humanitarian arguments for protecting one of the most fundamental human rights – the right to religious freedom or more precisely, freedom of religion or belief – are often and rightly discussed, the practical benefits of displaying unwavering support for this right can too easily be overlooked. In reality, freedom of religion promotes culture that is conducive to democracy, prosperity, equality, cohesion, and security and stability. Furthermore, through freedom of religion a free marketplace of ideas and beliefs is fostered, and this has the significant advantage of countering ideological and religious extremism.
Religious freedom, however, has been victim to ideology and repressive regimes around the world, with religious minorities facing daily and systematic persecution and imprisonment for their beliefs. In China, the persecution of Christians is continuing to rise. Christian defectors from North Korea have even said that holding secret prayer services and distributing Bibles can mean banishment to a labour camp or execution. In Iran, the Baha’i faith is not recognised by the state, denying them any legal protections. And, throughout the Middle East, Shia Muslims are treated with suspicion, often facing marginalisation and violent attacks.
Protecting religious freedom has been held up as a priority among Western leaders, with President Barack Obama describing religious freedom as a key tenet of foreign policy. Yet, have he and others in positions of power taken enough concrete steps towards promoting and protecting freedom of faith around the world? Where are we seeing the greatest violations of this basic right, and what should be the most urgent steps taken in countering these?
By kind invitation of the Baroness Berridge, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Dr. Robert P. George, Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Professor George will offer humanitarian, philosophical and practical reasons as to why protecting religious freedom around the world should be a key part of the foreign policy of liberal democracies. He will discuss religious freedom conditions globally, identifying the different kinds of religious freedom violations we are seeing today, and offer his thoughts on what could be done about these.
Dr. Robert P. George is Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is also the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.
He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), of which he remains a corresponding member.
A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, Professor George also earned a master’s degree in theology from Harvard and a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford University, which he attended on a Knox Scholarship from Harvard. He holds honorary doctorates of law, letters, science, ethics, humane letters, civil law, and juridical science.
He is the author of Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality and In Defense of Natural Law, among other books. His articles and review essays have appeared in The Harvard Law Review, The Yale Law Journal, The Columbia Law Review, The Review of Politics, The Review of Metaphysics, The American Journal of Jurisprudence, and Law and Philosophy. He has also written for The New York Times, TheWall Street Journal, TheWashington Post,First Things magazine, National Review, TheBoston Review, and The Times Literary Supplement.
Professor George is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award.
His other honours include the United States Presidential Citizens Medal, the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland, the Bradley Prize for Intellectual and Civic Achievement, the Phillip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Liberal Arts of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association, and the Paul Bator Award of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is Of Counsel to the law firm of Robinson & McElwee.