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Dr Judd Birdsall

Dr Judd Birdsall

Affiliated Lecturer


Judd Birdsall is the Director of the Cambridge Initiative on Religion & International Studies and the Director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy. He is also an Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. He is based at the Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy.

A former diplomat, Birdsall served in the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff. He was also the founding chair of the Department’s Forum on Religion & Global Affairs, a leadership role for which he received a Meritorious Honor Award. In 2010 he coordinated the compilation of the Religious Engagement Report, a global and whole-of-government survey commissioned by the President. His doctoral thesis at Cambridge explored American religious engagement since 9/11.

Birdsall is the editor-in-chief of Religion & Diplomacy, an editorial fellow and a frequent contributor at The Review of Faith & International Affairs, and his op-eds have appeared in the Washington PostForeign PolicyChristianity Today, Guardian, and Huffington Post.

Research Interests

Religion in international relations and diplomacy, religion in American politics and foreign policy, freedom of religion or belief, political theology, interfaith dialogue, and transatlantic relations.


Dr Birdsall has co-taught of the POLIS MPhil paper on ‘Religion and Comparative Politics’ since 2016, supervised the History faculty’s undergraduate paper on ‘The History of the United States from 1865,’ and supervised a Divinity PhD student.

Key Publications

Journal Essays

“Quantifying Persecution: Developing an International Law-based Measurement of Freedom of Religion or Belief,” co-authored with Mauro Gatti, Pasquale Annicchino, Valeria Fabretti, and Marco Ventura, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Spring 2019.

“Reconsidering Religious Radicalism,” co-authored with Drew Collins, The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Summer 2017.

“Keep the Faith: How American Diplomacy Got Religion, and How to Keep It,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Summer 2016.

“Obama and the Drama over International Religious Freedom Policy,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Autumn 2012.

Policy Reports 

Pitfalls in Combatting Persecution, Jubilee Centre, Dec. 2018.

FoRBRecognising our Differences can be our Strength: Enhancing Transatlantic Cooperation on Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief, University of Sussex, co-authored with Daniel Philpott, Fabio Petito, and Silvio Ferrari, July 2016.

Toward a Religion Attentive Foreign Policy: A Report on an Anglo-American Dialogue, University of Leeds, co-authored, July 2015.

Book Reviews

Review of Jolyon Baraka Thomas, Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied JapanThe Review of Faith & International Affairs, Autumn 2019.

Review of Daniel Philpott and Timothy Shah, ed.,Under Caesar’s Sword: How Christians Respond to Persecution,The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Winter 2018.

Review of Os Guinness,The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity,The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Winter 2013.

“Uncovering Headscarf Ban Prejudices and Consequences,” Policy in Public, 19 Dec. 2012 (reviewing Hilal Elver, The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion, 2012). 

“The More Things Change,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Winter 2012 (reviewing Fawaz Gerges, Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment?, 2012).

“What God Hath Put Asunder,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Spring 2011 (reviewing Stephen Prothero, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter, 2010).

“Gerson’s Conservatism: Heroic or Heretical?”The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Spring 2009 (reviewing Michael Gerson, Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals, 2008).

“The Ins and Outs of Religious Freedom Advocacy,” Fides et Libertas, 2008-2009 (reviewing Knox Thames, International Religious Freedom Advocacy: A Guide to Organizations, Law, and NGOs, 2009).

“Understanding and Standing with the Persecuted,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Summer 2008 (reviewing Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures: The Essential Guide to the Persecuted Church, 2007).

“Divine Roots of Human Rights,” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Spring 2005 (reviewing Elizabeth M. Bucar and Barbra Barnett, eds., Does Human Rights Need God?2005).


“Stop Weaponizing the Bible for Trump: No Politician is a Cyrus, David or Caesar,” Washington Post, 19 June 2019.

“Can Trump’s Religious Freedom Ambassador Actually Succeed?” Foreign Policy, 21 Aug. 2017.

 “Congress Hits Refresh Button on U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy,” Cornerstone, 6 June 2016.

“Donald Trump would Enrage Christianity’s Earliest Followers,” Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2016.

“Faith in the Special Relationship: A New Report Argues the US-UK Alliance is Strengthened by Diplomatic Cooperation on Religion,” Huffington Post, co-authored, 4 Sept. 2015.

“Britain’s Got Religion: Major Party Manifestos all Voice Support for Religious Freedom,” Huffington Post, co-authored, 2 May 2015.

“Obama and the Presidential Imperative to Promote International Religious Liberty,” Cornerstone, 27 Feb. 2015.

“A Call for a More Realistic Reporting of Christian Martyrs,” Washington Post, 12 Nov. 2013.

“The State Department’s Great Leap Faithward,”Huffington Post, 13 Aug. 2013.

“Will Kerry Bring Faith to Foreign Policy?” Huffington Post, 21 Feb. 2013.

 “Is the President America’s Pastor-in-Chief?” Christianity Today, 13 Aug. 2012.