In its annual report to be released tomorrow, the U.S. Council on International Religious Freedom will call on the president to do more to promote freedom of religion abroad.
USCIRF bills itself as an "independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives."
In his remarks tomorrow, commission chair Leonard Leo will criticize the president's rhetoric on religious freedom and his failure to fill a post dedicated to promoting the issue:
"US foreign policy on religious freedom is missing the mark. Certainly symbolic of this is the fact that the Ambassador-At-Large on International Religious Freedom has yet to be named, well over a year into this Administration.... But, in a world of foreign policy and diplomacy, where every word is chosen to convey meaning and interest, there is an even more important situation that could be taken by some in the world community as a signal that freedom of religion is not a priority for the Administration.... presidential references to religious freedom have become rare, often replaced at most with references to freedom of worship.... 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.... 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 look to the Administration, indeed, all of us, with hope and forbearance, to do more.... The current Administration has been insufficiently engaged. In promoting the freedom of religion or belief abroad.... The US can and must do more."