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 PompeoRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling Russian diplomat says election meddling wasn't discussed at White House, contradicting Trump 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 TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech 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.