The US Senate confirmed Biden appointee — and former Obama Chief of Staff — Denis McDonough as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Monday.
A relatively unnoticed office for most of the US public, the VA Secretary has, like so many positions, become increasingly political and controversial. Robert Wilkie, the previous VA Secretary under President Trump, made waves when the VA decided to put the VA motto on plaques at 142 VA cemeteries last summer. This wouldn’t seem like a big deal, except the VA motto is a quote from a speech made by President Abraham Lincoln: Read more
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has been appointed to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) via Senator Mitch McConnell:
I am grateful to Majority Leader McConnell for appointing me to this prestigious position. From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally…
Tony Perkins and Read more
Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest, was recently appointed by President Obama to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. The USCIRF makes policy recommendations to the US government regarding “freedom of religion or belief abroad.”
In a recent column, Reese expounded on the 2014 USCIRF report (published before his appointment) and highlighted the USCIRF’s assertion that religious freedom is a “fundamental human right,” one that even the US doesn’t always get exactly right: Read more
Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Christian Post, like many sites, focused on the apparent ability to wear religious accoutrements:
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
The US Navy appeared to try to quell Read more
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said Afghanistan has improved, but it still suffers from poor religious freedom:
Afghans still can’t debate religion or question prevailing Islamic orthodoxies without fear of being punished, a U.S. commission said in a new report on Tuesday…
The environment for exercising religious freedom remains “exceedingly poor” for dissenting members of Afghanistan’s Sunni Muslim majority and for minorities, such as Shiite Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs Read more
Several sites have already documented the decision by the Afghan government to “suspend” the activities of two Christian aid groups after allegations of “proselytizing.”
US-based Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid will not be allowed to operate while the allegations, aired Sunday on Afghan television, are investigated, said Mohammad Hashim Mayar, the deputy director of the Afghan government office that oversees nongovernment organizations, known as NGOs.
Mayar said officials did not have any evidence of proselytizing beyond the television report…
Proselytizing is illegal in Afghanistan, as it is in many Muslim countries. It is a hot-button issue for many Afghans sensitive to the influence of the scores of foreign aid groups operating in the country to help it recover from decades of war.
CWS and NCA both denied the allegations. For CWS, it was the first time Read more
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 Read more