“Abolition of this body would send an unintended message to the rest of the world. Oppressive groups may come to believe that the United States is not committed to the protection of religious liberty.” Indeed. But since Muslim states commit most of the violations of religious liberty, and the victims are mostly Christians, the shutdown of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is consistent with the Obama Administration’s clear determination to say and do nothing at all that Muslims might construe as offensive.
(CNSNews.com) — For more than a decade, an independent, statutory monitor has been advising the U.S. executive and legislative branches on international religious freedom, drawing attention to the persecution of people of faith under Muslim, communist and autocratic regimes from Riyadh to Rangoon. But by this time next week, it may have to close its doors.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will shut down unless the U.S. Senate approves a reauthorization bill before then, or unless funding is included in a new continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through the end of the year.
Last September the House of Representatives passed by an overwhelming vote a bill extending the USCIRF”s life for another two years. The bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where it has been held up — by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), according to published reports.
Durbin’s office has not responded to inquiries and requests for comment….
It has drawn attention to the plight of Christians in predominantly Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria; to ongoing religious restrictions and harassment of believers by Vietnam’s communist authorities; to incitement in Saudi school textbooks and materials used in mosques in the U.S.; to attempts by the Islamic bloc at the U.N. to outlaw religious “defamation” and promote blasphemy laws; and to the persecution of Baha”is in Iran, Buddhists and Protestants in Burma and Uighur Muslims in China.
A key function of the USCIRF has been its recommendations for the State Department to designate “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) under the International Religious Freedom Act, the same 1998 legislation that created the commission.
The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all followed some recommendations, but not others. The Obama State Department recently overruled USCIRF recommendations to designate Pakistan, Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Turkmenistan as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), in addition to those currently on the list (Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.)
CPCs are countries whose governments either perpetrate or condone “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” abuses of religious freedom. The U.S. may impose sanctions or take other diplomatic steps as incentives to improve….
When the House debated the reauthorization bill on Sept. 14, its author, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) voiced frustration with the situation in the Senate, saying some members there “are trying to kill this commission, for some reason.”
“Quite frankly, I believe that some over there [in the Senate] and this very administration would not mind seeing this commission shut its doors,” he said.
During the same debate Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) described the USCIRF as “the quintessential watchdog agency in this town.”
“It doesn’t get the big press, as Mr. Wolf said,” Smith said. “It doesn’t have the big bucks — no K Street lobbyists — but it is a wonderful and a very important and effective commission that keeps track of religious persecution globally, that keeps us in line in the House and the Senate and also the State Department.”…
CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, is urging Americans to contact their senators to urge reauthorization of the USCIRF.