Interviewer:    Welcome to the Rumi Forum.  I’m Joe Grieboski the founder and president of Institute on Religion and Public Policy, and it’s our pleasure to welcome you this afternoon to this discussion of the latest report on religious liberty from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.  It’s my pleasure to be moderating this panel with a good friend as well as a colleague, Knox Thames and I have worked together since Knox was the Religious Liberty Counsel of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Knox then was a member of the staff in the office of International Religious Freedom at the United States Department of State, and Knox is now the Director of Policy and research at US Commission on International Religious Freedom.  And with that introduction I’m happy to turn the podium open for Knox.  Knox, thank you for joining us today.

Knox Thames:    Thanks Joe, and let me thank the Rumi forum for letting me come today to talk about our recently released 2009 annual report.  I got a copy here, you can see we released it on May 1st as is required by our statute every year and I have brought some extra copies if you’d like to see it in print and you can also go to our website which is www.uscirf.gov.  Like Joe said, I’m the director of policy and research at the Commission.  We were created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act that are Chartered us to be an independent government commission that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.

Our report this year, this is our 10th report we’ve done and it covers a period from May 2008 through April 2009.  And as Joe said I previously, before coming to the Commission I worked at the State Department where there is also a special office on international religious freedom, and the office and the Commission worked together that are coming from different positions and the office also produces, on behalf of the State Department, an annual report on religious freedom in every country in the world.  The Commissions report is not as exhaustive.

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