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Fact Sheet
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
May 9, 2007

The Difference Between the Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Q: What is the difference between the Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom?

A: Both the Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) were created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, but they are separate entities.

USCIRF is a Congressionally-funded independent commission, and is not part of the executive branch of the U.S. government. The nine Commissioners are appointed: three by the President, three by the Senate, and three by the House of Representatives. USCIRF is charged with making non-binding policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. USCIRF makes non-binding recommendations to the Secretary of State about the designation of "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs), which the Secretary takes into account in her decisions. Only the Secretary of State, acting on behalf of the President, designates CPCs.

USCIRF prepares an annual report, which should not be confused with the State Department's IRF Report, and is usually focused only on those countries it deems to have "engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom." The USCIRF report also makes non-binding policy recommendations to the executive and legislative branches of government.



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