October of 1998, President Clinton signed into law The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), no doubt to pander to the evangelist and conservative religious vote. He didn’t get it. This law established mechanisms within the State Department and an independent commission to enforce freedom of belief and conscience in U. S. relationships with other countries. Not one congressman voted against it. However, major American businesses opposed the legislation but were not heard.
Over the last twenty years, this subset of the State Department has actually done an outstanding job in identifying religious persecution in other countries, but it has also proselytized Christianity in the process. This is the rub when it comes to our First Amendment principles. Should the U.S. Government have as part of its foreign policy a mandate that says it is used for identifying religious persecution in other countries, which it does, but also promotes the establishment of the Christian religion in the process? The founding of the IRFA through the State Department was the brainchild of the evangelist community, and not one congressman questioned it or voted against it.
In last year’s twenty-year celebration of IRFA by evangelicals, there was much to be said as they claimed victory of their governmental organization. Twenty years ago they knew, as they believe, today, that there was a need for a course correction in U.S. foreign policy to the vast persecution globally of Christians. As part of their celebration, President Trump appointed three evangelicals to serve in the administration of the State Department subset:
Elliot Abrams, who served two different terms on the U.S. Commission on International Freedom, describes a widespread view that violations of religious freedom are rampant in the world and that the U.S Government has paid too little attention to the crimes.
The Baptist Press announced that the need for such a course in U.S. foreign policy became obvious to many American evangelicals and others as they became educated in the mid-1990s to the vast persecution globally of Christians especially. Twogaa might point out that that persecution was exacerbated by Christianity’s charge to convert people of a different religion in different countries to Christianity.
The law, among its provisions, created within the State Department an office of international religious freedom and the position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. It also established USCIRF, a bipartisan nine-member panel to monitor the status of religious liberty worldwide and issue reports to Congress, the President and the State Department. Under the Trump administration through executive order, each Embassy of the State Department in every country where we have one, which is most, provide an annual report on the status of religious liberty in its country.
In its victory jubilation last year, evangelicals, under President Trump garnered three appointments to the U.S, Commission on International Religious Freedom:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a right-wing Christian evangelical organization notably called out by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate” group. As President of FRC, the organization led by Perkins is clearly an anti-LGBT and Islamic hate group. He has a sordid political history, having once purchased Klansman David Duke’s mailing list for use in a Louisiana political campaign he was managing.
Perkins contends that gay rights advocates intend to round up Christians in “boxcars.” In a speech to the Oak Initiative Summit, he said, “Those who understand the homosexual community ---the activists ---they’re very intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful … To me, that is the height of hatred, to be silent when we know there are individuals that are engaged in activity, behavior, and an agenda that will destroy them and our nation.”
“To those practicing Islam in its entirety, it’s not just a religion. It’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system, and it is a military system and it has Shariah law that you’ve heard about and those things will tear and destroy the fabric of democracy. So we have to be very clear about our laws and restrain those things that would harm the whole. We are a nation --- let me be very clear about this. We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.” (Washington Watch radio show.)
Twogaa would ask, “where do you think Tony Perkins is going with this?”
Gary L. Bauer, a one-time Republican presidential candidate, serves as president of American Values, a non-profit public policy organization, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee, and Director of Christians United for Israel Action Fund, the Washington D. C., lobbying arm of Christian United for Israel (CUFI). In 2010, the Zionist Organization of America honored Bauer with the Defender of Israel Award.
Although Twogaa would like to note it has nothing against Israel as a country, it disagrees with its actions against Palestinians. However, Israel in no way promotes freedom of religion.
Johnny Moore founded The Kairos Company. After a dozen years at Liberty University, Moore was personally recruited by Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank, The Voice, Celebrity, Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader, The Bible, A.D., The Bible Continues, Son of God) to serve as Chief of Staff and Vice President of Faith Content for his United Artist Media Group (an MGM company). He advised on script content and supervised all faith marketing and public relations initiatives for all faith and family properties.
Moore is also a widely read columnist and a spokesperson for a number of organizations on a number of issues. He serves on the boards of World Help, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Dream Center LA, The Influence Lab, and the World Evangelical Alliance.
While Congress and the Supreme Court give a wink and a nod to government agencies proselyting Christian religion, most scholars agree that the establishment clause of the First Amendment forbids the government from favoring any particular faith. Certainly, they differ over whether government efforts to enlist the aid of religious, social service organizations threaten the healthy separation of church and state, which the establishment clause protects.
The International Religious Freedom Act allows the Christian religion through the State Department to be favored and as a USA foreign policy to seek to convert the rest of the world to Christianity. In the eyes of evangelicals, this is the definition of “religious freedom.” While this is fine if it were a private institution or foundation doing it, it certainly isn’t the place for the United States government to act as world enforcer.
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