Wednesday, October 28, 2009

State Department Releases 2009 Report On International Religious Freedom

Howard Friedman:

The State Department yesterday submitted to Congress its 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom as required by Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998...

After Secretary Clinton's remarks, Assistant Secretary of State Michael S. Posner answered extensive questions from the press (full text of press conference). Posner clarified that information in the report being released would be used over the next few months to make judgments on which countries should remain on, be taken off or be added to the list of "countries of particular concern"(CPC) -- those with particularly problematic religious freedom records. This report did not make those designations.

The U.S. Helsinki Commission issued a release praising the State Department's report. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was more critical, issuing a statement urging the Obama administration to take stronger steps than it has so far. USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said: "Both Democratic and Republican administrations have underutilized the 'country of particular concern' designation." He emphasized differences between USCIRF and the State Department, and called for stronger action than in the past against Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

The Washington-based Institute for Religion & Public Policy issued a release that applauded Secretary Clinton's statements but strongly criticized the Obama Administration for not yet appointing an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.


thinking said...

Sec. Clinton's statement was indeed a good and strong one; she has been a great Sec of State so far.

As for the post of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, it has a very limited history. The post was created in 1998 under Bill Clinton. Pres. Bush's choice for the post was appointed in May 2002, which was of course well into the second year of Bush's first term.

I understand the need for advocacy groups like The Institute for Religion and Public Policy to keep up the pressure for their cause, but I don't think in context the Obama administration is behind the curve in making their appt to this post.

Brian Hollar said...

I have several friends who helped prepare this report and have met one of the former Ambassadors for International Religious Freedom. My impression from talking to one of my friends that works professionally in on religious freedom is that Obama gets incredibly high marks for his dogged commitment to religious freedom issues -- both at home and abroad.