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The End of Religious Freedom

In an age when the persecution of Egypt's Coptic Christians is more bloody than ever the bill to continue funding the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was held up by just one man, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill).

by
Phyllis Chesler

Bio

December 6, 2011 - 3:16 pm
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Time has run out for the cause of worldwide religious freedom. On November 18, 2011, America chose not to extend any further lifeline to persecuted religious minorities around the planet. On that day, the U.S. government shut down the work of an important and unique American effort: the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Oddly enough, the mainstream media does not seem to have covered this story. I certainly did not know about it. Did you? The only article about this appeared at CNS News.

In 1998, the U.S. government passed the Religious Freedom Act and this commission was one of the results. Since then, it has sent delegations abroad to meet with minority religious leaders in Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, and released reports about their work. In 2011, their Annual Report covered countries such as Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, and Iran.

In 2011, Nina Shea, the head commissioner, presented testimony before members of Congress about Christian minorities under attack in Iraq and Egypt. In this hearing, Shea reported:

USCIRF has found serious, widespread, and longstanding human rights violations against religious minorities as well as disfavored Muslims. Confronted by these violations, the Egyptian government has failed to take the necessary steps to halt the discrimination and repression against Christians and other minorities. Too often, it has failed to punish the violators.

Shea discussed the New Year’s Day bombing in Alexandria, which led to the worst attack targeting Christians in a decade. Carefully, without saying that Muslims or the Egyptian Muslim police were the perpetrators, she refered to the “Coptic Christmas shooting that killed six innocent Christians in Naga Hammadi.” Over the last two years, the Egyptian government, media, and network of mosques have systematically engaged in violence and in the coverup of that violence against Christians.

In an interview with PJ Media, Shea said,

With the onslaught of the Arab Winter and the threat of  newly politically empowered Islamists suppressing the freedoms of religious minorities and even carrying out religious cleansing campaigns against them, USCIRF is needed more than ever. Its voice carries official weight and it has vigorously and consistently raised it within and outside the government on behalf of a broad array of persecuted minorities and individuals around the world. At this time, USCIRF is winding down its work, as it is legally bound to do, since its authorization ends on December 16. As reported in the Congressional Quarterly, Senator Durbin of Illinois has blocked the USCIRF reauthorization for several months, reportedly in order to get an earmark to fund a prison in his state. He has been intractable. President Obama — who served with Mr. Durbin in the Senate before becoming president and who has expressed an interest in using the prison at issue for holding detainees from Guantanamo Bay – must speak up, if USCIRF is to continue.  President Obama can make this happen and I appeal to him to do so.

Why would the American government shut down USCIRF now? Some might say that we are in an economic recession and must care fo our own before we can help others. Some secular Americans might simply want freedom from religion rather than of religion. They may not care about the choice to practice one’s religion or whether or not people are being persecuted for doing so. And some Americans may agree with the UN view that Muslims and Islam are not to be criticized and that any accurate portrayal of Muslim behavior may be treated as a crime.

Next: The USCIRF’s opponent still pursues its totalitarian aims with the blessing of the global community…

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