The State Department recently released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2017. A wide range of U.S. government agencies and offices use the reports for such efforts as shaping policy and conducting diplomacy. The Secretary of State also uses the reports to help determine which countries have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom in order to designate “countries of particular concern.”
A major concern addressed in this year’s report is that “international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations.”
The blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated. Many observers have become numb to violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
USCIRF also finds that many restrictions on religious freedoms are done under the guise of protecting national security:
On April 20, the Russian Supreme Court issued a ruling banning the existence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country. Their right to religious freedom is being eliminated thoroughly—and yet “legally” under Russian law. Russia’s continued use of its “anti-extremism” law as a tool to curtail religious freedoms is one of the reasons USCIRF has recommended for the first time that Russia be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
Reports on each of the countries can be found here.