Thomas F Farr


Director, Religious Freedom Research Project and Associate Professor of the Practice


Faculty - SFS
General profile



+1 202-687-5185


Suite 200 3307 M Street NW

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Thomas F. Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is president of the Religious Freedom Institute, an NGO committed to achieving worldwide acceptance of religious liberty. Farr is a senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, and at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.

After a distinguished career in the U.S. Army and the Foreign Service – which included teaching at West Point and the Air Force Academy, serving as an advisor during U.S.-Soviet arms control talks in Geneva, and leading an interagency task force on verification provisions for the START II Treaty – Farr served as the first director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom from 1999-2003. In that capacity he traveled widely to promote religious liberty, engaging religious communities, government officials, and the victims of religious persecution. He also directed the Witherspoon Institute's International Religious Freedom (IRF) Task Force, was a member of the Chicago World Affairs Council’s Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy, and served on the Secretary of State’s IRF working group.

Today Farr teaches regularly at the Foreign Service Institute and is a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. Farr serves on the administrative board of Aid to the Church in Need; the boards of directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA; and the board of advisors of the Alexander Hamilton Society, the National Museum of American Religion, and John Paul the Great High School in Virginia.

Dr. Farr has testified on international religious freedom policy before the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament. He has made presentations on religion and foreign policy at many government agencies, think tanks, and universities, including the Department of State, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Congressional Task Force on Religious Freedom, the convocation of U.S. Catholic Bishops, the Library of Congress, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Brookings Institution, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, Tufts, Princeton, Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, Baylor, Drake University Law School, Brigham Young Law School, the Catholic University of America, the University of North Carolina, Roanoke College, Virginia Wesleyan College, Wheaton College, and Mount St. Mary’s College. He is the recipient of the Jan Karski Wellspring of Freedom Award, presented by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy for contributions to international religious freedom, and a lifetime achievement recognition from In Defense of Christians.

Farr has written, edited, and published many works. He is a contributing editor for the Review of Faith and International Affairs, and Providence: A Journal of Christianity and Foreign Policy. His major titles include World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty is Vital to American National Security (Oxford University Press, 2008); Religious Freedom and Gay Rights: Emerging Conflicts in North America and Europe, co-edited with Timothy Shah and Jack Friedman (Cambridge University Press, 2016); and The Future of U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Recommendations for the Obama Administration, with Dennis Hoover (The Berkley Center, 2009).

Other works include "A Global Crisis of Religious Liberty: Evidence, Origins, and Significance," in Monica Lugato, ed., International Religious Freedom and The Global Clash of Values, Scuola di Alta Formazione in Diritto Canonico Ecclesiastico e Vaticano Series (Giappechelli, 2015); "Religious Freedom and International Diplomacy," in Allen D. Hertzke, ed., The Future of Religious Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2013); "International Religious Freedom and Moral Responsibility," in Gerard V. Bradley, ed., Challenges to Religious Liberty in the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012); “American Religious Freedom Policy,” in Alfred Stepan, Monica Toft and Timothy Samuel Shah, eds., Religion and International Affairs (Columbia University Press, 2012); "The Intellectual Sources of Diplomacy's Religion Deficit," Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, (April 2012); "Back to the Beginning: Rebuilding an Intellectual Consensus for Religious Freedom," Review of Faith and International Affairs (2012); “The Widow’s Torment: International Religious Freedom and American National Security in the 21st Century,” in Drake Law Review (2010); “Bringing Religion Back into International Religious Freedom Policy,” in Jonathan Chaplin, ed., God and Global Order (Baylor University Press, 2010); “The Bush Administration and America’s International Religious Freedom Policy,” with William L. Saunders, Jr., in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (2009); "Religious Liberties: The International Religious Freedom Act: Proceedings of the Federalist Society's Annual Convention," Houston Journal of International Law (2009); “Public Diplomacy in an Age of Faith,” with Jennifer Marshall, in Philip Seib, ed., American Public Diplomacy: Reinventing U.S. Foreign Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); “Diplomacy in an Age of Faith” in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008); “Dignitatis Humanae and Religious Freedom in American Foreign Policy – A Practitioner’s Perspective,” in Kenneth D. Whitehead, ed., After Forty Years: Vatican II's Diverse Legacy (St. Augustine’s Press, 2006); and “Overcoming the Cyprus Tragedy: Let Cypriots Be Cypriot,” Mediterranean Quarterly (1997).

Under Farr's leadership, the Religion Freedom Project has sponsored major conferences in the United States and abroad. It has funded teams of scholars to examine the meaning, reach, and value of religious freedom to individuals and societies. It has conducted studies and issued publications on many subjects, including religion as intrinsic to human experience; religion and violent extremism; the sources of religious freedom in the five major world religions; religious freedom and national security;, the cognitive science of religion; theism and rationality; Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives on natural law; religion and healthcare reform; proselytism, Muslim minorities; Christian contributions to freedom; Transatlantic cooperation on religious freedom; and the history of religious freedom. It has partnered with a variety of institutions on conferences and publications, including the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, the U.S. Department of State, the American Bar Association, the British Council, Sussex University, Catholic University, and the International Center for Law and Religion. It has conducted dialogue and consultations with major policymakers and thought leaders, including Robert George, Alan Dershowitz, Abdullah Saeed, Rabbi David Novak, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Mohammed Magid, Pastor Rick Warren, Dr. Russell Moore, Cardinals Patrick Dolan and Donald Wuerl, Archbishops Charles Chaput and William Lori; journalists Kirsten Powers, E.J. Dionne, Ross Douthat, and Mike Gerson; U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski, Jeff Fortenberry, Chris Smith, Diane Black, retired Congressman Frank Wolf, Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, Senators Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, and Cory Gardner; British officials Lord David Alton, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge; Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom Andrew Bennett; UN Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom Heiner Beilefeldt, EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom Jan Figel, Vatican Envoy to the UN in Geneva Silvio Maria Tomasi, and many others.

In 2013, Farr established a strategic partnership between the Religious Freedom Project and Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.