A recent Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer by U.S. State Department religious freedom leaders points to an important nexus in religious freedom abuses and other points of national security.
“[N]early every government and entity that poses a major foreign policy challenge to the United States also commits monumental religious freedom abuses,” the editorial states.
The authors, Father Thomas J. Reese and Dr. Daniel I. Mark, chair and vice chair respectively of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, write of the country’s tradition of taking “a firm and resolute stand” for religious liberty. The International Religious Freedom Act provides the mechanism for placing financial as well as political pressure on nations such as China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and Pakistan that discriminate against or outlaw one or more religions.
The authors also strongly recommend the designation of ISIS as an “entity of particular concern,” a new category from Congress which holds violent religious extremist groups, including terrorist organizations, as responsible as recognized governments for religious persecution.
The International Religious Freedom Act provides the mechanism for placing financial as well as political pressure on nations such as China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and Pakistan that discriminate against or outlaw one or more religions.
Finally, they recommend the rapid nomination of “a well-qualified ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom” and making religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, a top priority.
Thomas J. Reese, USCIRF chair, has been a Senior Analyst for the National Catholic Reporter since 2014. He entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained in 1974. He also is the author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. He received a B.A. and M.A. from St. Louis University, M.Div. from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph. D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He was appointed to the Commission on May 15, 2014, and reappointed on May 12, 2016, by President Obama for a two-year term ending May 2018.
USCIRF vice chair Dr. Daniel Mark is an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University in Pennsylvania where he also serves on the Jewish Religion and Culture Lecture Committee and the Graduate Committee of the Department of Political Science. He is also an expert on Constitutional law and the Supreme Court.
He holds a B.A. (magna cum laude), M.A., and Ph. D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He was appointed to the Commission on May 9, 2014, by then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and reappointed on May 16, 2016 by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) for a two-year term expiring in May 2018.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF, is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and Congressional leaders of both political parties. Their work is supported by a professional, nonpartisan staff. USCIRF is separate from the State Department, although the Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is a non-voting ex officio Commissioner.