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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 18, 1998
                             June 18, 1998

President Clinton has made the pursuit of religious freedom and the ability of all peoples to freely and openly worship a central element of United States foreign policy. Some of the Administration's efforts to promote religious freedom and combat religious persecution include:

Permanent Advisory Board. In 1996, the Administration established the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, a distinguished panel of twenty religious leaders who represent Americans of all denominations and scholars devoting their studies to this issue. This Committee advises the Administration on how best to promote religious freedom through U.S. foreign policy, and in response to its recommendation, the Secretary of State established the Senior Advisor position to which Mr. Seiple is appointed.

Core Mission of Embassies. U.S. diplomatic posts have more aggressively promoted religious freedom abroad as a central element of their day-to-day relations with host governments. For example, in Russia, the U.S. Embassy have engaged government officials to ensure they uphold Russia's international obligations to permit freedom of religion. The U.S. embassies in Vietnam and Laos have intervened on behalf of citizens of those countries who are under arrest for peacefully expressing their faith. And in Egypt, the U.S. embassy has supported the efforts of government officials to ease limitations on religious freedom and combat terrorist violence directed at Christians, Muslims, and others.

Annual Accountability. The United States reports publicly on limitations on to the right to worship freely. Each year, the State Department issues the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices", which reports on human rights in 194 countries and details incidents of religious persecution. In addition, the Administration issued a report in 1997 entitled "U.S. Policies in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians", which provides information on specific countries where Christians have faced persecution for their beliefs.

International Leadership. The Administration has taken a leading role in many international organizations to advocate religious freedom and oppose religious persecution worldwide. Through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S. has challenged governments of Europe and the former Soviet Union to uphold international standards. And through the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. has successfully persuaded the UN to create a full time investigator on religious intolerance issues.

Local Action. The U.S. funds a wide variety of programs promoting religious freedom, including the International Commission on Missing Persons operating in Bosnia, which reunites families separated by religious persecution and promotes reconciliation.

Targeted Restrictions. The Administration imposes targeted restrictions (including economic sanctions, trade limitations, and visa restrictions) on a case-by-case basis on countries that violate the right to religious freedom. Sudan, for example, has been the target of comprehensive sanctions for its ongoing religious persecution, slavery, and terrorist activities.

Public Awareness. The U.S. broadcasts its message of religious freedom worldwide through Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Marti and the Voice of America.