What is the IRLA?
The World's Oldest Religious Freedom Association
For 130 years the International Religious Liberty Association has worked to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.
History and Purpose
- Chartered in 1893, the IRLA today has thirteen regional chapters that cover the globe. It has national associations in 80 countries—including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia—and correspondents in 172 countries.
- We promote the freedom to believe, or not to believe, as defined by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe religious freedom is a foundational human right, which is intimately connected with all other human rights.
- We believe that the freedom to believe, or not to believe, is not a favor that governments can bestow. It is a universal, God-given freedom that flows from the innate dignity of every human being.
- We are represented at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and take part in the Human Rights Council meetings each year.
- We hold symposiums, conferences, and events around the world focused on the scholarly community, the religious freedom advocacy community, religious leaders of many different faiths, and those who hold public office.
- Every five years IRLA organizes a World Congress on Religious Freedom to bring together academics, practitioners and activists in the religious liberty cause from all over the world. The 9th edition of the World Congress on Religious Liberty will take place at our headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, on August 21-23, 2023.
- We also sponsor large-scale popular events around the world, such as Religious Freedom Festivals and other rallies. Through these, we aim to raise public awareness of religious freedom issues.
- The IRLA publishes a yearly journal, Fides et Libertas, which presents scholarly articles on religious liberty from experts around the globe.
- Our team is invited every year to give lectures at universities and churches, to write articles, and to give interviews on radio and television.
- We also broadcast a television program called Global Affairs Today.
- We are a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council with the status of United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Category II.
- The IRLA does not identify with any political party, nor does it endorse any candidates for political office. The IRLA is overseen by a Board of Directors. The president from 1989 to 2001 was the former general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. In 2001, Denton Lotz, retired general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, was elected president of the IRLA. From 2007 to 2016, the president was Ambassador Robert A. Seiple, who served in the United States Department of State as the first Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. Our current president is Ambassador John Nay, who was elected in 2016. Ambassador Nay formerly served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Suriname, and throughout his long career in the United States Foreign Service, he worked to advance human rights and religious liberty.
- The IRLA has no paid staff; officers and directors serve voluntarily. Funding for IRLA operations comes from organizations supportive of the association's purpose.
- The IRLA is incorporated as a tax-exempt, educational, not-for-profit organization in the District of Columbia. Originally organized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the IRLA's purpose is the universal and non-sectarian promotion of religious freedom for all people, everywhere.