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Article

With Friends Like These: Does American Soft Power Advance International Religious Freedom?

Department of Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 5290002, Israel
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Ahmet Erdi Öztürk and Jeffrey Haynes
Religions 2022, 13(6), 502; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060502
Received: 11 May 2022 / Revised: 26 May 2022 / Accepted: 27 May 2022 / Published: 31 May 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Soft Power: Definition(s), Limits and Usage)
The International Religious Freedom Act, passed by Congress in 1998, set international religious freedom promotion (IRF) as a core objective of American foreign policy. Although formally empowering the president to enact punitive sanctions in instances of extreme religious repression, IRF is primarily a soft power instrument, with the expressed intent to persuade rather than coerce states into greater respect for religious freedom. Nearly a quarter century since its enactment, however, religious discrimination has markedly increased worldwide. This paper therefore seeks to quantitatively evaluate the extent to which American soft power, measured via levels of popular approval for the United States in countries surveyed by various polling agencies from 2002 to 2014, has correlated with shifts in governmental religious discrimination (GRD) since 1998. We find that not only do higher levels of approval of the United States correlate with greater increases in GRD, but this effect is particularly robust in more democratic states, in which American soft power should presumably have a greater influence. These findings should be deeply troubling for IRF advocates, empirically validating prevalent concerns regarding the efficacy, priority, and viability of IRF as a foreign policy instrument. View Full-Text
Keywords: governmental religious discrimination; international religious freedom; soft power governmental religious discrimination; international religious freedom; soft power
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    Doi: 10.7910/DVN/HWMZII
    Link: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/HWMZII
    Description: Replication materials at corresponding author's Harvard Dataverse page
MDPI and ACS Style

Zellman, A.; Fox, J. With Friends Like These: Does American Soft Power Advance International Religious Freedom? Religions 2022, 13, 502. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060502

AMA Style

Zellman A, Fox J. With Friends Like These: Does American Soft Power Advance International Religious Freedom? Religions. 2022; 13(6):502. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060502

Chicago/Turabian Style

Zellman, Ariel, and Jonathan Fox. 2022. "With Friends Like These: Does American Soft Power Advance International Religious Freedom?" Religions 13, no. 6: 502. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060502

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