"There is no more fundamental issue for the United States than freedom of religion and religious conscience. This country was founded on that basis, and it is at the heart of democracy."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
March 2006


United States Department of State

2006 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom



Our Nation's Heritage, A Universal Right

Religious freedom is the inalienable right of individuals and groups to choose or change beliefs as their consciences dictate and to be free from intimidation, restrictions and biases based on those beliefs. America’s founders enshrined the free exercise of religion and freedom from state control in the First Amendment to the Constitution. International human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, establish the right of religious freedom for all people. United States foreign policy promotes religious freedom in accord with U.S. national heritage and internationally recognized principles.

Our Commitment

In keeping with U.S. history and international norms, the United States will continue to stand with those seeking the freedom to choose, believe and practice their faith without intimidation and hindrance.

For the fourth year in a row, the US Government has cited Greece for its treatment of the Esphigmenou monks.  See below the excerpt from the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report:

The intra-Orthodox doctrinal dispute between Esphigmenou monastery on Mt. Athos and the Ecumenical Patriarchate that administers the region under the 1924 Charter of Mt. Athos continued. Esphigmenou is an Old Calendarist monastery that does not recognize the authority of the Patriarchate. In March 2005, the Council of State declined to rule on the appeal of a 2002 eviction request by the Ecumenical Patriarchate against the abbot of Esphigmenou on the grounds that it was not competent, under the constitution, to judge the ecclesiastic and administrative jurisdiction of the Patriarchate over Mt. Athos, but the Government had not enforced the expulsion order. Approximately ninety similar appeals by other Esphigmenou monks were pending. In late 2005, the Holy Community governing Mt. Athos appointed a new Esphigmenou monastic order, recognized by the Patriarchate, to replace the existing order. An open dispute between the two monastic orders ensued in December. The Esphigmenou monastery complained about restrictions on access to supplies and medical care that it claimed threatened the survival of the monastery. Government and ecclesiastic representatives claimed they preferred to settle this dispute without eviction.