Os Guinness is passionate about religious freedom. The legendary social critic is the author of the Williamsburg Charter, the Global Charter of Conscience, and many other works on the issue. In his latest book, The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity, Guinness offers a clarion call for protecting and promoting religious freedom as both a fundamental human right for all individuals and a foundational principle for any flourishing civil society. Judd Birdsall, who served from 2007-2011 with the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, spoke with Guinness about the possibilties and challenges of securing religious freedom in a multi-faith world.
Why write a book about religious freedom now?
Religious freedom is one of the world's most urgent issues at this moment in history. For a start, it is the guarantee and protection of the foundational human right that best allows us the freedom to be human. Also, it is under assault around the world as never before, whether through brutal government oppression (think of China and Iran) or horrifying sectarian violence (think of Nigeria, Egypt, and much of the Middle East). But what makes the situation worse is the failure of the West to live up to the best of its heritage, and therefore to fail in demonstrating an alternative. This is especially tragic in the U.S., where the founders' settlement, which James Madison called the "true remedy" to the problem, is steadily being destroyed by fifty years of culture warring. And all this is happening at a time when the challenge of "living with our deepest differences" has become an urgent global problem.
There are of course endless academic ...1