WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is urging people and governments worldwide "to speak out against religious persecution, and to stand unequivocally for religious freedom."
Kerry's statement Sunday marked International Religious Freedom Day, which Congress established in 2003 to fall each year on Oct. 27.
He says freedom of religion is a U.S. priority "because it is essential to human dignity and individual liberty," and is "enshrined" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948.
The declaration states that people everywhere have the right to practice, teach or even change their religion.
The post of U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom is currently vacant. The most recent ambassador, Suzan Johnson Cook, resigned earlier this month.