April 2010 – Washington, D.C.
In a statement released on 29 April 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, detailed abuse of religious freedom rights in 28 nations, many of which are at the top of U.S. foreign policy agenda, including Afghanistan, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Commissioners also provided recommendations to the Obama Administration, the U.S. State Department, and members of Congress regarding ways in which U.S. policy can promote human rights and religious freedom in nations USCIRF identifies as the world’s most severe religious rights abusers.
USCIF chair Leonard Leo made observations critical of recent U.S. policy on religious freedom, which, he said, “is missing the mark.” Leo sees as “symbolic” the failure of the current administration to fill the vacant post of Ambassador-At-Large on International Religious Freedom. “In a world of foreign policy and diplomacy,”observed Leo, “where every word is chosen to convey meaning and interest,” the U.S. Administration might seem to be sending a signal that freedom of religion is not a priority. “Presidential references to religious freedom have become rare, often replaced at most with references to freedom of worship.” The Commissioner observes that “freedom of worship is only one aspect of religious freedom, and a purposeful change in language could mean a much narrower view of this right.” Leo suggests, for example, that “our foreign policy must be better at exposing and castigating the Potemkin Villages of religious worship, where churches might well be propped up for services, but where the faithful can’t get basic services because of their views, are gunned down with impunity while leaving church, are viciously caricatured and attacked by state-run press, and are otherwise relegated to second-class citizenship.” The oppressed of this world, Leo asserts, look to the United States “with hope and forbearance, to do more. In promoting the freedom of religion or belief abroad, the United States “can and must do more.”
USCIRF is a bipartisan Federal Commission, whose Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States and the Senate and House of Representatives.