US Must Lead in Religious Freedom But Where's Biden?

Jun 30, 2021

Religious freedom is at the bedrock of America. Recognized as an inalienable God-given right for all people, religious freedom has always been a priority in the United States—until now. Although the Framers of the Constitution conspicuously addressed religious freedom at the top of the Bill of Rights, it would seem this right does not make Joe Biden’s list—at home or abroad.

Traditionally, America has extended this recognition to the world stage, standing as a leader to promote religious freedom, bring public awareness to human rights violations and hold world leaders accountable for abuses. Addressing religious freedom violations and cultivating greater respect for all faiths is a key component of U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, while Biden has had no trouble nominating political appointees with histories of violating religious freedom and conscience rights, he has conspicuously failed to nominate an ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Even the Obama administration filled this important post.

Faith groups have sent multiple letters, and members of Congress have urged the Biden administration to fill this important role.

In a letter dated May 4, 2021, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), along with seven other senators, urged Biden to step up and increase U.S. leadership in promoting international religious freedom. They stressed the importance of America taking a strong stance on this worldwide concern and the need to appoint people to positions such as ambassador at large for international religious freedom within the State Department and the director of International Religious Freedom within the National Security Council.

The letter highlighted some of the more recent violence against religious groups.

“Situations such as attacks on the Rohingya in Burma, mass imprisonment and exploitation of Uyghurs and other faith groups by the Chinese government, and the ISIS genocide against Yazidis and Christians in Syria and Iraq only underscore the importance of expanding and strengthening US international religious freedom engagement,” the letter reads.

U.S. engagement on this issue is crucial as persecution has increased—especially for Christians.

More than 340 million Christians—or 1 in 8 believers, worldwide—live in areas with high levels of persecution, according to Open Doors. In 2020, 4,761 Christians were killed because of their faith, a 60% increase from the previous year.

And the global pandemic made conditions worse for Christians, opening new avenues for persecution. In some countries where dominant religions received aid, there were reports that Christians were denied any aid to meet their needs or received significantly less aid than other groups. 

In China, the Communist regime continues to oppress Christians and anyone they see as posing a threat to their ideology, including Uyghurs. Their brutal treatment of this religious minority group is well known. Uyghurs are subjected to labor camps, forced abortions, sterilizations and even organ harvesting.

And China is not even in the top 10 countries on Open Doors’ World Watch List.

Yet, in the face of overwhelming persecution and human rights abuses around the world, Biden continues to leave the seat for ambassador at large for international religious freedom vacant and downplays religious persecution, even chalking up China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims to different cultural norms.

The Biden administration’s failure to make this a priority is alarming, though less surprising when considering a bill that Biden said is a priority—the “Equality Act”—a death knell for religious freedom in America.

Combining this with the rise in Marxism, an ideology that “abolishes eternal truths … religion, and all morality,” there is little wonder why international religious freedom is not a main concern of the current administration.

During the Trump administration, however, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback spearheaded the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and moderated the International Religious Freedom Roundtable consisting of numerous organizations advocating for religious freedom.

With no ambassador appointed at present, Brownback and other faith leaders continue to advocate for religious freedom because the plight of the persecuted remains despite the Biden administration’s inaction.

Peggy Nienaber, vice president of Faith & Liberty was personally asked to serve on the steering committee to help bring together this much needed advocacy event.

The International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 will take place in Washington, D.C., July 13-15. The event was created to form a coalition of groups that work for the cause of religious freedom and bring “public awareness and political strength for the international religious freedom movement."

Thousands of concerned citizens, faith groups and leaders will come together to stand, advocate and strategize for “international religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, all the time.”

The Summit is open to the public. For more information and to register, visit

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Additional Sources: 
Group releases list of countries persecuting religious people
WWL 2021: 340 million Christians suffer "discrimination and persecution"