Robert Kagan once wrote a book called Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus. In the past few years, the United States as well as several European countries, the European Union, and Canada have developed policies promoting religious freedom (though Canada has recently reversed course and closed its Office of Religious Freedom). Does this development show a turn towards cooperation and emphasis on common priorities?
Perhaps, but Mars-and-Venus-like differences have persisted. Europeans stress “religious engagement” and “Freedom of Religion or Belief” while the U.S. is more likely to trumpet religious freedom. Europeans are prone to a multilateral approach while the United States finds it natural to go at it alone. Western European states host more secular populations than the United States.
Seeing hope for cooperation among the U.S. and its European allies over a critically important principle but also realizing the need for bridging differences, the British Council awarded one of its “Bridging Voices” grants to the University of Sussex and the University of Notre Dame to pursue a pair of policy dialogues on “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Foreign Policy,” both of which were held in 2015 at Wilton Park in England and Georgetown University in the United States. The results are summarized in a policy brief that presents recommendations for a unified foreign policy of promoting global religious freedom.