Appendix E - Training at the Foreign Service Institute Related to the International Religious Freedom Act

International Religious Freedom Report 2008


I. Summary

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act), the Department of State is tasked with training Foreign Service Officers in both human rights broadly and religious freedom specifically. The Department of State's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) works closely with the Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF), in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), to integrate religious freedom issues into the regular curriculum at FSI. During the period covered by this report, members of the FSI training staff took part in conferences dealing with religious freedom, persecution, conflict, and reconciliation hosted by academic institutions, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations. State Department officers from DRL and IRF regularly participate in FSI courses to brief students in area and professional studies courses, and individual briefings with FSI students on their specific portfolios. DRL and IRF officers routinely cover topics such as the international basis and standards for the right to freedom of religion, the theological beliefs of different religious groups, state actions against religious groups and other manifestations of violations of religious freedom, involvement of religious groups in politics, diplomatic tools used by the United States to promote respect for religious freedom, venues for protection of those who have fled religious persecution, and the relationships between religious freedom, democracy, and national security. FSI periodically consults with the staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to ensure the currency of its offerings in this area.

II. Courses Offered

The School of Professional and Area Studies (SPAS) at FSI offers training relevant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) in a variety of courses. The following are brief descriptions of courses offered by the divisions of Political Training, Orientation, Consular Training, and Area Studies.


During the A-100 Course, a senior State Department official from DRL presents a session on human rights, including international religious freedom. Students are provided key background materials on human rights and religious freedom on FSI’s LearnCenter. They are also directed to key websites containing related materials.


This is a 3-week course. The students have been assigned for the first time to work in an embassy's or consulate's political, economic, or combined political/economic section. Political/Economic Tradecraft is a required course, in that State Department officers are assigned to take it by the personnel system and exceptions are rare. The State Department expects that a large proportion of these officers/students during their careers will be directly responsible for preparing their post's human rights and religious freedom reports.

As part of required consultations during the course, each student is asked to obtain the Annual Report on Religious Freedom and the report of the Commission on International Religious Freedom listed in Section III. In addition, DRL teaches a session in which religious freedom issues feature prominently and guest speakers address the topic of religious freedom as an aspect of diplomacy. Students are provided with key background materials on religious freedom and are also directed to key websites containing related materials.


This 3-day course is given twice a year and is geared toward mid-level foreign affairs and national security professionals working for the Department of State and other agencies. In the fall, this course is combined with a separate module on human rights.

As in the Tradecraft courses, DRL provides presentations in which religious freedom issues are featured together with other aspects of U.S. human rights policy.


PC-530 is a prerequisite for serving as a Consular Officer in the Foreign Service. It is designed primarily for Foreign Service Officers preparing to go overseas to fill consular positions, dependents of U.S. government employees who will work as Consular Associates overseas, and domestic employees of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The Immigrant Visa portion of PC-530 addresses refugee and asylum issues as they pertain to consular officers. Training exercises in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visa and American Citizen Services portions of the PC-530 course involve fictitious clients who represent religious minorities to sensitize Consular officers to concerns relating to those affiliations.


The Foreign Service Institute and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation annually sponsor a major symposium focused on religious freedom and the role of U.S. diplomats overseas. Officers in FSI language training and area studies courses take part in this symposium. The symposium brings together leading experts on religious issues and foreign affairs practitioners who can speak to the job-related aspects of religious freedom issues to provide our officers with a clear understanding of the importance of these issues and the challenges and responsibilities they will face.

Throughout the year, the course chairs in the Area Studies Division, in cooperation with DRL, ensure that their courses address both regional and country-specific issues of religion, religious freedom, and human rights. Participants receive substantial information encompassing the full range of issues affecting particular regions, including religious freedom and human rights, religious history, and religious traditions. Students also receive reading lists (and Internet guidance) that direct them to even more detailed material.


The Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs regularly speaks to the Ambassadorial Seminar on the importance of this topic.

III. Background Material on Religious Freedom

The following background materials related to religious freedom are made available (as hard copy or through website address) to FSI students:


Background Materials provided to students at FSI

  • Main Internet Web Page of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom,
    • Mission Statement for the Office of International Religious Freedom
    • Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom from 1999 through the present
    • Fact Sheets on the designation of Countries of Particular Concern
    • Department statements on religious freedom, specific to various countries
    • Remarks of State Department principals on religious freedom
    • History of the Office of International Religious Freedom
    • Background on the State Department's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad
  • Main Intranet Web Page of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, available only to State Department officials
    • Links to legal documents and databases bearing on religious freedom, including the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
    • Other policy papers and resources for researching religious freedom issues
    • Instructions for preparation of the upcoming Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
  • Main Web Page of the independent, Congressionally funded U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,
    • List of current members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
    • Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Highlights from Key International Documents:
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18)
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 18, 26, & 27)