Religious liberty is one of the foundational human rights, and in various ways Americans cherish it. You can tell that because they fight about it in court and out.
But, as I've written before, religious freedom in the U.S. is in fabulous shape compared with many other countries. Proof of that is contained this year's annual report about this subject from the U.S. Commission on International Religious freedom, which was just released.
As the Religion News Service story to which I've just linked you reports:
"'At best, in most of the countries we cover, religious freedom conditions have failed to improve,' commission chairman Robert P. George said Monday (May 2). 'At worst, they have spiraled further downward.'
"The independent government advisory body recommended that the State Department add the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam to the U.S. government’s list of the world’s worst abusers of human rights and religious freedom. Of the 17 countries USCIRF says are of 'particular concern,' only 10 have been recognized by the State Department."
The USCIRF has performed an important monitoring function since it was created in the early 1990s, but clearly monitoring isn't enough.
Promotion of religious freedom around the world requires additional effort by such branches of government as the State Department, to say nothing of the president personally.
And it requires citizens like you and me to make our voices heard in various ways. One way is to share news of this report with your faith community and other friends. For instance, you could share this blog post, which links people to the actual report. Oh, and you could read the report for yourself, too.
Thanks for helping spread the word.
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A TAXING PROBLEM THAT NEEDS A SOLUTION
And speaking of religious freedom, there's an intriguing court case in Massachusetts that may redefine tax exemption for faith communities. The power to tax, as is said, is the power to destroy. So governments need to be really careful in this regard. On the other hand, I'm guessing there are lots of tax exemptions for allegedly religious purposes around the country that easily could be revoked without threatening religious freedom. Maybe it's time for a thorough look at how we handle tax exemptions for all kinds of non-profit organizations.