Religion and American Foreign Policy: The Story of a Complex Relationship

The historical connection between American religion and foreign relations may be explored on four levels.

Issue: Summer 1998

Congressional consideration of the Freedom from Religious Persecution
bill introduced by Representative Frank Wolf and Senator Arlen
Specter has precipitated a small-scale debate about a little-studied
subject: the connection between American religion and foreign
relations. If passed, the Wolf-Specter bill will establish an office
in the State Department to monitor religious persecution and withdraw
"non-humanitarian" aid from countries that fail to meet our
standards. Even in the absence of such an office, many Americans have
always been concerned about religious freedom abroad and the State
Department has intermittently protested persecution since the early
days of the republic. The debate on the bill would be enhanced by a
historical perspective.

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