A Too-Narrow Vision of Religious Freedom

Aug 23, 2018

By the NYT Editorial Board

Even President Trump’s fiercest critics can find something to applaud in the administration’s campaign to protect and advance religious freedom around the world.

The State Department’s inaugural conference on the subject drew hundreds of activists and scores of foreign officials to Washington last month and produced a statement of core beliefs and a plan to hold follow-up meetings in the United States and overseas.

Invoking the 70-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conference’s concluding statement asserted that “every person has the right to hold any faith or belief, or none at all, and enjoys the freedom to change faith” and argued that “defending the freedom of religion or belief is the collective responsibility of the global community.” To which we say, amen.

But the initiative’s good intentions are in danger of being undermined by the administration’s political agenda, which emphasizes the American strain of evangelical Christianity over other beliefs. In addition, the administration is pursuing immigration and foreign aid policies that belie its stated defense of religious rights.

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2 comments on “A Too-Narrow Vision of Religious Freedom

  • There is no mystery to the difference between the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the current US Administration’s recent Conference on Religious Liberty.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells it like it is (from one of his two speeches July 26th) at said conference:

    … Vice President Pence … a man of deep faith, and his dedication to defending religious freedom is unsurpassed … and the … International Religious Freedom team …

    Translation: Government initiatives don’t get more backing than this, and we’re all pals here.

    … more than 80 delegations, including dozens of minister-level representatives from around the world, are here today …

    Translation: Foreign governments read the news from the US, and they know who is the main sponsor for this political initiative, so they came to kiss the next president’s ass.

    I’ve been blessed with the right to live out what I believe without fear of persecution or reprisal from my government …

    There it is, right there. There is a world of difference between living out one’s beliefs (let’s call that the Pence Interpretation) and freedom of conscience (the Universal Declaration).

    Even taken at face value what Pompeo said is: If my religious belief says I can treat anyone else in society differently then that is my right. The word differently covers so many evils as to be almost meaningless – how can we be sure it doesn’t include a hundred nasty interpretations of scripture?

    To say these people are stupid would be an insult to stupid people. The main movers here are mostly protestant christians, but they can’t see far enough ahead to see the nose in front of their own faces. The Catholic Church has been around for a lot longer, and (current ructions over child abuse aside) has more followers than any other US Church. And have these people never heard of Sharia Law? These people are paving a new road – but they’ll never be the ones driving on it.

    Even assuming that they’re not aware of the unintended consequences of their actions the US Religious Freedom movement is deadly dangerous. Think, for example, of this:

    Paul Hill, a well-known anti-abortion pastor, shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton, and clinic volunteer James Barrett, outside a women’s health center. Paul Hill was well known for advocating violence against abortion doctors, and he had praised the previous killing of a Dr. Gunn who was shot and killed by another opponent of abortion Michael Griffin.

    Paul Hill was simply living out what he believed. Under the rules apparently proposed by Pence and Company: Paul Hill could only be prosecuted in a country that did not respect his religious freedom.

    Mike Pompeo continues:

    The United States advances religious freedom in our foreign policy because it is not exclusively an American right. It is a God-given universal right bestowed on all of mankind

    My message to Mike here is: If what you say is true; you can shove my Religious Freedom back directly where you pulled it from. Gods are man-made and that means your Pence Interpretation undermines the Unversal Declaration – it treads on my rights as a non-believer.

    When anyone says that they’re acting on a god-given anything what they always means – and yes, that does mean always – that they’re using a god or gods as a trump card (geddit?) to ensure their opinion trumps your opinion. Acting in a god’s name is, therefore, tacit admission that objective values don’t exist – but I’ll have to let that slide as I’m running out of time.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when two people who both purport to believe in one god (i.e. the same god) exercise their religious freedom by attempting to persecutebeach other using the different messages that they both received direct from their god. Can you say: Recipe for sectarian violence. Can you say: Muslim versus Jew.

    This is easily enough to expose the so-called Religious Freedom movement for what it really is: The Religious Privilege movement.

    If you think this evidence is thin, then by all means check out the Potomac Declaration – and if your time is limited skip the actual Declaration and go straight to the Potomac Plan of Action, a document so riddled with inconsistencies and internal conflicts as to be similar to holy writ – and just as flexible useful informative damning.

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  • @OP – A Too-Narrow Vision of Religious Freedom

    The redefinition of words to incorporate a biased twisted religious preconception, is nothing new among the god-deluded mind-slaves, when exercising marketing and imposing their “free-dumb”!

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