A joint letter, co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) and Freedom House and signed by more than 25 organizations and individuals, was delivered today to President Obama urging him to immediately fill the still-vacant position of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and to make this appointment in conjunction with the announcement of a U.S. strategy for promoting freedom of religion worldwide.

The ambassadorship, created by law in 1998, has remained empty since the advent of the Obama Administration, though it is critical to the promotion of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy, according to the signatories to the letter. The group requested that the administration make it an urgent priority to fill the position with a person who is expert in both religion and foreign policy. Additionally, they urged the President to adhere to the legislation by appointing an ambassador who reports directly to the Secretary of State, as do other ambassadors-at-large.

To view a copy of the letter click here.

“President Obama’s Cairo speech included a remarkably substantive case for religious freedom,” said Dennis R. Hoover, editor of IGE’s journal, The Review of Faith & International Affairs. “What is needed now is a more comprehensive integration—intellectually and institutionally—of religious freedom strategy into the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy. To begin, the President should act quickly to appoint and empower a highly qualified Ambassador-at-Large.” (Read Dr. Hoover’s article on the Cairo speech.)

A 2009 policy report co-authored by Thomas F. Farr and Dennis R. Hoover, The Future of U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Recommendations for the Obama Administration, reviews the strengths and weaknesses of U.S. international religious freedom policy and offers detailed recommendations for improving institutions and policies. A recent report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life states that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with a “high or very high” degree of restrictions on religion.

For more information, please contact Anna Carrington (acarrington@globalengage.org).


The Institute for Global Engagement is a think tank that studies the impact of faith on state and society, encourages governments to protect religious freedom, and equips citizens to exercise that freedom responsibly. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.