State Department: ‘Civil Society’ Is ‘First Line of Defense’ for Religious Freedom

Flags and signs are held during a rally for religious freedom organized in part by the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia in front of Independence Hall Friday, March 23, 2012 in Philadelphia. The rally was in objection to the Health and Human Service mandate that private health care cover women's contraception. …
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan described civil society as the “first line of defense” for religious freedom on Tuesday during the second day of the Ministerial to Advance to Religious Freedom at the State Department in Washington, DC.

Sullivan said:

It’s an honor for me to address this distinguished gathering of civil society leaders and advocates.

Yesterday’s discussion focused on equipping civil society with the tools to get the resources you need to facilitate your important work. Today is all about listening to you so that we can better understand the threats to religious freedom around the world and improve our protection of this precious right.

You are the first line of defense and often the first support network to those who are persecuted or attacked. Please know we stand with you. You are vigilant to report violations to our government and to others, and we hear you. And you are staunch advocates so that no person or government can silence with impunity another individual or group for living out their faith. We defend you.


Sullivan added:

Religious freedom is vitally important to the United States and to the Trump administration. Indeed, religious freedom is fundamental to our democracy. It holds us together.

Whatever our differences may be, we are unified in having the freedom to differ. Our Bill of Rights clearly and powerfully protects individual liberties, including, first, the freedom of religion, followed by the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceable assembly.

Religious freedom is in our DNA.

Sullivan cast “religious tolerance” as “a key building block of peace and security” and the “mark of responsible governance.”

The ministerial is an event bringing together Christian and other religious leaders from around the world to advocate for religious freedom and defend persecuted religious minorities around the world.

In a statement issued Monday, the State Department noted that “religious freedom is a God-given right to which all people are entitled. That is why President Donald Trump is taking action to protect religious freedom around the world. It belongs to all people, everywhere.”

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