Document Type


Publication Date



religious freedom, International Religious Freedom Act of 1998


41 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 33 (2002).


This article considers the tension in U.S. foreign policy between unilateral and multilateral approaches to the promotion and protection of religious freedom. In particular, it analyzes the recently enacted International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 that seeks to enforce international human rights norms through the imposition of unilateral sanctions on foreign countries that deny religious freedom and persecute religious groups. The Article suggests that this approach stands in an uneasy relationship with existing international and regional human rights regimes and institutions. It argues that as an instrument of foreign policy, the Act is vulnerable to politicization and abuse of the human rights agenda and serves ultimately to undermine the universality, legitimacy, and progressive development of multilateral human rights regimes and actors. Instead of unilateral coercive enforcement, it is suggested that effective compliance with international religious freedom norms depends upon a process of repeated interaction with international actors and participation in multilateral regimes so that the relevant norms become internalized in the constitutional, legal, and political systems of all states.


International Law