15 September 2006

United States Promotes Religious Freedom for All, Rice Says

2006 report examines 197 countries' commitment to religious freedom

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Condoleezza Rice
Secretary Rice introduces the State Department's 2006 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. (State Dept. photo/Mike Gross)

Washington – "The United States seeks to promote religious freedom and tolerance and build a more peaceful world for the peoples of all faiths," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the release of the International Religious Freedom Report September 15.

The U.S. Department of State released the eighth annual report to Congress September 15. The 2006 report examines 197 countries’ commitment to advancing religious freedom. (See related article.)

The United States hopes the report will serve as a resource for those who share concerns about religious freedom, Rice said. "We also hope that it will serve as a source of encouragement to those whose plight is documented in the report and whose right to believe and practice and worship as they choose is still denied by their governments."

Events over the past year, including the incidents surrounding the printing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in European newspapers, "have shown the need to go beyond the protection of religious freedom in law to a concerted effort to create the conditions for harmony, mutual understanding and respect within our societies," said Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford.

Many governments are taking important steps to improve religious freedom, according to Hanford. For example, in Afghanistan the government is seeking to uphold constitutional guarantees of religious freedom despite a long-standing culture of intolerance. In Turkmenistan, additional religious groups have been able to obtain legal status.

The report also documents governments that routinely suppress religious freedom, including those of Eritrea and China, which use repressive registration laws as a means of restricting nonapproved religions or outlaw certain faiths entirely, Hanford said. In particular, Hanford said, Uzbekistan has further tightened its laws on religion, and congregations have been harassed and deregistered. Some Muslims in that nation have been arrested inappropriately, Hanford added.

The fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks was a reminder that "the entire world is threatened by the extremist ideology of hate and bigotry and religious intolerance," Rice said.

"Religious freedom is deeply rooted in our principals and our history as a nation.  And it is now integral to our efforts to combat terrorism and the ideology of hatred that fuels it," Rice said.

Transcripts of Rice’s remarks and Hanford’s remarks are available on the State Department Web site, as are the full texts of the 2006 report and previous reports.

For more information, see International Religious Freedom and Democracy Dialogues’ Freedom of Religion.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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