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Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor > Releases > Fact Sheets 
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Washington, DC
November 8, 2005

2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom Fact Sheet

“People must have an opportunity to exercise their religious beliefs, to exercise their religious traditions, to do so in an atmosphere that is free of intimidation, that in fact allows for the expansion of religion and communities of believers.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
March 21, 2005



Religious freedom is the inalienable right of individuals and groups to choose or change beliefs as their consciences dictate and to be free from intimidation, restrictions and biases based on those beliefs. America’s founders enshrined the free exercise of religion and freedom from state control in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Foundational international human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, establish the right of religious freedom for all people.


United States foreign policy promotes religious freedom in accord with U.S. national heritage and universally recognized principles. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act) raised the intensity of U.S. efforts by creating the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom in the Department of State. The IRF Act also created the Office of International Religious Freedom, located in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.


Promoting religious freedom has become increasingly critical with the rise of extremism worldwide. Our tasks are to confront elements in societies or governments that encourage intolerance or hatred of religious groups and to promote respect for all faiths, advance opportunity for individuals to openly practice their beliefs, and preserve the dignity of every religious group.


In the last year, there have been significant advances internationally, including:

  • The removal of legal barriers to the free, unrestricted belief and practice of religious faith, including bans on forced renunciations of faith, and gains in civil rights legislation for religious minorities in many countries, including Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Government intervention in several countries, including Russia, France, and India, when societal attitudes toward minority religious groups led to discrimination and threatened their physical wellbeing.


The United States Government advocates, promotes, monitors, and reports on international religious freedom. The 197 country reports in the 2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom survey the religious demographics, status and treatment of all religious groups by governments and in civil sectors of society.


Appointed by President Bush in 2001, Ambassador at Large John Hanford III spearheads U.S. engagement with other governments on a wide variety of issues related to religious freedom, training on the international norms that protect religious freedom, and assistance to those seeking refuge or asylum because of religious persecution, with a focus on severe violations of religious freedom. Where particularly severe violations continue, the Secretary may designate a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the IRF Act. In 2005, the Secretary re-designated Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.



In keeping with U.S. history and international norms, the United States will continue to stand with those seeking the freedom to believe and practice their faith without intimidation and hindrance.



  • Entered into a binding agreement with Vietnam to improve religious freedom.
  • Successfully negotiated the release of prisoners held in several countries because of their spiritual convictions.
  • Found an Indian state-level official ineligible for a visa on grounds of particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
  • Successfully encouraged Bangladesh not to declare the Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim, increasing their security.

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