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International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report

Published: 15th Jun, 2020

The U.S. State Department has released its annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, a survey of the state of religious freedom across the world.


The U.S. State Department has released its annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, a survey of the state of religious freedom across the world.


About the Report

  • The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom is also known as the International Religious Freedom Report.
  • The Report describes the status of religious freedom, government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies promoting religious freedom.
  • The report is published annually by the US State Department as part of the legal requirement to the US Congress.

Key-highlights of the Report

  • The report listed countries for positive developments in religious freedom and negative examples (India was not cited in either list).
  • Nicaragua, Nigeria and China were cited as negative examples.
  • In China, state-sponsored repression against all religions continues to intensify. The Chinese Communist Party is now ordering religious organisations to infuse communist dogmas into their teachings and practice of their faith.
  • Uighurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong followers and Christians were being repressed by China.

The India section of the report

  • The country report for India, which looks back on the developments in 2019, takes note of the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act(CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  • It discusses in detail mob lynchings and anti-conversion laws and related issues.
  • It details incidents of “cow vigilantism” and other types of mob violence — such as the attack last year on Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand.
  • The report also takes note of the Babri Masjid decision by the Supreme Court and the challenges to the 2018 reversal of a ban on some women entering the Sabarimala temple.
  • It outlines the U.S. engagement with India on the issues.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Report

  • In April this year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bipartisan commission and separate from the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, recommended to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that the State Department downgrade India’s religious freedom to the lowest grade — ‘Country of Particular Concern (CPC)’.
  • The Secretary of State is not obliged to accept the recommendation and has not always done so.
  • As per law, the CPC and the Special Watch List (one level less severe than CPC) designations have to be made by the administration no later than 90 days after the publication of the IRF Report.

How India reacted?

  • India rejected the US State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2019.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs said Washington has no locus standi to comment on the matters.

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