Obama Signs New Religious Freedom Act

A new law (HR 1150) extends the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998 (here). It establishes an office in the State Department to address international religious persecution. It will assess a country’s degree of religious persecution, and report directly to the Secretary of State. Religious media describe the new law in dramatically different ways.

 

The headline from the Religious News Service (RNS) said, “New International Religious Freedom Act a first for atheists.” It said:

“‘The freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs,’ the act states for the first time, ‘and the right not to profess or practice any religion.’”

“It also condemns ‘specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs,’ and enables the State Department to target ‘non-state actors’ against religious freedom, like the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and other extra-government groups.”

It noted that in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, atheists are targets of persecution; “in September, a Saudi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for professing his atheism via Twitter.”

Christianity Today also covered the story, presenting a report from Baptist Press (here). Its article was longer than the RNS article, yet it did not say a word about protections for atheists or non-theistic beliefs. It was only concerned with persecution of Christians, e.g., “Christians ‘are the most persecuted group on the planet,’ said Alexandra Tompson, legal analyst at ADF International…. ‘Even in Europe, they often face intolerance and discrimination.’”

In the eyes of many evangelicals, atheists are an affront to Christianity and do not deserve protections. These folk claim that saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” constitutes a war against Christmas and Christianity. They favor religious discrimination, as long as it is pro-Christian. In the name of God and family values, they played a disproportionate role in electing Donald Trump, a serial adulterer who boasts of grabbing women by the pussy.