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International Protection of Religious Freedom

The Pew Research Center estimates that 77% of the world’s population lives in countries that experience a high or very high level of religious restrictions, and other studies reveal that such restrictions increase social violence and migration. Concerns about global religious freedom have prompted a variety of responses from Western democracies. For instance, the European Union has recently appointed a new special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion. Outside the European Union, Canada eliminated the post of ambassador-at-large for religious freedom. What do these and other developments mean for international religious freedom? How can governments promote tolerance and fight against religious restrictions? We bring together key scholars and leaders involved in shaping government responses to religious restrictions to discuss these questions. This is event is moderated by Professor Brett G. Scharffs, director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, at Brigham Young University School of Law, and features Ambassador David N. Saperstein, the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom for the U.S. Department of State; the Honorable Ján Figeľ, European Union’s special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief outside the European Union; and Professor Thomas F. Farr is the president of the Religious Freedom Institute and director of Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project. This event was co-sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University ( and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute (

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