What Is the US Doing About Religious Persecution Worldwide? | John Burger | CWR
While President Obama calls religious freedom a “key objective of US foreign policy,” experts question how high a priority combating persecution really is.
Not a week after President Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast that promoting religious freedom is a “key objective of US foreign policy” under his administration, a congressman challenged him to put his money where his mouth is.
“The indifference on the part of the administration is shocking,” Rep. Christopher Smith, R-NJ, said in an interview February 11. Smith, who earlier in the day chaired a hearing on growing persecution of Christians worldwide, cited Obama’s failure to appoint a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom within the Department of State, a post mandated by the1998International Religious Freedom Act.
“A little-remembered fact about that [legislation] is that the Clinton administration was against it—on the record—only to sign it when we had an overwhelming veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate,” Smith said in the interview. “But the hard lift in the early go, getting it out of the House and on the floor was unbelievable…. They were totally against it. So that mindset remains among certain appointees in the State Department.”
That may explain why the post has been vacant during much of Obama’s presidency, except for the two-and-a-half years it was held by Suzan Johnson Cook. Cook left the post in October.
Meanwhile, the persecution of Christians around the world is “expanding exponentially,” Smith told CWR. “There needs to be a concerted effort by the US government, and it has not been there. If anything, we’ve been enablers by our silence, and I mean the Obama administration by name. And then the more subtle forms of persecution and discrimination, like we’re seeing with the HHS mandate, which is by design and will be putting churches out of business if they are to prevail.”