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January 30, 2024

America must stand firm in upholding religious freedom at home and abroad

January 30th, 2024

By Mike Pence

Americans have always believed that every man and woman should have the right to live, work, and worship according to their own conscience. But sadly, millions of people around the world are still persecuted for their religious beliefs every year.

Since the pilgrims landed on the shores of Plymouth Rock seeking the right to worship as they desired, America has been the greatest champion of religious liberty the world has ever known. The freedom of religion is America’s first freedom recorded in the Bill of Rights. America was the first nation in history to abolish religious qualifications for office. And it was America that led the world in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrined the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as an inalienable right of all mankind.

During my time as vice president, our administration continued America’s unwavering dedication to this noble cause. We stood up for persecuted people of faith all over the world, whether it was in the Nineveh Plains of northern Iraq, where we invested millions to help rebuild Christian and Yazidi communities, or whether it was working to release Americans facing persecution and captivity in places such as Egypt, Venezuela, and North Korea.

However, despite these significant strides, the fight for religious freedom is far from over. Today, we are confronted with numerous flashpoints around the world where this fundamental right is under threat.

In Nigeria, for instance, extremist groups such as Boko Haram continue to terrorize communities and target individuals based on their religious beliefs. Almost 200 Nigerian Christians were killed for sport while celebrating Christmas last month. Since 2009, more than 52,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed and more than 14 million forced to flee.

Likewise, in China, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Uyghur Muslims all face systematic repression by the Chinese Communist Party. More than 1 million Uyghurs have been imprisoned, forcibly sterilized, and pressed into labor since 2017 — an act that many nations have rightly called genocide.

And in Israel, antisemitism is the driving force behind Hamas’s unprovoked terrorist invasion, the goal of which was to ultimately wipe the Jewish state off the map forever.

As the free world confronts these challenges head-on, it is imperative for the United States to remain at the forefront of the fight for religious freedom. We must use our diplomatic influence and economic leverage to pressure oppressive regimes to respect the rights of their citizens. We must also support organizations, elected officials, and religious leaders who are working tirelessly to promote liberty in their home countries.

Even as we work to promote religious freedom abroad, we must also be watchful here at home, as ever-growing government encroaches on the rights of American citizens. In just the last few years, we have seen the FBI label devout Catholics as terror threats. The homes of pro-life leaders have been raided by law enforcement for no reason other than their beliefs. And in some schools, it’s now against the rules to observe something as basic as the fact that God created humans as male and female. As the Bible says, America should take the plank out of its own eye, so that we might see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.

The defense of religious freedom is not just a moral imperative — it is a strategic imperative. By standing up for this fundamental right, we not only uphold the values that define us as a nation but also contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous world for all. As Americans, let us recommit ourselves to the noble cause of advancing religious liberty at home and abroad.

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