Where the Religious Freedom Act Fails

Where the Religious Freedom Act Fails

Fueled by news reports of religious persecution, there is much talk these days, often urgently expressed, about the need for Americans to take responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of rights to religious freedom around the world. The project has broad and enthusiastic support from legislators, within churches, and among the general population. In addition to private initiatives promoting religious freedom abroad, and in response to intense lobbying, the U.S. Senate has recently unanimously passed and the president has signed into law, the International Religious Freedom Act. The new act is quite elaborate. It creates a special State Department office to monitor religious persecution and requires preparation by that office of annual reports describing religious freedom violations in every country in the world, as well as special training of foreign service officers and immigration officials and the opening of American embassies to religious activities. A special adviser on international religious freedom is to be added to the National Security Council. To oversee these new civil servants, the act provides for the creation of an independent watchdog advisory commission on religious freedom. Finally, the president is directed to take action, on the basis of the annual reports, to promote religious freedom around the world.

It should not need saying that everyone should deplore murder, torture, and...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan teaches in the Religious Studies Department at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.