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Religious Freedom: Why Now?

Timothy Shaw (The Witherspoon Institute: March 11, 2012), 96 pages.

Religious freedom is under sustained pressure today around the world. In some places, it is fair to say that religious freedom is under siege. This book is a response to that sobering fact. Although scant attention is paid by governments, the academy, or the media, the implications of this crisis-and we contend that it is a crisis-are quite serious. A worldwide erosion of religious freedom is causing large-scale human suffering, grave injustice, and significant threats to international peace and security. Outside the West, tens of millions of human beings are subject to violent persecution because of their religious beliefs, or those of their tormentors. Scores of millions more are subject to serious restrictions on their religious freedom. In the West itself, including the United States, religious freedom is also under various pressures. Where intellectual and political leaders treat religious freedom with skepticism or indifference, it is not surprising to find encroaching threats to the conscience rights and the public witness of religious persons, communities, and institutions-and a failure to perceive the high importance of religious freedom in our relations with the rest of the world. For the last three years, the Witherspoon Institute’s Task Force on International Religious Freedom has examined the various dimensions of the challenge faced by religious freedom, and has deliberated on the most effective policy responses that can be undertaken by the United States government, and by other governments around the world. The return of an interdisciplinary meeting of experts from the fields of psychology, sociology, law, philosophy, theology, political science, and international relations, this statement offers a robust consideration of religious freedom’s present condition and the prospects for its future. ~ Publisher’s Description