"When President Barack Obama signed an update to U.S. law protecting religious freedom late last week, one provision drew special attention: U.S. law now recognizes non-believers as, in essence, a religious group.
Obama's signing of amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act on Friday wasn't widely noticed — except among the community of atheists, agnostics and others who categorize themselves as "humanists."
For the first time, the law — which was originally passed in 1998 — specifies that "the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs and the right not to profess or practice any religion."
Among other things, the main amendments to the law promoting religious liberty around the world:
- Allow the United States to target "entities of particular concern" (that is, groups that aren't sovereign countries, like ISIS and Boko Haram).
- Set up a way to track religious prisoners overseas.
- Require that all foreign service officers undergo training in religious liberty.