Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Nichol J. Starr

First Page



Government endorsed and government imposed religious persecution is a growing phenomenon worldwide. From Central America to the Far East, people are arrested, tortured, and even killed for having and expressing their faith, despite the existence of universal covenants expressing acceptance of religious differences as among the most basic of human rights. Seeing the apparent futility of U.N. and other international efforts to curb such persecution, the U.S. Congress in 1998 passed the International Religious Freedom Act. Faith-based religious persecution--and the United States' role in combating it--first took center stage in American politics during the IRFA's passage, and most recently has surfaced again in the debates surrounding China's admittance to the World Trade Organization.

This Note examines the International Religious Freedom Act: its premises, language, function, and goals. It explains the role and actions of the newly-formed Commission on International Religious Freedom, the attempts by the U.S. Administration to explore diplomatic remedies for those suffering from religious persecution internationally, and what the U.S. must--and must not--do in its enforcement of the IRFA to best advocate the cause of religious freedom.