International Association of Religious Freedom: US Chapter

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IARF Founding Day Information

The IARF began in 1900 on May 25th in Boston, Massachusetts at the 75th anniversary meeting of the American Unitarian Association. Its original name was the International Council of Unitarian and Other Liberal Religious Thinkers and Workers. “The object of this council,” its founders declared, “ is to open communication with those in all lands who are striving to unite Pure Religion and Perfect Liberty, and to increase fellowship and cooperation among them.” The first president was Joseph Estlin Carpenter, an English Unitarian professor of theology and religious studies at Manchester College in Oxford. The secretary for the first two decades was Charles W. Wendte, an American Unitarian minister who had helped organize the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. The first Executive Committee included ten other men: four from Holland, two from Switzerland, and representatives from France, Germany and Hungary. The initial Congress was held in London in May 1901 in response to an invitation from the British and Foreign Unitarian Association. It lasted three days and as many as 2000 persons attended its sessions. As a result, 770 individuals from 21 different religious groups and 15 countries became members of the Council.


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