https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sxlM5Xki3g In his interview, Knox Thames discusses U.S. religious freedom diplomacy, ambiguous interrelations between democracy and religious freedom protection, vulnerability of LGBT-community, converts, and atheists, and perspectives of international religious freedom. Read the full printed version…
Knox Thames is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement and Visiting Expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He previously served as the State Department Special Advisor for Religious Minorities under both the Obama and Trump administrations. He is writing a book on 21st-century strategies to combat religious persecution. Knox Thames was interviewed by Dmytro Vovk.
Watch a shorter video version of this interview here.
TalkAbout: Why is religious freedom an important part of U.S. foreign policy?
Knox Thames: The promotion of freedom of religion or belief, internationally, is a reflection of American values and history. Many of the first European settlers were religious minorities who came to North America because they were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. They were looking for a place where they could freely practice their beliefs and live out their faith, and they found that here in North America. It’s been a part of the American narrative from the very beginning. Once our Republic was established, our Constitution was written, and our Bill of Rights was created, the very first of ten amendments, the First Amendment, was created protecting freedom of religion or belief and preventing the government from interfering into the practice of religion. It was that framework that has served our country very well over 245 years. We have tremendous religious liberty here in the United States. It’s not perfect. But it has continually improved as we’ve become increasingly diverse religiously, ethnically, to allow everyone to pursue truth as their conscience leads.
Dmytro Vovk is Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion
In June 2021 the ICLRS Blog, “Talk About: Law and Religion,” hosted a webinar on advancing religious freedom in different political regimes. The panelists (Brett G. Scharffs, Seng Mai Aung, Ján Figeľ, Mine Yildirim, Knox Thames, and Elizabeth A. Clark) talked about their personal experiences in Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan focusing on challenges and restrictions religious and belief communities face in these countries and other parts of the world. They shared their thoughts on human rights compliance, the basics of religious freedom advocacy and internationals’ interacting with local authorities and religious communities, discussed what worked and did not work in promoting religious freedom globally and why efforts to promote religious freedom was sometimes a matter of both international and domestic politics.