Religious Liberty: Believe Local, Act Global
The world’s worst actors got away with an awful lot when Barack Obama was president. When tyrants across Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and other countries started sensing the White House’s indifference toward religious persecution, they exploited it. Little by little, they let their deep hatred for certain faiths turn violent. As time passed, and they grew more confident that the United States government wouldn’t intervene, their attacks became bolder, more ferocious. Innocent men, women, and children were gunned down, beheaded, raped, tortured, or chased from their homes simply because of who they were and what they believed. It was like a disease that America’s silence left to fester.
It’s going to take time for President Trump to undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s indifference. In the vacuum of American leadership, persecution exploded through some of the darkest corners on earth. Thousands of people paid for our indifference with their lives. Fortunately, this White House is in the process of making sure that never happens again.
Both Secretary Mike Pompeo and Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback hit the ground running, transforming the culture of the State Department almost overnight. Now, seemingly minor crises to the Obama administration are getting the U.S. government’s full attention. Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called China on the carpet for cracking down on a memorial service for earthquake victims from 2008. “The police took away dozens of people who arrived for the planned service on Saturday morning, and they used trucks to remove publications belonging to the church, indicating that a broader move was underway against the congregation,” The New York Times reported. Pastors were arrested; others were hauled in for questioning.
“We call on China to uphold its international commitments to promote respect for religious freedom for all persons,” Nauert said forcefully. Earlier in the week, Pompeo’s agency fired another warning shot — this time to Yemen, whose radicals have vowed, “We will butcher every Baha'i,” a cry echoed by a large number of the country’s armed extremists. In that case, too, the State Department let the world know it was watching. “We call on the Houthis to end their unacceptable treatment of Baha'is and call on them to allow the Baha'i community to practice their religion without fear of intimidation or reprisals.”
To the relief of so many persecuted people of different faiths around the globe, America is regaining its voice on international religious liberty. FRC couldn’t be happier to see the Trump administration place a greater priority on this issue than most administrations. And this week, we’re proud to announce that I’ll be taking an active role in that effort. On Monday, thanks to the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), I was officially appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The commission, which came about as part of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, is tasked with tracking religious freedom violations and making policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress. Most people are familiar with USCIRF because of the annual “watch list” it puts together on countries that pose a particular threat to people of faith.
For FRC, this appointment is a recognition of the significant work we’ve done on religious liberty nationally and internationally. From testifying before Congress to fighting for the release of Afghan Christian Abdul Rahman and Sudan’s Meriam Ibrahim, it has been our honor to bring worldwide attention to the plight of the persecuted. My term at USCIRF will last two years, and I’ll continue to serve as FRC’s president during that time.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to Majority Leader McConnell for appointing me to such a prestigious position, and I look forward to doing all I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally. One immediate step we can take in this regard is to make sure that the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act is fully and properly implemented.
I also look forward to working with willing partners among those nations on USCIRF’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern” to substantively address religious freedom concerns — even at the grassroots level — and assist them in taking the actions necessary to be removed from the list. It’s my hope that through the work of USCIRF, the world will become one step closer to recognizing the vital role religious freedom and the defense of religious minorities play in peace, security, and human flourishing.
Originally published here.
Republicans certainly looked like the underdogs on paper, but the last two weeks of primary voting might be pointing to a closer midterm race than Democrats counted on. In a year when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) party was supposed to have the edge in turnout, reality hasn’t exactly matched up with prophesy. And for Americans concerned about protecting President Trump’s progress, that’s a good thing!
Tuesday’s showdowns in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania weren’t the biggest primaries, but they were certainly some of the most revealing. The Keystone State, which got national attention because of the newly redrawn congressional districts, turned in some political stunners — including the wins by four socialist-backed candidates. As some pundits noted with surprise, “The more progressive candidate won in Democratic primaries around the country. The question, however, is whether those more liberal candidates will hurt the party’s chances in November.”
The biggest shocker came courtesy of Nebraskans, where congressional candidate Kara Eastman, an extreme Bernie Sanders-type progressive, beat the Democratic Party’s heavily funded candidate, Brad Ashford (who held this seat two cycles ago). In other races, a similar story line played out: far-left extremists winning out over more moderate Democrats. Is that good news or bad news for the party’s congressional takeover? Most people aren’t sure.
As far as Republicans are concerned, Lou Barletta — one of FRC Action’s True Bluers — won the GOP nod in Pennsylvania for the U.S. Senate seat. That’s great news for conservatives, who will be facing Sen. Bob Casey (D) in a state that Donald Trump won. In Idaho, one of FRC Action’s lone endorsements of the night, congressional hopeful Russ Fulcher, who’s been a real champion on our issues, also won.
Although the GOP still has a tough hill to climb in November, there was no shortage of good news on the turnout front. In Nebraska, Republicans cast 80,000 more votes than the Democrats (despite having no competitive primaries to motivate them). Pollster Chris Wilson also pointed out that in Oregon, a blue state if there ever was one, the Democratic vote dropped a whopping 48 percent from 2016 — with 304,000 fewer votes cast. As for Pennsylvania, probably the most-watched state of the night, GOP turnout was up 82 percent over 2014, while Democratic turnout dropped from 2014. In a state that could well decide which party holds the gavel after November, that’s significant.
In fact, CNN warns, the Democrats’ celebration may be premature. “A new CNN survey (May 2-5) found that Republican enthusiasm has increased in the last two months, with 44 percent now saying they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. That’s up from 36 percent in March.” The headline? “Democrats’ 2018 advantage nearly gone.” Roll Call explains: “The poll’s data showed that the movement in the generic ballot mirrored the shift in enthusiasm. The Democrats’ huge February lead of 16 points in the generic, which had slipped to 6 points in March, has now hit margin-of-error territory, with only a three-point lead in May.”
What’s fueling the GOP wave? Wilson highlighted Deep Root’s analytics, which tracked the issue ads by House and Senate candidates. Out of the top 15 issue ads, social issues were in the top tier. Not surprisingly, the tax cuts topped the list, followed by ads promoting the overall Trump agenda, jobs, immigration, and then conservative values like life and religious liberty. If you look at just issue-specific ads, the top trio were economic, immigration, and social.
Let’s hope that’s instructive to conservative candidates heading into a wild campaign season. Run on what wins: the president’s agenda and Americans’ core values!
Originally published here.
The Abortion Case That’s Really About the First Amendment…
Can a state force pregnancy resource centers to violate their beliefs? In March of this year, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a California law that requires pregnancy resource centers to advertise for the abortion industry. Congress has followed the case closely, especially since it could determine whether the state can order people to ignore their consciences on other moral issues too.
One leader who’s consistently stood up for the rights of these pregnancy resource centers is Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD). Tuesday, he joined us at FRC to talk about the ongoing fight to protect mothers, their unborn children, and the First Amendment rights of the pro-lifers working on their behalf.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.