Pompeo issues declaration calling for world governments to prioritize religious freedom

Pompeo issues declaration calling for world governments to prioritize religious freedom
© Anna Moneymaker

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUN condemns Iran military parade attack President strikes softer tone on North Korea at United Nations Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria MORE rolled out a document on Thursday urging governments around the world to prioritize religious freedom, further elevating an issue that the Trump administration has pushed since last year.

The Potomac Declaration and an accompanying plan of action were released at the inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference in Washington, D.C.

The declaration states that "religious freedom is a far-reaching, universal, and profound human right that all peoples and nations of good will must defend around the globe."

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Pompeo touted it as an effort to make good on President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE's promise to make religious freedom a "key priority" of his foreign policy.

"The Potomac Declaration is a formal affirmation that says right up front that the United States takes religious freedom seriously, that we will work with others around the world to help those under attack for their beliefs, and that we expect leaders around the world to make it their priority as well," Pompeo said. 

Trump has elevated the topic of religious freedom since taking office last year. But critics have expressed concern about whether his administration has sought to help certain religious groups over others.

The issue of religious freedom is also a key political issue for Trump, who won overwhelmingly among evangelical voters in the 2016 presidential election and relies on those voters as an important part of his base.

But Trump's travel ban, which bars people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., has faced criticism from some who have accused it of being a thinly veiled effort to keep Muslims out of the country. The Supreme Court upheld that ban last month. 

The Trump administration has also sought to provide more aid to religious minorities in northern Iraq, particularly Christians and Yazidis. Just last month, the U.S. Agency for International Development, facing pressure from Vice President Pence, fast-tracked million of dollars in aid to persecuted groups in the country.