Discussion Question: How Involved Should The United States Be In Issues Of International Religious Freedom?
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Its principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations. It is currently under review for re-authorization. How important is it to continue to support this body? Is the U.S. overstepping its authority by monitoring the state of religious freedom outside its borders? Should we be concentrating our resources and efforts here at home?
The U.S. Senate is dragging its feet on reauthorizing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and by doing so, it might as well adopt a resolution condemning apple pie as un-American. For our nation to abandon its commitment to international religious freedom would be an unmitigated disaster, not only for the persecuted people of the world but for the American spirit as an ideal.
Religious freedom is a core value of this nation. When our leaders describe America as a "shining city on a hill," they are referring to the torch of freedom and human rights that we shine upon the world. It acts as a spotlight, exposing evil and calling all nations to a higher standard. If our nation has any unique divinely inspired role in the world, it is to pursue a higher moral order, based on respect for the dignity of each person created in the image of God. Religious freedom is first both in our Constitution and in our hierarchyof values, because without respect for the freedom to order one's life according to the things held to be sacred, one loses an essential part of what makes a person human.
So at its heart, the legislative battle over reauthorization of the USCIRF is not just about religious liberty in the abstract. Rather it is about whether this nation will continue to care that hundreds of millions are being persecuted or denied basic religious freedom around the world. It is about whether we care about the things that make it possible not merely to survive, but to live as a human being.
Make no mistake: if Americans stop caring, the tyrants of the world will get the signal that it is open season on religious dissidents. People will die. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. And their blood will cry out from the altar, and their guilt will lay at our national feet. We could have done something, but we turned our heads, refusing to see.
Author: Alan J. Reinach
Alan J. Reinach is Executive Director of the Church State Council, the religious liberty educational and advocacy arm of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, representing five western states: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. His legal practice emphasizes First Amendment religious freedom cases, and religious accommodation cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related state civil rights laws. Reinach is also a Seventh-day Adventist minister who speaks regularly on religious freedom topics, and is the host of a nationally syndicated weekly radio broadcast, “Freedom’s Ring.” He is the principal author and editor of Politics and Prophecy: The Battle for Religious Liberty and the Authentic Gospel, and a frequent contributor to Libertymagazine.