AHA Leaders Meet with U.S. State Dept.

AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt and AHA Development and Communications Director Maggie Ardiente met with officials at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) in Washington DC. The IRF is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

This is the first time nontheist leaders participated in a meeting with the Department of State.

Speckhardt and Ardiente met with IRF Office Director Victoria Alvarado, Multilateral Affairs & South/Central Asia Team Leader Daniel Nadel, and Assistant to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Adela Levis. In addition to highlighting some of the recent religious freedom efforts the American Humanist Association has taken part in through lobbying and coalition activity on Capitol Hill, AHA leaders discussed recent international events and news concerning atheists and humanists living abroad. The AHA’s report to the IRF included the recent news of Alexander Aan of Indonesia, who was attacked for writing “God does not exist” on his Facebook page, and the killing of women and children in Africa due to accusations of witchcraft, among others.

We are pleased to report that the IRF intends to increase its promotion of the freedom to believe—and not believe, a phrase that has not been included in many past reports on the status of religious freedom abroad because emphasis was historically placed on the persecution of minority religions, but not atheists. The IRF also expressed the need to receive reports and data on atheist or humanist discrimination abroad. The IRF is willing to connect atheist and humanist leaders helping to promote religious freedom in their own country with relevant U.S. Ambassadors and Human Rights Officers.

The American Humanist Association was thrilled to be a part of this historic first-of-its-kind meeting between nontheist leaders and the Department of State. We look forward to working with them to help promote religious freedom and protect the rights of the nonreligious abroad.