Obama sidelining religious freedom?

FAITH AND FOREIGN POLICY By Thomas Farr President Obama has on several occasions articulated his commitment to international religious freedom. … Continued


By Thomas Farr

President Obama has on several occasions articulated his commitment to international religious freedom. Unfortunately, his State Department appears to be on a course that will seriously downgrade the nation’s international religious freedom policy.

Before he became President, Obama’s speeches showed a secure understanding of religious liberty, as well as its role in good governance and social stability.
For example, in his June 2006 “Call to Renewal” speech he showcased a view of religious freedom squarely in the American mainstream:

“…secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Later as President — in his June 2009 Cairo speech — Obama identified religious freedom as one of the seven major issues to be addressed in the relationship between the United States and Muslim majority nations. “Freedom of religion,” he told his Muslim audience, “is central to the ability of peoples to live together.” He made similar remarks to a high-level Chinese delegation at the State Department.

Religious freedom advocates were encouraged by the President’s stated views and allowed themselves to hope that America’s international religious freedom policy, long isolated at the State Department, would be strengthened under the new administration.

Their hopes are fading.

Almost 14 months into the Obama presidency, the ambassador at large for international religious freedom — a position mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act — has not been named, even though other positions of less weight and importance to our national interests have long been filled.

The leading candidate for the religious freedom job is said to be a highly intelligent and charismatic pastor, an author and a thoroughly good person who has the friendship of Secretary Hillary Clinton. Those are important attributes. Indeed, having the trust of the Secretary is vital. But more is needed. To be successful, this ambassador at large needs foreign policy experience. Without it, it will be extremely difficult to succeed within Foggy Bottom’s notoriously thorny bureaucracy, let alone deal with foreign officials who believe (as many do) that U.S. international religious freedom policy is a vehicle of cultural imperialism.

Worse, it appears that the new ambassador will be demoted before she is even nominated. Like her predecessors under Presidents Clinton and Bush, she will not be treated as an ambassador at large at all, but will report to a lower ranking official – the assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Her placement alone will signal to American diplomats and foreign governments that they need not take U.S. religious freedom policy seriously.

Other new Obama foreign policy initiatives, from outreach to Muslim communities to the normalization of gay rights in international law, are getting serious policy attention and resources. But religious freedom — which enjoys broad support among the American people and can contribute both to justice and national security — is, in effect, being sidelined.

How, and why, is this happening?

The International Religious Freedom Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress in 1998 and signed by President Bill Clinton. It mandates the promotion of religious freedom as a central element of U.S. foreign policy. To carry out the policy, the IRF Act created a State Department office headed by a very senior diplomatic official — the ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

Ambassadors at large have a long history at Foggy Bottom. Traditionally their lines of authority have gone directly to the Secretary of State. Currently three ambassadors at large work directly under Secretary Hillary Clinton: those for Counter Terrorism, War Crimes, and Global Women’s Issues. The placement of these officials is more than a bureaucratic nicety. It signals to foreign governments, and the American foreign service, that the subject is a high priority for U.S. foreign policy and the Secretary of State.

Congress recognized that the State Department would likely resist giving much attention to international religious freedom, which is why the IRF Act was passed in the first place. The statute made explicit Congress’ intent that the religious freedom ambassador be given at least the status of other ambassadors at large by establishing the position as “principal advisor to the President and the Secretary of State.”

Even though the President singled out religious freedom at Cairo, that section of the address has largely been ignored. The National Security Council and the State Department formed post-Cairo working groups to pursue key policy issues from the speech, but religious freedom was not one of the issues deemed worthy of pursuit.

Similarly, the advisory council on the President’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships initiative, whose report was to be presented March 9, is said to have bypassed the issue of international religious freedom, even though its mandate includes interreligious dialogue (a process that cannot be fruitful without religious freedom).

Not only have the State Department’s other ambassadors at large been in place for many months, but a whole platoon of other senior foreign policy officials are now at work — for example, envoys for Global AIDS, Disabilities, Climate Change, Guantanamo, Global Partnerships, International Energy Affairs, Muslim Communities, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Nor is this all. Critics have pointed to the increasing use of the phrase “freedom of worship” by the President and the Secretary of State, in lieu of the more traditional “freedom of religion.” Taken by itself, the former usage might seem innocuous — simply a different choice of words. But combined with the other signals coming from the administration, references to “freedom of worship” could suggest a diminution of the broadly construed right of religious freedom as articulated by Obama in his “Call to Renewal” speech.

If religious freedom means only the freedom to worship, and not, as Obama put it, the right of people to make explicitly religious arguments in the public square, it is an anemic right indeed. Quite aside from its abandonment of a traditional American view of religious liberty, the “worship” approach would have little promise in enticing otherwise illiberal Muslim communities to enter the democratic public square and to accept its limits (especially the religious freedom of others).

If this is where the State Department is heading, it would constitute a blatant circumvention of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act and a dereliction of our duty to advance religious freedom as a matter of justice and human dignity. But there is a potentially more damaging problem suggested by State’s actions thus far.

They signal that this administration is not prepared to defend the United States against the false charge of “cultural imperialism,” the idea that our religious freedom policy is a front for American missionaries. Incredibly, this canard has apparently been accepted by some at Foggy Bottom and the White House.

They suggest that the State Department remains clueless on the advantages a wise and effective international religious freedom policy could bring to the defense of vital American interests. Without religious liberty the achievement of stable, lasting democratic governance will be impossible in struggling, highly religious nascent democracies like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia. Without religious liberty countries that now nurture and export religion-based extremism – including to American shores – will continue to do so.

The administration would do well to focus on the recommendations made recently by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (on whose board the First Lady, Michelle Obama, serves.). I was a member of the Council task force on religion and U.S. foreign policy, which met for two years and included Obama supporters, concluded the following:

“The growing salience of religion today is deepening the political significance of religious freedom as a universal human right and a source of social and political stability…. The Task Force recommends that the administration appoint an ambassador with deep experience in foreign policy as well as religion. … The administration should elevate the position of the ambassador-at-large, as intended by the IRFA, to a status commensurate with other ambassadors-at-large and senior envoys based at the State Department….[Successful change] includes defining religious freedom in a way that addresses the misperception that it represents a form of imperialism and supporting religious agency as a means of undermining religion-based terrorism and promoting stable democracy.”

Thomas Farr, Ph.D.,is Visiting Associate Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Senior Fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where he heads the program on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy.

By Thomas Farr | 
March 9, 2010; 3:13 PM ET

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  • leuchars

    If “freedom of worship” means “freedom from having to listen to proselytizing in a public forum” then I’m all for it.

  • barferio

    Without religious liberty the achievement of stable, lasting democratic governance will be impossible in struggling, highly religious nascent democracies like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia.which planet do you live on? what makes you think any shiny things we say about religious liberty is going to have any positive effect in these countries?Turkey has been a ‘democracy’ long enough not to be called nascent anymore. Again, which planet do you live on? Do you really pay any attention to the world around you?What we really need to do is understand how their religion works, the neurological explanation. Unfortunately this will also explain how your religion works, that it is in fact only a neurophsysiological affect taking place in your brain and any other believer’s brain.You really don’t want to know that though, do you.

  • RichardHode

    “Cultural imperialism?” I know how to stop that – stop sending the foreigners our tax money. The foreign aid program should be scrutinized and thoroughly overhauled in view of our economic downturn. If someone wants to indulge in the absurdity that is religion, they are welcome as long as they use their own money. Not a red cent of our public money should be spent on religious practices, especially among foreigners. It’s no business of ours what primitive moslems and other religious fanatics do at home. It’s fine with me if the savages eat each other for breakfast as long as they don’t try to bring their savagery to the civilized world. Why should we pay for their nonsense and god-fantasies? Let the adherents foot their own bill. And if they’re too poor, let them pray to their god for money and see how well that works.

  • RobertAJonesJr

    Why should citizens not publicly air their religious views?Or should we restrict public airing of views on same-sex marriage, women’s rights, …

  • spidermean2

    Atheists are idiots and as usual, they won’t understand this article. Without freedom of religion, dictatorship rules. It’s easy to prove this by traveling to dictatoship or troubled states. In many of these states , you get arrested by just carrying a bible or sharing your faith.What the idiots don’t understand is that the stupidity will reach America by means of a nuke attack. You idiots just got lucky coz Bin Ladin and his ilk don’t have that capability. Soon the liberal parts of America will see the real thing.But there’s an antidote to this. Cure America’s education system by abolishing Darwin’s monkey theory and reduce fornication. Then the nukes won’t come.

  • RobertAJonesJr

    Is political courage required to demand international freedom of religion?Is no courage required to support freedom of worship?Does the administration lack core principles?Would Martin Luther King demand freedom of RELIGION?

  • Wildthing1

    The military-merchant-missionary model of colonialism has been thoroughly repudiated. I hope we aren’t trying to resurrect it. It’s role in cultural subversion by means of economic blackmail backed by military force has been reprehensible. Also the role of steaming into ports and demanding free trade by force was no example of freedom. Oh doesn’t that sound somewhat like the democratization by Iraqi national oil concessions takeover too. So also is excessive invasive proselytizing with one hand and handouts on the other.Nor do I appreciate the proliferation of faith based initiatives here at home that may interject subtle dogma into federally funded social programs. They appear to me to be political payoffs that also allow circumventing the federal employment standards and credentials in favor psuedo science. If dogma is being peddled with tax dollars then they should lose their religious tax exempt status and federal funding.

  • muawiyah

    Amazingly, or not, atheists continue to stick their noses into the business of religion ~ about which they otherwise claim no interest.Then there was this atheist puke who argued with me that “Atheists see no reason to form special organizations to protect their interest”Of course, he was wrong. There are several atheist groups around. But what, pray tell, would be an atheist’s, or anyone’s, interest in an organization dedicated to nothingness.In the end the only thing more tiresome than your garden variety atheist is an homosexual atheist cruising.

  • bozhogg

    A lot of us are quite happy to have some freedom from religion. I hope we never have Bush’s sappy “God speaks to me” ever again.

  • rcubedkc

    “But there’s an antidote to this. Cure America’s education system by abolishing Darwin’s monkey theory and reduce fornication. Then the nukes won’t come.”POSTED BY: SPIDERMEAN2 |What’s the matter spidermean, not get, or giving, any lately.

  • washpost18

    Lesee… “The International Religious Freedom Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress in 1998 and signed by President Bill Clinton. It mandates the promotion of religious freedom as a central element of U.S. foreign policy. To carry out the policy, the IRF Act created a State Department office headed by a very senior diplomatic official — the ambassador at large for international religious freedom.”Let’s interpret this statement through the lens of a conservative-style respondent. “What? Obama is bringing back the Inquisition! They’re putting a layer of bureaucracy between you and God! It’s a government takeover of religion!!”Do you teabaggers have a better understanding now of just how ridiculous you sound to America?

  • spidermean2

    Here is a prophecy that no idiotic atheist can annul. “You know that the saints (true Christians) will rule the world, don’t you? And if the world is going to be ruled by you, can’t you handle insignificant cases?” (1 Cor. 6:2)Whether the idiotic Obama likes it or not, God has already declared that this world will be ruled by the true children of God. With liberty and justice for all.Where have all the atheists gone then? You know the answer. They had flocked to the second Sodom. They self-destructed.

  • spidermean2

    Reading comprehension deficiency and wilful ignorance are common among atheists.Self-replication is a solid proof that a super-intelligent God exist. Only a crazy person can dispute this. It’s sad coz atheists will pay a heavy price for their stupidity.What it is that you don’t understand in the argument that self-replication is proof that a super intelligent being is behind it?In other words, if you don’t understand what it means, your monkey theory is going to the waste basket.

  • spidermean2

    Wildthing1 wrote “The military-merchant-missionary model of colonialism has been thoroughly repudiated.”Where have you been when the U.S. military burned the bibles in Afghanistan? Are you dreaming?

  • muawiyah

    BOZHOGG ~ the “God speaks to me” was created out of whole cloth by a reporter who thought he could get away with it provided there were enough weakminded Democrats around.Bush never said it. The Amish people didn’t translate what he did say that way. The Correspondent didn’t translate it back into English that way either.The offensive part of the whole deal here is that so many Democrats find it suitible to bash the pacifistic Amish just to toss another lie at “W”.Shame on you SOBs.

  • muawiyah

    LEUCHARS ~ you must be thinking of that old Xmas carol that goes:”Atheists roasting on an open fireYou are lucky I don’t feel like doing lyrics tonight!

  • jimfilyaw

    seems to me that any nation dedicated to complete freedom of conscience should not be naming b.s. crypto-religious ambassadors. the best way to respect the religion business is for the government to stay the hell out of it. god (if there is one) is capable of taking care of himself.

  • arancia12

    So let me get this straight. Just today I learned that Obama wants to take your guns, ban sportfishing, socialize health care, give corporations to the government, abolish the SCOTUS, and now he wants to sideline religious freedom?Does he pull the heads off puppies and kitties too?

  • thompst1

    Hey, how about an ATHEIST for the post, for a change? Aren’t atheists supposed to benefit from religious freedom, too? As an atheist, I sure enjoy living in a country of religious freedom. I was very pleased that Obama included folks who do not hold any religious affiliation in his inaugural comments on the subject. ‘Bout time!(I see some comments in this column say “atheists are idiots”– actually, the reverse is true. Highly intelligent, educated people tend to be atheists. But maybe “spidermean” thinks “facts are for idiots”, too….)

  • choco241

    I found the logic of this article compelling. In the comments presented thus far, I have found no substantive challenges to the facts or basis case being presented. I accept the author’s conclusions.

  • Christopher3

    Turkey voted in an Islamist party two elections in a row. Democracy with Muslims, does not diminish the threat of Islam at all.

  • bpai_99

    “The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

  • ginabw

    Since the separation of church and state has been blurred in the U.S.; it is time to eliminate all tax exemptions from churches and religious organizations. After all, religion is a business like any other; trying to get as much money out of their customers as they can.

  • wmpowellfan

    “President Obama has on several occasions articulated his commitment to international religious freedom. Unfortunately, his State Department appears to be on a course that will seriously downgrade the nation’s international religious freedom policy.”________________________________________________________________The mask continues to slip.One day the real obama will be revealed. Then Katie, bar the door.

  • bdunn1

    Considering all the death and dismemberment and money wasted through the centuries in the name of religious freedom, I’d like some freedom FROM it.

  • chicagostanford

    The authors are not trying to promote religious freedom. They are trying to promote religion

  • barferio

    No taxation without representation, and no representation without taxation.If you want your stinking religion represented in our government then you’re going to have to pay for it. Otherwise shut the fhuck up.

  • panu

    I think the author is confused about the first amendment. Freedom of religion has two parts. First, is the free exercise of religion. Second is a prohibition on the establishment of religion. If we have the freedom of religion, we cannot establish any religion. If we establish a religion, we cannot have the freedom of religion. So one clause requires the other.It is only because we live in a narcissistic age that people think that their freedom of religion is violated when they cannot establish it. Just as your freedom to swing your fist ends at my jaw, your freedom to practice your religion ends at my civil rights. The Catholic Church is free to impose any discipline they like on their members. For example, they can require their clergy to be celibate, but they are not free to use the force of law to impose this requirement on Protestant clergy, nor do they even try. They understand this principle, but they don’t apply it consistently.The LDS Church recently falsely accused gay people of persecuting them. It was actually the other way around, because the LDS Church was imposing its practices on non-Mormons who were protesting the LDS Church’s violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to impair their civil rights. Mormons should know better, because they were on the other end of this stick in 1890, when they had to redefine marriage as monogamy under pressure from the US government, even though the LDS Church did not impose this practice on people who were not members of their church.I don’t think the free exercise clause is in any danger. It’s the establishment clause that is.

  • tryreason

    Their are now eight U.S. states that ask representatives to swear an oath to their God. Christians apparently won’t be happy until the other forty two do the same. Once they have finally eliminated the pesky secularists it will be time to turn on each other as they have in every other theocracy in the world.

  • davidsawh

    You religious people have just got to get over this ridiculous and wishful thinking that you call a god. Grow up!

  • Utahreb

    What I and many others see is that the fundamentalists, the evangelists, the so-called Bible-thumpers, the radical right religionistas would be the ones proselytizing and insisting that we follow their teachings or go immediately to hell!We have seen this in recent years in politics. Example: Bush’s “Crusade” in the preemptive war in Iraq. The battle cry seemed to be “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and to heck with anyone who doesn’t believe as we do. Democracy was just a sideline to this “Crusade”.If government is truly concerned with religious freedom, then give us freedon “from” as well as “of”.

  • csintala79

    We are not engaged in cultural imperialism? Come on. If we are not, then why did our congress pass legislation such as the International Religious Freedoms Act? What business do we have passing any “international” legislation? What hubris. But, then, it is easy to forget that we are a revolutionary government that threw off the shackles of an established government. Our rationale was that it had lost its legitimacy to rule, but, never the less, it was also was an act of treason. No other nation would have argued that the founding fathers were legally subject to the gallows if Britain has prevailed. We cannot escape the fact that our revolution was the model for subsequent revolutions, such as the French and Mexican revolutions. American conservatives are quick to point out that ours was not a social revolution, but, regardless, revolutionaries of all stripes have looked upon ours for inspiration. And they are not in error for doing so. As with any revolutionary government that throws off the bonds of tradition, we were forced to replace the ancient foundations of society with new ones. We have constructed a new dogma and theology and have not shirked from exporting it, routinely encouraging citizens of other nations to engage in sedition, which is a characteristic of revolutionary governments. The monarchies waged wars to gain territory, but did not incite the populace of belligerent countries to revolt against their rulers; they understood the danger to themselves in bringing into question the legitimacy of other rulers. It well may be that our system is the best now and ever, but we are no better than other revolutionary nation founded on an ideology in regard to interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations by selling our, albeit the best, snake oil and encouraging their populations to rebellion. In short, we are cultural imperialists, and the only reason for not thinking so is the conceited assumption that our scheme is divinely inspired.

  • sux123

    The International Religious Freedom Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress in 1998 and signed by President Bill Clinton. It mandates the promotion of religious freedom as a central element of U.S. foreign policy.

  • sux123

    In the end the only thing more tiresome than your garden variety atheist is an homosexual atheist cruising.Of course Priest pedophillia is much more interesting.

  • gershwin2009

    Yet another edition of “Thank god I’m an atheist”.

  • Montedoro

    First and foremost, Obama is pursuing a very pro-Moslem policy called “outreach to Muslims”. Because Islam explicitly and forcefully prohibits freedom of religion, gender equality and other human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Obama must play down the whole issue of human rights, including freedom of religion. He wants to curry favor with Moslems, he does not want to offend them. For Obama, that is far more important than the human suffering that Islam inflicts on non-Moslems, women and homosexuals.

  • gpcarvalho

    In 2010 it is reasonable to expect the growth of both religious freedom and freedom from religion. If I had any say in the allocation of my foreign aid-related tax dollars, education of girls and women plus family planning, not religion, would be vigorously promoted in low-income countries. My tax money would probably contribute to raise the status of impoverished women (whom, I am told, most religions treat like dirt), contain galloping fertility rates and overcrowding, and discourage bloody internecine conflicts and regional wars resulting from demographic pressure on dwindling natural resources (including water). This is what I call love for the distant neighbor. Religion and overpopulation (they are often interlinked, aren’t they?) continue to be cited as frequent sources of violence in the developing world (Did you read recent articles on bloodshed in Nigeria?). I know nothing about religions. But specialists in economic development keep telling me that educating girls and women may be one of the most effective antidotes to extreme poverty and violence in overpopulated low-income countries.

  • csintala79

    Ah, yes, religious freedom. In its defense our nation should use all of its persuasive powers to have other nations honor this doctrine. What do we do about nations that only allow members of a certain religion to be their monarchs? This is an issue with Saudi Arabia, of course, but we all know that the kingdom is a backward, tradition bound nation. However, until they run out of oil, we are not likely to make an issue of this. But it turns out that a nation doesn’t have to be mired in the middle ages for it to exercise this type of religious discrimination. For example, the monarchs of Great Britain must be Protestant, i.e., they can’t be Catholic. Also the monarch may not marry a Catholic. Isn’t it about time congress censured this example of suppression of religious freedom? After all, other than ego, we get no export of consequence from this nation. Are sanctions in order?

  • persiflage

    ‘But there’s an antidote to this. Cure America’s education system by abolishing Darwin’s monkey theory and reduce fornication. Then the nukes won’t come.’A virtual impossibility – monkeys and their human relatives like nothing better than a little fornication – unless it’s a lot of fornication!! Bombs bursting in air won’t deter humans from pursuing this favorite pastime – and that’s guaranteed. In the meantime, pious evangelicals can sit in their basements and fallout shelters mentally masturbating & praying for the end times….but who cares?? The rest of us are too busy, doing…..well, you know what!~Monkey see, monkey do :^)

  • raveenmello

    We need freedom of religion and speech in Saudi Arabia and most Muslim nations (thereligionofpeace.com, faithfreedom.org)

  • garethharris

    Now that I am old enough to start losing teeth again, I have resumed my belief in the Tooth Fairy – TF. I want the government to fund TF leaving money under my pillow, but NO COINS this time. I want folding money. I need sufficient funds to pay for my dental work, as I can no longer grow new teeth. All you non-believers are ateetheists, believing in other gods: Zeus, Yahweh, Rupert Murdoch. The tooth Fairy is a jealous god.Futhermore, I want government support for Tooth Fairy Missionaries to proselytize, both here and in other people’s countries. Who cares if they don’t want us there. We want to be there. Isn’t that enough? They have no right to ban Tooth Fairy Evangelists. What is it – their country?One more thing … how did our oil get under their sand?

  • klausdmk

    Concerning faith and religious freedom, Obama could learn a lesson from the government of China’s reaction to the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet. Government is threatened by a religious leader because of the persuasive influence over the people Draw some parallels between Buddhism and Christianity. China does not want any trouble from the Dalai Lama in their attempt to rule over Tibet. With Easter Day arriving for the Christian world, consider the reaction from Pilate and Herod of Caesar’s government to Jesus of Nazareth.The Rome government leaders did not want any trouble from the religious leaders in Judea so they gave up Christ to be crucified. The Rome soldiers mocked Jesus and called him “King of the Jews”. As celebrated on Easter Day, we know that Christ arose from the dead appeared to travelers on the road from Jerusalem and among his disciples. Christ overcame the world and death. He lives.

  • 19omadhaun39

    What a waste of print/time etc.

  • djmolter

    Freedom FROM religion is a more valuable right. I’m tired of everyone saying their take on god is the only correct one, and that includes the atheists. Let me believe what I believe or give me the right to not believe without telling me I’m doomed, shortsighted or out of touch, and you’ve won a friend.

  • marlendale

    I find it interesting how some people, who call themselves atheists, are quick to say that they want “freedom from religion”. This is not a position of freedom, but one of restriction and repression. Yes, there are many stupid, silly, and crazy people who claim to be religious. But there are many who are thoughtful, intelligent, committed. Obama, MLK, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Jim Wallis, Rick Warren, Desmond Tutu, Ted Kennedy, Harold Kushner, John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, etc. I could go on listing politicians, business people, and more. They run the gamut of political persuasion. Just as there are good atheists and bad atheists. If you really want freedom from religion, you should have spent some time in the old Soviet Union or try North Korea.Religious freedom is part of the entire network of human rights. Remove one, you hurt the whole. Start removing one, you can start justifying removing others. History is replete with examples.

  • apspa1

    Good lord, will you listen to the believers carrying on? One would think their beads were being taken away.What is it they want?Do they want Religious Freedom to become a State Department policy over which the US will go to war?Do they want it defined in official government policy as a Crusade?That’s what Bush and Cheney (Bush said he got advice from his “other” father) did in Iraq while claiming, among other lies, the war against terror was a war against Islam. What we got was over 5000 dead troops, tens of thousands dead Iraqis and uncounted thousands of troops and Iraqis mutilated. All, if I may use your definition, god’s children.Look folks, you are free to believe whatever you like. You are free to talk about what you believe. But I am free to believe or not, to listen or not and to respect your beliefs or not, though I do because it is the right thing to do.But there are limits. If you try try to force me to believe, or force me to listen, or force me to respect your beliefs then we have a problem.My 16 year old grandson does not believe in any god. During early childhood he was never told he must love, must worship, must fear or must pray. At the same time we did not hide him, physically or intellectually, from the many religions. That would be confusing for him and, at any rate, impossible.He asked questions, as he inevitably would, resulting from contact with friends and others. I remember him asking who is god? I asked him what he had heard about god. When it was clear that he meant the christian god I told him and then I told him of all the other gods that exist today. And about all the gods that existed (well, all that I could anyway) in human history.When he wondered about churches, we took him to a catholic mass explaining what was happening and what, more or less, the statues, etc, were and stood for. Then we told him about other churches and about the differences.Generally these occasions, and others, involved him asking if we believed any of it and why not when we said no.Our answer to that question was that we chose not to because believing was accepting on faith what we were being told. It was also made clear to him that if he he could decide for himself if he wanted to believe.Many have told us we brainwashed him in his early years because we did not expose him to organized religious training and thus made him an atheist.We believe that somewhat ironic because in at least one area of human activity throughout the ages and up until today, it has not been the atheists who have started wars.

  • fabricmaven1

    Religion in the history of civilization has brought more pain than gain. IMO, Religion does nothing but take us two steps back toward the cave door for every incremental step we take toward a peaceful enlightened world.

  • spidermean2

    Reading comprehension deficiency and wilful ignorance are common among atheists.Self-replication is a solid proof that a super-intelligent God exist. Only a crazy person can dispute this. Having said that, there is no sense that any atheist should have a say on any discussion board about religion.It’s like allowing a fool to teach you about the subject.The idiotic atheists should know that without freedom of religion, they will be the first victims of discrimination like witches being burned at the stake. That is historical and surely they don’t want to repeat that kind of history.Atheists are idiots about God (it’s a scientific fact) and it’s in the best interest of society to not listen to them even in courts.

  • spidermean2

    Religion is harmless if it’s a free choice. Once you take away that choice, it becomes dangerous. Examples of this is the medieval period and communism.But as usual, the idiotic atheists are on the wrong side on this discussion. They are idiots so what do we expect?

  • KraftPaper

    You don’t need a president to grant u religious freedom. You don’t need him except for a whipping boy or a scape goat. You do need to stop complaining and grow up. Read your bible. That’s all the freedom you need.

  • 12008N1

    OK, I read this article twice, and I still don’t understand what specific policy changes the author is advocating, beyond some nebulous emphasis on “freedom of religion” rather than mere “freedom of worship” which, he strenuously asserts, is most certainly not a stalking horse for American Christian missionaries.Yeah, I still don’t get it. Frankly, the more he asserts that this isn’t about Christian missionaries (without specifying what his argument IS about), the more I have to believe it’s all about Christian missionaries.

  • spidermean2

    Many people in these “one religion only” states gets imprisoned simply because of just practicing their own faith. It’s been happening for years and America has been silent about it for many years now because of monetary reasons like getting some business favors.What America didn’t foresee is that this stupidity will reach its shores. How? It already has and a bigger disruption is coming, much more cumbersome than 9/11.

  • spidermean2

    In other words, it’s immoral for America to trade with these “one religion only” states. Freedom of religion should be a basic requirement before America can trade with a certain state.Continuing to trade with these states is just feeding a monster that will soon rear its ugly head.

  • harrumph1

    To spiderman2. It must be difficult for you to deal with the knowledge and certainty that the Atheists are the ones who understand the truth. Religions are myths and fairy tales that previously, in the times of ignorance, were used to try to explain the world around them. In the modern era, these myths are obviously that.

  • djfeiger

    Realpolitik requires bold leadership not a silken tongued Mr. Rodgers and a fantasy world neighborhood. This administration white washes acts of religious fanaticism that kill or attempt to kill innocents while promoting religious hatred and discrimination. It is true that in England the monarch must be C.O.E. but NOT members of the government. In Saudi Arabia their are no religions allowed but Islam. The Holy Cities of Medina and Mecca are barricaded and protected from non Muslims by a series of armed road blocks.

  • YEAL9

    Still waiting for answers to the following questions about the Chicago Council of Global Affairs:Is its previous association with Michelle Obama affect what it is doing and what areas it reviews? Mrs. Obama was once a director of CCOGA(and making over $100,000/yr?).Considering that the task force had two members from the University of Chicago and the location of the topic group, why wasn’t Professor Mearsheimer on the task force?

  • FarnazMansouri

    Read the rest of this nauseating article in WaPo. See link below. Again, Vatican Nation is blaming others for its endless moral delinquency. It holds the Christian Orthodox, for example, guilty for the Italian investigation of Vatican Bank’s laundering 200 million mafia dollars.We allow this morally bankrupt FOREIGN NATION to legislate in our CONGRESS, and award it nonprofit status.Vatican officials defend pope on abuseBy FRANCES D’EMILIOVATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Saturday denounced what it called aggressive attempts to drag Pope Benedict XVI into the spreading scandals of pedophile priests in his German homeland.It also insisted that church confidentiality doesn’t prevent bishops from reporting abuse to police.The Vatican’s campaign to defend the pope’s reputation and resolve in combatting clergy abuse of minors followed acknowledgment by the Munich archdiocese that it had transferred a suspected pedophile priest to community work while Benedict was archbishop there.Benedict is also under fire for a 2001 church directive he wrote while a Vatican cardinal, instructing bishops to keep abuse cases confidential.Germany’s justice minister has blamed the directive for what she called a “wall of silence” preventing prosecution.Skeptical about the Vatican’s handling of abuse, a U.S.-based advocacy group for abuse victims, Survivors Network of those Abused for Priests, urged faithful to bring candles and childhood photos to vigils outside churches, cathedrals and German consulates across the U.S. this weekend to remind people to “call police, not bishops” in cases of suspected abuse.

  • FarnazMansouri

    CONTINUED:When the abuse was reported to the church, the church handled it as an internal matter without notifying the police or prosecutors. Wilfried F. said that church officials said the priest had been transferred to Munich “and that he would no longer be allowed to work with children.”The archdiocese said in a statement on Friday that the priest was moved to Munich in 1980 for therapy with the approval of Archbishop Ratzinger. Vicar General Gerhard Gruber took responsibility for allowing him to return to pastoral work, where he later was convicted of sexually abusing minors.“You see how they just kept moving him around,” Wilfried F. said. “He could keep doing it like before.”In the interview on Saturday, Monsignor Scicluna also addressed accusations that the Vatican was obstructing justice by imposing secrecy on reports of abuse.In 2001, Benedict, who was then in charge of Vatican investigations of abuse allegations, sent a letter to bishops counseling them to forward all cases of abuse of minors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where they were to be subject to secrecy.While dismissing the idea that the Vatican imposed secrecy “in order to hide the facts,” Monsignor Scicluna said that “secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right — as everyone does — to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”But he said church secrecy had “never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.”Monsignor Scicluna also dismissed as “unjustified” criticism that the wheels of Vatican justice moved too slowly. At the same time, he acknowledged that he oversaw an office of 10 people.Rachel Donadio reported from Rome, and Nicholas Kulish from Munich.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Tax exempt status for religious institutions must end, needless to say. As things are going the dole for Vatican Nation (a foreign entity according to US courts) may end sooner than we might have thought. The Holy Roman Empire may be tumbling down at last, not in a way one would have wanted. Not at the expense of so many victims throughout the centuries, but there you have it. From New YOrk TimesMarch 13, 2010Vatican Sees Campaign Against the PopeROME — As new details emerged on allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Munich archdiocese then led by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican spoke out on Saturday to protect the pope against what it called an aggressive campaign against him in his native Germany.At the same time, a high-ranking Vatican official overseeing internal investigations on Saturday acknowledged that 3,000 cases of suspected abuse of minors had come to its attention in the past decade, of which 20 percent had been brought to trial in Vatican courts.In a note read on Vatican Radio on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was “evident that in recent days there are those who have tried, with a certain aggressive tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich, to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He added, “It is clear that those efforts have failed.”In Germany, a man who said he was sexually abused by a priest there in 1979 said Saturday that church officials had told him then that the priest would not be allowed to work with children again. Instead, the priest was allowed, under Benedict’s watch, to resume full duties almost immediately, where he went on to abuse more children.The Vatican also sought to defend the pope against criticism that a Vatican rule requiring secrecy in abuse cases was tantamount to obstruction of justice in civil courts.Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the director of a tribunal inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal arm, dismissed as “false and calumnious” accusations that Benedict covered up abuse cases when he oversaw investigations as prefect of that congregation for four years before becoming pope.In a rare and unusually frank public interview that appeared on the front page of L’Avvenire, the Italian Bishops Conference newspaper on Saturday and was circulated by the Vatican Press Office, Monsignor Scicluna acknowledged that the Vatican had received about 3,000 accusations of abuse by priests of minors in the past decade, 80 percent of them from the United States.

  • FarnazMansouri

    CONTINUED:Of the 3,000 total cases, he said, “We can say that about 60 percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another 30 percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining 10 percent were cases of pedophilia in the true sense of the term; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children.”He said that 60 percent of the total cases had not come to trial, largely because of the advanced age of the accused, but that they faced other “administrative and disciplinary provisions,” including being required to live in seclusion and prohibition from celebrating Mass and hearing confession.“It’s true that there has been no formal condemnation,” Monsignor Scicluna said, adding, “It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution has taken place.”In Germany, where hundreds of people have come forward in the last few months with accusations of abuse by priests, new details emerged Saturday about a case in the Munich Archdiocese that the church has acknowledged it made “serious mistakes” in handling. Pope Benedict, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, was head of the archdiocese at the time.The daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that the pastor previously identified as H sexually abused an 11-year-old boy in Essen in 1979, including by forcing him to perform oral sex.

  • miden1

    How can a president “sideline religious freedom”? It’s already there in the Constitution. Besides, didn’t Clinton and the Congress already pass a religious freedoms act in the 90’s? Politics + religion = Enough already.

  • YEAL9

    Still waiting for answers to the following questions about the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and/or Mr. Farr, who is a member of the CCOGA Task Force:Is its previous association with Michelle Obama affect what it is doing and what areas it reviews? Mrs. Obama was once a director of CCOGA(and making over $100,000/yr?).Considering that the task force had two members from the University of Chicago and the location of the topic group, why wasn’t Professor Mearsheimer on the task force?”John J. Mearsheimer, PhD is an American professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is an international relations theorist. Known for his book on offensive realism, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, more recently Mearsheimer has attracted attention for co-authoring and publishing the article The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which was subsequently published as a book, becoming a New York Times Best Seller.”What do the five directors of CCOGA do to earn on average $150,000/year per director in 2008? Why does it have such a large investment portfolio (over $6 million)? Does CCOGA note this in their donation drives? i.e. give us some more of your money so we can invest in the risky stock and bond market?In 2007, why did the CCOGA cancel the visit and talk by the authors of the book “Israel’s Lobby and US Foreign Policy”?Why aren’t the “sacred” but very flawed books of the contemporary religions noted in the CCOGA report mentioned in their report? The report was obviously prepared by task force members well-versed in these books but are they??Did Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core work for Obama’s election campaign as we see Eboo is not only on the topic task force but also on Obama’s Faith advisory council?Did a Faith Intiative grant from the State Department help defray the cost of topic report?The task force was not in complete aggreement with the report? Why and what points should the general public know about said disagreements?

  • FarnazMansouri

    Nonprofit status for religious institutions forges unholy alliances that contribute to these entities’ lobbying in Congress, variously influencing the shape of legislation and seeing to it that legislation is passed that serves their interests. This is tantamount to Establishment.While nonprofit status for religious institutions must end across the board, the RCC does present a particularly interesting case. Deemed a FOREIGN NATION and thereby immune to lawsuits by US citizens, it is nevertheless TAX EXEMPT!Moreover, it has spent billions upon billions of our tax dollars to keep pedophile priests from standing trial and to pay off the victims of the pedophiles it has harbored. It has formally been accused of “obstructing justice” in both European and American courts.And, yet, it is not only tax exempt but actively legislating in the United States of America. A “Foreign Nation.”

  • YEAL9

    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits like The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith: (from guidestar.com, IRS Form 990)“This organization has a professional lobbying staff of approximately 528 in 28 offices nationwide, of those , two staff members based in Washington DC devoted 75% of their time, and the other devoted approximately 50% engaged in advocacy on legislative proposals related to federal hate crime laws, global anti-terrorism, the Middle East Peace Process (the Nation of Israel?), immigration issues, the use of government money to fund faith-based organizations and counter-terrorism proposals outside Washington, DC.”The total revenue for the ADL in 2008 was $59,960,134 mostly coming from contributions and grants.Would the move to end tax exemptions for any group generate the added taxes/contributions needed to pay for universal health care?? “Moreover, it (the RCC) has spent billions upon billions of our tax dollars to keep pedophile priests from standing trial and to pay off the victims of the pedophiles it has harbored.” Billions of the dioceses’ money the last time I checked.

  • YEAL9

    “Moreover, it (the RCC) has spent billions upon billions of our tax dollars to keep pedophile priests from standing trial and to pay off the victims of the pedophiles it has harbored.”???? It is billions of the dioceses’ (“pew sitters”) money not government tax dollars:”Dioceses in the United States have paid more than 2.6 billion US dollars in abuse-related costs since 1950.[67]As of March 2006, dioceses in the United States had made financial settlements with the victims totaling over 1.5 billion dollars[16] The number and size of these settlements made it necessary for the dioceses to reduce their ordinary operating expenses by closing churches and schools.[3] Several dioceses chose to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to litigate settlements while protecting some church assets to insure it continues to operate.ref: answers.com