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Allen D. Hertzke


First Freedom

Religious liberty and national security.

This landmark book can be read on many levels. It is an account of the politics behind U.S. international religious freedom policy. It is an indictment of the secular blinders that keep American diplomats from treating religion as a serious force in global affairs. It is a penetrating exploration of the value of religious liberty to human flourishing. Finally, it is an argument for why religious liberty is vital to our national security and thus should be promoted by the full instrumentalities of foreign policy.

The sweep of the book touches on matters of urgency: expanding democratization, fighting the war on terrorism, shaping the fate of the Islamic world, and altering the trajectory of China. To Farr, unless we get religion right, and defend it, our foreign policy aims will fall short.

Farr writes from a unique vantage point. A career foreign service officer, he served as the first director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom and bridged its first two ambassadors. He listened to religious sufferers, pressed persecuting governments, and experienced bureaucratic resistance to promoting religious liberty inside a State Department with "religion avoidance syndrome." He is also a devout believer, a Catholic with a core theological conviction that all people—made in the image and likeness of God—are imbued with a surpassing dignity and should be free to fulfill transcendent duties and spiritual quests.

Farr argues that promoting religious freedom must be a "central element of a refurbished American engagement with the world." This bold assertion is buttressed by three contentions. First, for the foreseeable future religion will have a huge global impact on norms, politics, and transnational movements; thus we cannot ignore it. Second, the foreign policy establishment is ill equipped to address a world of pervasive religious faith. Indeed, secular assumptions so profoundly shape the diplomatic worldview that Foreign Service officers ...

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