MS. PSAKI: Good morning, everyone. So, thank you for joining us for the release of the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report. The Secretary will make some brief remarks, and then we will turn it over to Ambassador Johnson Cook, who will make remarks and also take some of your questions.
With that —
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Jen. Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. How are you?
Well, thanks for being here today for the release of the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report. I am pleased to be here with our Ambassador-at-Large, Suzan Johnson Cook, and I want to thank her and her entire cohort here for their terrific work in helping to put this together. She is doing they are doing a superb job of advancing religious freedom abroad.
I also want to acknowledge the hard work of a whole bunch of State Department employees both here in Washington and at a lot of posts around the world, because all of them collect the information and do a lot of work throughout the year in order to be able to put this report together. This is not a one- or two-week affair. Its a long one-year process, ongoing.
Fifteen years ago, I was very proud to join my colleagues in the United States Congress in passing the International Religious Freedom Act, the law that mandates the preparation of this State Department report. This report, as many of you know, shines light on the challenges that people face as they seek nothing more than the basic religious freedom, the right to worship as they wish. And its release here today is a demonstration of the abiding commitment of the American people and the entire U.S. Government to the advancement of freedom of religion worldwide.
Freedom of religion is a core American value. Its one that helped to create our country. Its been at the center of our national consciousness since the 1600s, when the Pilgrims fled rebellious religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts. And many of these folks settled in the city of Salem, which takes its name from the words salaam or shalom, meaning peace.
But before long, even there, religious strife visited their hometown. Women were accused of witchcraft, and some were burned at the stake. Emerging differences between religious leaders in Massachusetts led some congregations to break away and to found new settlements in what would become Connecticut and Rhode Island. Providence was founded by people who wandered through the woods the entire winter and came out on this expanse of water, and named it Providence for obvious reasons.
So we approach this issue I certainly do mindful of our past, and of how as Americans we have at times had to push and work and struggle to fully live up to the promise of our founding. John Winthrop, who happens also to be my granddad from 10 generations back, was born in England, but his passionate faith and his disagreements with the Anglican Church inspired him to lead a ship full of religious dissidents to come to America to seek freedom of worship. And on the deck of the Arabella, he famously said in a sermon that he delivered before they landed: For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. And they have been, and they remain there. And through though we are obviously far from perfect, no place has ever welcomed so many different faiths to worship so freely as here in the United States of America. Its something we can be extraordinarily proud of.
But freedom of religion is not an American invention. Its a universal value. And its enshrined in our Constitution and ingrained in every human heart. The freedom to profess and practice ones faith, to believe or not to believe, or to change ones beliefs, that is a birthright of every human being. And thats what we believe. These rights are rightly recognized under international law. The promotion of international religious freedom is a priority for President Obama, and it is a priority for me as Secretary of State. I am making certain, and will continue to, that religious freedom remains an integral part of our global diplomatic engagement.