Op-Ed: The Hill -- Remembering International Religious Freedom Day
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
October 29, 2013 | By Robert P. George
This past Sunday, the United States commemorated International Religious Freedom Day, marking the 15th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).
The law also advocates strong and consistent U.S. participation in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations as a vital way to advance religious freedom and shine the spotlight on violators.
How can the United States use the UN as a platform to support this bedrock liberty?
The United States should continue its firm, unequivocal support for the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The Special Rapporteur—currently Professor Heiner Bielefeldt of Germany—monitors freedom of religion or belief worldwide, communicates with governments about alleged violations, conducts country visits, and brings religious freedom concerns to the UN and public attention through reports and statements. Further, the United States should seek the appointment or continuation of country-specific Special Rapporteurs for religious freedom violators, particularly CPC nations.
The United States and other UN member states must remain vigilant against any efforts to erode the language of the new resolutions or to use other means to move toward global anti-blasphemy laws.
In enacting IRFA fifteen years ago, Congress and the President recognized that religious freedom matters. It is an integral part of our history and identity as a free nation, a key human right recognized by international law and treaty, a core component of our commitment to defend democracy globally, and a necessary element of our national security and our determination to ensure a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world. In the aftermath of International Religious Freedom Day, let us rededicate our efforts, at the UN and elsewhere, on behalf of this pivotal liberty.
George is chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).