Thursday, October 15, 2015

Religious Freedom Report 10.15.15 #religiousfreedom

The State Department released it's annual report on religious freedom worldwide, something they have been doing since 1998. The USA is not included in the report. Maybe there was an assumption that since the Constitution protects religious freedom that it would not be an issue. That was, however, in 1998. In 17 years things have changed. 

The military has been taking a lot of hits on religious freedom, mainly pushed by anti-theist Mikey Weinstein and his group. At West Point, a Tech Sgt was reprimanded for letting his superiors know that he did not support the idea of a same-sex wedding being performed at one of the base chapels citing that the chapels are a place of worship and the event would be a "mockery to God." He is right, from a Christian perspective, but many military leaders are diluting anything considered Christian and even going so far as to hire atheists to be chaplains.

Americans United for that imaginary separation of church and state, reported:
Tech. Sgt. Layne Wilson had filed claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the First and Fifth Amendments, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Privacy Act, arguing that his superiors had violated his rights by reprimanding him after he sent an email to a superior officer objecting to a same-sex wedding ceremony held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Wilson, a Mormon, read an article about the ceremony taking place at West Point’s chapel and got so worked up that he decided to email the Academy’s Commandant of Cadets to protest it.  
“This is wrong on so many levels,” Wilson wrote. “If they wanted to get married in a hotel that is one thing. Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again.”
Not surprisingly, the commandant didn’t appreciate Wilson’s missive. He forwarded the email directly to Wilson’s UTANG superiors, writing, “I am not sure why he wrote me – maybe he thinks I care about his opinion (which I don’t), or that I am responsible for the policy (which I am not), or that I control the facility (which I don’t), but in any event I believe he may have some problems with the lifting of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and thought that you or his immediate commander might want to further investigate.”

 New York Daily News reported of an incident that is on going in Hawaii over a sign at a Military base. Of course, Mike "Whine"stein is involved:
The Marines are known for standing firm on things, and so far, this is no exception.
According to, a religious freedom group has pressured the Marine base in Kaneohe, Hawaii to remove a sign in front of the base stating "God bless the military, their families and the civilians who work with them" on the basis that it is unconstitutional.
"This sign will remain in its present location and not be altered in any way," said Col. Sean C. Killeen, commander of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in a letter to the group protesting, Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
"This sign has the secular purpose of conveying a message of support, does not advance or inhibit religion or any particular faith, nor does it foster excessive government entanglement with religion."
The MRFF claims that the sign, erected after September 11, 2011, claims it does put those who have religious beliefs above those who do not.
The group's founder, Mikey Weinstein, claims that his group represents 72 Marines of nine different faith groups that either want the signs taken down, or additional signs that represent their faiths. He says that using "God bless" establishes Christianity as "an approved Marine solution for only one faith group."

As for the State Department report, Secretary of State John Kerry reported:
"Religious freedom extends way beyond mere demands that the practitioners of one faith understand that they have no right to coerce others into submission, conversion or silence, or to literally take their lives because of their beliefs." 

In short, what this has meant in America, is that if one claims he is NOT religious, he is often being given the right to trump anything religious.

PRI reports:
The US is not one of the nations covered in the State Department’s annual report on religious freedom. But religious scholar Reza Aslan says he would give America high marks.
“As a modern democratic constitutional state, we have a commitment to uphold freedoms of religion, human rights, equal rights for all citizens,” Aslan says. “At the same time, however, these commitments are going to constantly be in conflict with some more conservative interpretations of religion.”
The challenge for the US is to uphold its secular values, “while at the same time promoting religious beliefs, even when they sometimes clash with each other,” adds Aslan, author of "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."  

The State Department report did isolate ISIS as being the main cause of most breaches against religious freedom on a global scale:

Islamic extremists, terrorist groups and rebel organizations are contributing to the daunting challenges for religious freedom around the world, the State Department said in a new report issued on Wednesday.
The government’s analysis gave special blame to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), whose brutal regime of institutionalized rapes, murders and slavery has targeted anyone not conforming to its narrow and extreme version of Islam. 
In other parts of the world, various militias and violent groups have cracked down on religious freedom, whether it’s the extremist group Boko Haram’s rampages through Western Africa or the Pakistani Taliban.
SOURCE:  The Hill

Jerome Socolovsky, wrote an article at Voice of America which states the obvious question in light of current events: As US Preaches Religious Freedom Abroad, Critics See Hypocrisy? 

Part of the article reads:
“We see ourselves as having achieved religious freedom, it’s something that we have,” she said. “But when it comes to other people, we need to manage it, we need to teach them to be tolerant, we need to reform them — which is something that the government, paradoxically, would never do at home.”
That’s because the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from meddling in the religious practice of citizens.
The difficulty — some say impossibility — of achieving absolute religious freedom for everyone came into sharp relief recently with the controversy over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It’s the domestic precursor of the international act, adopted as a federal law in 1993, and has since been adopted by many states.
With same-sex marriage now legal in the United States after a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, conservative Christian florists and caterers have sought to use state RFRAs to opt out of providing services for gay and lesbian weddings, triggering protests from gay rights groups.
And with regard to foreign policy, some critics of the international religious freedom effort say there’s an ulterior motive: to make the world safe for Christian missionaries.
Spreading Protestant values?
“The U.S. campaign for international religious freedom is very much a religious campaign,” Belgian political scientist Jakob de Roover wrote several months ago on, an Indian news website. “It seeks to spread Protestant-Christian values across the world but does so under the guise of promoting and protecting human rights that are ‘universally held sacred.’ ” Voice of America