The Changing Priority on Religious Freedom

Thomas Farr at the Washington Post thinks that the Obama Administration is side-lining both American law and policy on this subject:

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.

Although I have no doubt that this basic thesis is correct, there are some strange things here.  Just a couple:

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…

They (the State Department’s recent actions) 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.

That, in turn, is based on the concept that religious freedom is a by-product of Christianity, which is a religion of conversion.  A religion of conversion, all other things being equal, is the main beneficiary of an environment where conversion is simple and legal, which is a by-product of general religious freedom.  State Department liberals figure that, if you have religious freedom, Americans will send missionaries to spread the faith.

The Episcopalians have found out the hard way, however, that Americans aren’t the only ones capable of organising a missionary effort.  Their experience with the Africans should have taught somebody something, but it hasn’t, which is why the left keeps trying to paint the effort in Uganda re homosexuality as an American import when it is entirely indigenous.

I’m glad I’m an adherent of a Third World religion.  More punishing lessons from that part of the globe are forthcoming.

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.

This is another one of those initiatives by this administration which is self-contradictory.  You think that Muslim communities are going to help with the normalisation of gay rights?  Somehow, one outreach will be negated by the other.

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