Religious Freedom Disappears from State Department Human Rights Report
May 24th the US State Department Released a delayed annual Report on Human Rights without any reference to Religious Freedom sections for countries swept up in the Arab Spring and others in the Muslim ummah. This smacks of compliance with Organization of Islamic Cooperation Islamaphobia diktats. Perhaps it is a reflection of last December's Istanbul Process gathering on UNHRC Res/ 16/18 with OIC member nations, other foreign represetatives, US Department of Justice and Homeland Security repersentatives seeking best practices about 'combating intelorance' meaning criticism of Islam. The deracination of religious freedom findings, especially in OIC Muslim countries makes Christian and other endangered religious minorities virtual non-persons with no human rights under Shariah. This action on the part of the State Department means that the only governmental group responding to the lack of religious freedom in the Muslim world is the Congressionaly-chartered US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), that nearly didn't receive a three year lease on life last December. When that the last USCIRF Annual report on Religlious Freedom was issued, it only covered 2010, just prior to the eruption of the Arab Spring. Is the Obama Administration sending a message about its priorities on Human rights - excluding something we thought paramount under our Constitution, religious freedom?
This action is beyond apalling; it smacks of appeasement to the OIC. But that is nothing new from an Administration engaged in dilaogue with the Muslim Brotherhood here at home and more recently at the Saban Center Brookings Instiuttion 9th US -Islam World Forum in Qatar.
The U.S. State Department removed the sections covering religious freedom from the Country Reports on Human Rights that it released on May 24, three months past the statutory deadline Congress set for the release of these reports.
The new human rights reports--purged of the sections that discuss the status of religious freedom in each of the countries covered--are also the human rights reports that include the period that covered the Arab Spring and its aftermath.
Thus, the reports do not provide in-depth coverage of what has happened to Christians and other religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East that saw the rise of revolutionary movements in 2011 in which Islamist forces played an instrumental role.
Leonard Leo, who recently completed a term as chairman of the USCIRF, says that removing the sections on religious freedom from the State Department's Country Reports on Human Roghts is a bad idea.
Since 1998, when Congress created USCIRF, the State Department has been required to issue a separate yearly report specifically on International Religious Freedom.
But a section reporting on religious freedom has also always been included in the State Department's legally required annual country-by-country reports on human rights--that is, until now.
And this is the first year the State Department would have needed to report on the effect the Arab Spring has had on religious freedom in the Middle East--had its reports, as always before, included a section on religious freedom.
“The commission that I served on has some real concerns about that bifurcation, because the human rights reports receive a lot of attention, and to have pulled religious freedom out of it means that fewer people will obtain information about what’s going on with that particular freedom or right. So you don’t have the whole picture because they split it up now,” Leo told CNSNews.com.
Former U.S. diplomat Thomas Farr says it’s possible that the move to totally separate religious freedom from the human rights reports could simply be a bureaucratic maneuver.
But another possibility is much more likely.
“The other possibility is the Obama administration is downplaying international religious freedom,” Farr said.
Farr, who served in the State Department under both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, was the first director of the Office of International Religious Freedom.
“I mean, it is important to note here that I do not know--I have no personal knowledge of the logic that went into removing religious freedom from the broader human rights report; but I also have observed during the three-and-a-half years of the Obama administration that the issue of religious freedom has been distinctly downplayed,” Farr said
Currently a visiting associate professor of religion and world affairs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Farr directs the program on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy and the Project on Religious Freedom at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown.
He told CNSNews.com that far more resources have been allocated by the Obama administration to other human rights issues than have been directed toward religious freedom.
“(T)he ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, for example, who is the official charged by the law to lead U.S. religious freedom policy, did not even step foot into her office until two-and-a-half years were gone of a four-year administration,” he said.
“Whereas other human rights priorities of the administration, such as the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, were in place within months. So that tells you something.
“It tells me that this has never been a priority for the Obama administration, and it’s not now,” he said.
“So it seems to me plausible to at least question the removal of religious freedom from the human rights report, although, as I say, there could be other explanations, less insidious, if you will.”
"Taken Question at the June 14, 2012 Daily Press Briefing
June 16, 2012
"QUESTION: Why was the religious freedom portion of the Human Rights Report removed from it this year?
"ANSWER: In 2011 the State Department began an alignment of the reporting cycles of both the Human Rights Report (HRR) and the International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR). Previously, the HRR covered calendar years, while the IRFR covered a one-year period from July 1- June 30. For 2011, both reports cover the previous calendar year. The religious freedom section in the HRR was replaced by a link to the IRFR because the latter is a more comprehensive review of the status of religious freedom worldwide, and it would be inefficient to address the same issues in similar documents. Despite this alteration of format and venue, the standards and rigor of our reporting on religious freedom remains unchanged."