USCIRF Counsels Government on Religious Freedom

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom is a bipartisan US government panel that issues an annual report on the American government’s support of religious freedom.

This year, the report indicates that the US government is becoming less concerned with “religious freedom in its foreign policy and national security decisions,” despite¬†evidence of¬†religious persecution around the globe.

In particular, the USCIRF took issue with the government’s recent semantic change that replaced “religious freedom” with “freedom of worship.”

USCIRF took issue with the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton replacing the words religious freedom with “freedom of worship.” Freedom of worship, the commission contends, is only one part of religious freedom and such a change in phraseology could suggest a much narrower understanding of the right. Regimes could make the case they are respecting the right by allowing faiths they accept to freely worship and permitting a few houses of worship for minority religions…

The president used the phrase “freedom of worship” in Japan on November 14 during his Asia trip. He also used the phrase a few days later in China. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used “freedom of worship” on December 14, 2009 at Georgetown University during an address on human rights. She also used the phrase repeatedly in her Internet Freedom speech on January 21, 2010.

“Because of the policy implications of using ‘freedom of worship’ language, USCIRF urges President Obama, Secretary of Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. government officials to return to invoking or embracing ‘freedom of religion or belief’ or similar language in all public statements and stress the universal nature of these and other rights.”