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Media Advisory | August 16 Press Briefing with David N. Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Source: U.S. Department of State,SMS
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Please join us on Tuesday, August 16, 2016, at 12:30 GMT for a telephonic press conference with David N. Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Ambassador Saperstein will discuss the US International Religious Freedom Report that was released on August 10, its findings in relation to African nations and what the many countries on the continent are doing to provide greater protections for religious minorities and safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals to worship.


On August 10, Secretary Kerry submitted the 2015 International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR) to the United States Congress. Now in its 18th year, this congressionally-mandated Report comprises almost 200 distinct reports on countries and territories worldwide and continues to reflect the United States’ commitment to, and advancement of, the right of every person to freedom of religion or belief.

This year we highlight government restrictions on religious freedom, particularly blasphemy, apostasy and anti-conversion laws, which a number of governments around the world use to oppress those whose religious beliefs differ from the majority.

As part of the ongoing global crackdown on civil society, governments imposed laws and regulations limiting the activities of faith communities. Elsewhere, authoritarian regimes used the language of preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism as a pretext for their efforts to neutralize and repress political opposition, including the activities of peaceful religious groups. Violent non-state actors in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout Asia, including terrorist organizations such as Da’esh and Boko Haram, attacked, harassed, intimidated minority populations and engaged in a willful campaign against religious diversity.

The U.S. government has responded in many ways, including Secretary Kerry’s declaration in March 2016 that Da’esh had committed genocide in the Middle East, as well as extensive efforts to protect these minorities, preserve their cultural heritage, and work towards their eventual safe return to their ancestral homelands. Yet this Report documents not only the sad facts of religious freedom abuses, restrictions and violations, but also the positive actions of civil society and governments around the world to provide greater protections for religious minorities and to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals to worship, practice, learn, teach, and believe, or not believe – according to their own conscience.


Speakers: David N. Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time: 12:30 GMT

* Please use Time Zone Converter to determine the start time of the event in your time zone.

Language: English. French and Portuguese interpretation will be offered.

Ground rules: On the record

Dial-in Info: To be provided once you RSVP

RSVP: RSVP to [email protected] . Please indicate if you will dial in (specify English/French/Portuguese line), or request that we dial out to you (provide the phone number and language to be used).

Twitter: We will use the hashtags #IRF2015Africa for the call and follow us on @AfricaMediaHub and @AmbSaperstein.


  • Callers should dial-in to the conference call 10-15 minutes early.
  • When an individual journalist dials-in, the operator will collect the caller’s name, press affiliation, and location. When an embassy dials in, the operator will ask the embassy’s name and location.
  • The moderator will facilitate the Q and A among the connected callers. Journalists on the conference call will be instructed to press the “*” and “1” buttons on their phones in order to enter the question queue. NOTE: You can press “*1” at any time during the call to join the question queue, even before the moderator begins the Q and A portion. We ask that journalists limit themselves to one question and indicate to which speaker the question is directed. Journalists can also submit questions in English to [email protected] prior to or during the call.


David N. Saperstein

Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Term of Appointment: 01/06/2015 to present

David N. Saperstein is the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. He was confirmed by the Senate on December 12, 2014, and was sworn in and assumed his duties on January 6, 2015. The Ambassador at Large is, by law, a principal advisor to the President and Secretary of State and serves as the United States’ chief diplomat on issues of religious freedom worldwide.

He also heads the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The President also has designated Ambassador Saperstein to carry out the duties in the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2014.

Ambassador Saperstein previously served for 40 years as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), overseeing the national social justice programming for the largest segment of American Jewry. A rabbi and an attorney, for 35 years Saperstein taught seminars in First Amendment Church-State Law and in Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

During his tenure at the helm of the RAC, Ambassador Saperstein has headed several national religious coalitions, including the Coalition to Protect Religious Liberty. He has served on the boards of numerous national organizations including the NAACP, (and most recently chaired its national Religious Affairs Committee), the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, and the World Bank’s “World Faiths Development Dialogue.”

In 1999, Ambassador Saperstein served as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2009 he was appointed by President Obama as a member of the first White House Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. From 2011-2014, he served on the State Department’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society as a member of its "Religion and Foreign Policy" working group.

A prolific writer and speaker, Ambassador Saperstein has appeared on numerous television news and talk shows. His articles have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the “Harvard Law Review.” His latest book is Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice: Tough Moral Choices of Our Time.

Additional Resources:

  • Follow along on Twitter: @AmbSaperstein