When it comes to religious freedom, Americans don't have much to worry about...yet.
Even so, I'd be willing to say that anyone who has ever come out in defense of true religious freedom in the face of the rampant secularization has experienced at least substantial pushback (if not worse) against their religious beliefs. Don't believe me? Next time you're hanging out in a group outnumbered 5:1 by people who identify as L, G, B, T, or Q, try simply explaining why the church takes a strong stance against gay marriage. Or, try simply explaining to anyone under the age of 35 why Christians fight federal funding for abortion.
Try it. Dare ya.
Already, we're looking at a country that from a cultural standpoint, at its best begrudgingly allows religion to exist under a steeple (but heaven--IF IT EXISTS!!??!!--forbid it show its face outside the doors of a church) and at its worst, would go so far as to fight night and day to destroy the ministerial exception and extend the hand of government into the inner dealings of the church. That's the reason why I about screamed when a friend shot me this article:
USCIRF was created in 1998 under the International Religious Freedom Act, an initiative of Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.). It was overwhelmingly adopted by both chambers and signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton. Its mandate was born of the concern that, when it comes to religion issues in foreign affairs, the foreign-policy establishment, the media, and secular human-rights groups have been inattentive at best. In contrast to the State Department’s own religious freedom office, USCIRF is an independent agency. It names the world’s worst religious persecutors and makes non-binding foreign-policy recommendations to the government. Its inter-faith group of nine commissioners...are appointed on a bipartisan basis.
The whole production has a budget of $4 million, and it's done a lot with that money, from raising awareness regarding the conflict in Sudan to maintaining focus on religious persecution in places like China, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. Read the rest of Nina's post--she gives a really good explanation of why the CIRF is unique amongst its government-sponsored counterparts.
Here's the thing: I never would have known about this had a friend not brought it to my attention. I'm normally not focused on international social issues; not that I don't think it's important, it's just not really my schtick anymore. But. I think this is important. I posted the article to Facebook earlier, and someone immediately snarked back at me, claiming that this is exactly what the UN does.
Well, no, genius, this is not what the UN does. The CIRF is an independent agency, and as far as I know, doesn't allow on its board representatives from member-entities that celebrate the degradation of women, or religious persecution, or things like that. Ahem. The CIRF isn't beholden to the State Department, is not bound by party politics, and does not exist under the thumb of "productive diplomacy." It doesn't care if you like it; in fact, other countries around the globe are looking to it as a model for similar organizations.
Someone in the Corner's comments snarked that This Is Not The Business Of The Government And Also Taxpayer Dollars And Blah Blah Blah Something Something Wah; even though the nature of the comment was trollish and whiny, it got me wondering: from a practical standpoint, is it the business of the government to sponsor a group like this? I immediately answered myself, "yes." Absolutely. Groups like these are important because they are, by their very nature, independent from the trappings associated with "official business." CIRF has done amazing things with a budget less than that of many far less-effective domestic activist groups.
The nagging Conservative Academic voice inside of me can't help but posit that if this were some sort of international women's rights research group, or a think tank that devoted its time to fighting racial/gender/sexual discrimination abroad, we'd have heard about CIRF's defunding on the national news. It would be a complete scandal, because the media, as well as liberal activist groups, have always managed to make religious freedom less "human" than other "human" rights focuses.
You know, like the right to rip a living human child out of your body, or the right to have sex with whoever you want. So much more "human" than choosing to worship a loving God.
Religious freedom is the most fundamental human right we've ever come close to scrapping in favor of political correctness. But for those of you who still don't get it, take "religious" out of the equation, and focus on the "freedom" part instead:
CIRF researches and raises red flags, free from government interference, on regimes who murder your fellow human beings simply because they choose to pray. Or not wear a head scarf. Or read a Bible. Or hold a belief in contravention with that of the accepted state doctrine. What could be more anti-human than what the CIRF seeks to expose?
If you're okay with federally-funded anti-bullying campaigns, or federally-funded breast cancer research, or federally-funded health care, or federally funded domestic violence prevention, you should be more than okay with federal funds helping to eliminate the systematic murder of innocent people whose only crime was to love a God not manifested in sociopolitical propaganda.