Loading
Citing ‘global crisis,’ advocates urge Congress to fund religious freedom agency
Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
By Michelle Bauman
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Catholics and other advocates are urging Congress and the White House not to let partisan politics to put an end to the vital work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“The reality is that there’s a global crisis in religious freedom,” said Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

“Congress is being irresponsible and so is the administration,” Farr told CNA on Oct. 18.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by Congress in 1998.

With funding set to expire at the end of September, the House of Representatives on Sept. 15 voted overwhelmingly, 391-21, to fund the agency for two more years.

However, according to press reports, a single unknown senator has put a “hold” on the bill, preventing it from coming to a vote in the Senate. The anonymous senator is not disclosing any reason for his actions.

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, said  that if the “secret hold” is not lifted by Nov. 18, the Senate will not be able to act, and the commission will come to an end.

Shea has served as one of the commissioners for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom since 1999.

In an Oct. 17 article for the National Review Online, Shea described the commission as “a bold voice within the government” and pointed to its successful advocacy for religious minorities in countries including Sudan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Shea said that the commission’s “biggest contribution may simply be representing in the darkest, most closed corners of the world America’s bedrock belief – the individual’s inalienable right to religious freedom.”

Farr believes that the situation is also clearly a humanitarian problem, given that tens of millions of people are “subject to violent persecution because of their religious beliefs or those of their tormentors.”

Farr, who served as the first director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2003, added that there was also a beneficial “strategic dimension” to America’s religious freedom policy.

He explained “that to promote religious freedom is to help democracies consolidate. And to promote religious freedom is to undermine religion-based terrorism.”

“So on both of those accounts – humanitarian and strategic – this is precisely the wrong time in history to allow the commission to be disbanded, or in fact, to disband it,” he said.

Farr also observed that attempts to weaken the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have already taken place.

He noted that the bill to reauthorize the commission originally included amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act that would have “forced the State Department to pay more attention to this issue.”

“Those amendments have been stripped from the bill,” he stated.

Farr explained that one of the amendments that has been removed would have moved the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to the office of the Secretary of State, “which is where, historically, all other ambassadors-at-large have been.”

He said that this move would have shown the government’s commitment to the issue of religious freedom across the globe.

Farr attributed the opposition to extending the life of the commission to “absolute indifference to the crisis which is going on in the world.”

“I can think of no other explanation for it,” he said.

“Congress could reauthorize the commission and compel the Obama administration to take this issue seriously. Congress is doing neither.”

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
Dec
20

Liturgical Calendar

December 20, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Gospel
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
Gospel:: Lk 1: 5-25

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
12/15/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Homily
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14