“Religious freedom is a rich and strategic human right”

As if to underscore a point no one seems to get, from a fascinating article about how interfaith efforts to secure religious freedoms have gotten lost in the journalistic shuffle:

“What we found out was that human rights are part of one package,” said Hertzke. “If you pull out the pin of religious freedom, it’s hard to support freedom of speech, freedom of association and other crucial human rights. Religious freedom is a rich and strategic human right.”

Both the journalists and some in the Evangelical community believe that the goal of the effort is to spread the imposition of certain ways of life on others.  This shared assumption is what really complicates our current political and social dynamic.  Evidently it even put strains on the interfaith coalitions formed to make campaigns for religious freedom a reality:

This coalition was “made up of groups that usually fought like cats and dogs on other issues, but would join together to work for religious freedom,” said Hertzke, speaking at the University of California, Berkeley.

These leaders would work on religious-liberty issues over morning coffee and bagels, before returning to their offices where they usually found themselves in total opposition to one another on abortion, gay rights, public education and a host of other church-state issues. Nevertheless, their coordinated labors on foreign policy projects “produced trust and relationships that had never existed before,” he said.

The question is whether this coalition’s ties that bind can survive tensions created by the current White House race and renewed conflicts over religious and cultural issues in America.

“The kinds of energies generated in these kinds of social movements are hard to sustain,” said Hertzke. “There was always the concern that fighting over the familiar social issues would siphon away some of the energy that held this remarkable coalition together for a decade. …

“The fear is that if people feel really threatened on the issues here at home that matter to them the most — like abortion — then they will not be able to invest time and resources in these human-rights issues around the world.”

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