The U.S. Senate is considering a bill called the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, which would create a special envoy in the State Department to monitor and promote the religious freedom of minorities in that area of the world. The amazing Michael De Dora of CFI has written a letter to the committee chairs asking them to include the non-religious in that envoy’s mandate.
Several international treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, protect the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression for all persons. This includes to right to believe and worship as one would like. It also includes the right to disbelieve in any particular religion, or all religions, as well as the right to criticize all religious ideas.
Unfortunately many countries ignore their commitments to these international treaties. This is especially true in the Near East and South Central Asia, where governments regularly persecute their citizens for crimes of thought or speech.
The House version of this bill, H.R. 301, listed several instances of persecution. These include attacks on Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, as well as attacks on Christians in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Pakistan…
CFI commends the sponsors of the Senate bill for using more inclusive language than their colleagues in the House. However, we urge you to reiterate to your colleagues on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that any and all international religious freedom work performed by the United States government should include protecting the rights of all persons – religious and non-religious alike. As understood in both American and international law, the term “religious minorities” is not limited to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, but persons of all faith traditions, as well as persons of no faith. Creating a governmental position that monitors only certain religious groups not only violates the spirit, if not the letter of the Establishment Clause, but unfairly leaves out other persecuted groups that equally deserve our help.