Religious Freedom Report by State Department

The headline of the Religious New Service/Reuters article blares, “Religious freedom seriously lacking for three-fourths of world’s population, ambassador says.”

 

This was how Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken summarized the new 2015 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. David Saperstein, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said all this religious persecution derives from just 24% of the countries. Obviously, a small number of very big countries are responsible for it.

None of the examples in the article involved China. But the article reports that the State Department has identified a number of “Countries of Particular Concern” -- Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The link to the report is actually to the Executive Summary, which just provides some anecdotes. Anecdotal evidence is notoriously subject to bias. Nor do they do really define what constitutes “serious lack” of religious freedom. In the case of North Korea, virtually all freedoms are seriously lacking, and it is not clear that religion is being singled out. Most of these “problem countries" are Islamic sects, where distinctions between politics and religion are in large part arbitrary.

Traditionally, the State Department has not been greatly influenced by religious factors. Saudi Arabia has always been a strong ally, despite the fact that it has never practiced religious freedom. The State Department even helped conceal evidence that high-placed Saudis were involved in the 9/11 attack.

Communist China has always has religious discrimination, and was among those Godless Commies that both officials and the public railed against. But this didn’t stop Nixon and Kissinger from trying to enlist their help in the Vietnam War. Nor has it had much effect on subsequent relations.

About the only time that religion played a major role in America’s foreign affairs involved the Nazi regime. Despite severe religious persecution, the American government refused to change its immigration quotas to increase the number of Jews allowed into this country. Southern Democrats created these quotas in the 1920’s out of religious bigotry, and opposed changing them. Roosevelt did not wish to jeopardize his coalition, and did nothing.