Pompeo, Brownback Release Annual International Religious Freedom Report

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback released the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom at the State Department on Tuesday.

Pompeo spoke of the core role of religious freedom in the United States and the administration's goal of supporting religious freedom around the world.

"Religious freedom is in the American bloodstream. It’s what brought the pilgrims here from England. Our founders understood it as our first freedom," Pompeo said. "That is why they articulated it so clearly in the First Amendment. As James Madison wrote years before he was president or secretary of state, quote, ‘conscience is the most sacred of all property.’"

"Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning. Defending it is critical to our future," he added.

Pompeo went on to state that promoting religious freedom was a priority of the Trump administration.

"Religious freedom is not only ours. It is a right belonging to every individual on the globe," Pompeo said. "President Trump stands with those who yearn for religious liberty. Our vice president stands with them, and so do I … As our National Security Strategy so clearly states: ‘Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for a flourishing society.'"

The department is mandated by law to release the annual report, which reviews the state of religious freedom in each country around the world for the year prior.

The secretary of state also announced he would be hosting a ministerial-level meeting regarding religious freedom this summer.

"The world has made important strides, but we still have a lot of work to do," Pompeo said. "In that regard, I am pleased to announce that the United States will host the first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the Department of State on July 25 and 26 of this year."

Reporters shouted questions at Pompeo regarding talks with North Korean leaders, which the secretary ignored.

Brownback further commented on the nature of the report, saying the department doesn't make "judgment calls" but rather, it reports what has happened around the world.

"We report on what has occurred and been said around the world. We don't make judgment calls in this report of what's worthy to report or not, we just report it all," the ambassador said. "There are people killed in the world today for their faith."

Brownback emphasized the administration would be defending all religious groups.

"Our goal is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people. That means protecting a Muslim, Buddhist, Falun Gong practitioner or Christian in China and their ability to pray and live out their life," Brownback said. "That means protecting a blogger in the Middle East who doesn't believe what his government might believe. Our desire is to protect both, to protect everyone's right to freely practice what they believe."