In one of his last presidential proclamations before leaving office, Donald Trump called for an end to persecution and said the US will "never waver" in its efforts to expand religious liberty.
Trump, who had his last full day in office on Tuesday before Joe Biden becomes president on Wednesday, wrote that religious freedom was a "fundamental human right" and that since the days of the first pilgrims crossing the Atlantic, the US had "set an example for the world in permitting believers to live out their faith in freedom."
He said he had worked hard while in office over the last four years "to ensure that faith-based organizations would not be forced to compromise their religious beliefs as they serve their communities," and to protect the right of healthcare providers "not to be forced to perform procedures that violate their most deeply-held convictions."
Speaking about his commitment to religious liberty during the pandemic, he said, "We have also aggressively defended faith communities against overreach by state and local governments that have tried to shut down communal worship."
And his Administration had "honored the sanctity of every life" and "protected the rights of Americans to follow their conscience and preserved the historical tradition of religious freedom in our country."
The proclamation, signed to mark the US's Religious Freedom Day on January 16, urges other countries to "stop persecuting people of faith."
Although Trump is leaving office, he said the US remained committed to holding "foreign governments accountable for trampling — in many cases, egregiously so — on religious liberty."
"The United States will never waver in these efforts to expand religious liberty around the world and calls on all nations to respect the rights of its citizens to live according to their beliefs and conscience," he said.
In a statement of his own to mark Religious Freedom Day, Biden spoke of the need to "be vigilant against the rising tide of targeted violence and hate at home and abroad, and work to ensure that no one feels afraid to attend a religious service, school, or community center, or walk down the street wearing the symbols of their faith."
"Ensuring freedom of religion remains more important than ever," Biden said.
"Our government must safeguard these bedrock protections — never favoring certain faiths or discriminating against particular religions, and never imposing religious tests for citizenship, public office, or entry into our country."