Interview: Knox Thames on the U.S. Efforts to Advance Religious Freedom Globally

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.


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The 2021 Religious Freedom Annual Review: An Overview

By Talk About: Law and Religion

The Religious Freedom Annual Review, sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU Law School, and co-sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, was held virtually on June 15-16, 2021. The 2021 theme, “Religion’s Role in Overcoming Divides and Strengthening American Democracy,” was reiterated by the three keynote speakers, Peter Wehner, Elder Dale G. Renlund, and Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund. The opening session concluded with remarks by Asma Uddin, L. Whitney Clayton, and Brett Scharffs on religious identity and dignity in America.

Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, stated that Christians ought to see others as equal. “Don’t withdraw from politics.” Christians should use Christianity to help define a “moral excellence…We’re called upon to be faithful—not successful,” and that Christians should “argue for truth, not for victory.”


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