Religious Liberty Gets a Witness

By Tony Perkins

If the President won’t talk about religious persecution, Congress will. Yesterday, at a Senate subcommittee hearing, members turned the floodlights on the dark world of religious hostility — an international crisis this administration continues to ignore. Chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Committee is racing to fill the diplomatic gap left by this White House as the world literally explodes in violence toward men and women of faith.

While ISIS litters the Middle East with the bodies of Christians, Yazidis, and others, and Boko Haram continues its rampage of terror, America’s voice is virtually silent. And that silence is not only devastating to the victims — but to the debate at large. In the absence of strong leadership, our enemies only gain more power to destroy this fundamental right.

After ISIS recently attacked Assyrian Christian villages on the Khabour River and destroyed their homes and churches, a pastor reported that the main question families struggle with is: “Shall we wait to be killed or shall we leave the country?” He said people wonder, “(w)here are the Western countries, churches, organizations and the politicians? Where are their voices and acts?” The pastor went on, “(I)t was very hard for me to have answers or solutions, except trying to help by praying and telling the people to continue to be faithful and to wait for God’s direction for their families.”

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America is bound — not only by conscience — but by law to uphold this fundamental human right for men and women around the world. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 could not be more clear that “(i)t shall be the policy of the United States … (t)o condemn violations of religious freedom, and to promote, and to assist other governments in the promotion of, the fundamental right to freedom of religion.”

Not only is religious freedom a fundamental, inherent, and international human right, but, as I explained today, it’s also good foreign policy. Religious freedom promotes economic growth, and suppressing it stifles economic growth around the world. In turn, the lack of economic growth fosters instability and a lack of security.

One recent study found a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Religious freedom is important for peace and security, which in turn promotes economic growth and prosperity. It all boils down to this: there is no downside to protecting religious liberty — both here and abroad. That’s why it’s important for this new Congress to make the issue a number one priority moving forward.

“Our moral voice and supporting actions have been increasingly and noticeably absent with regard to international religious freedom,” I told the Committee. “Our silence only encourages those who work actively to diminish or even destroy this fundamental human right. America has both a legal and moral obligation to speak and act on behalf of religious freedom. We must once again find our voice to speak and our courage to act.” To read my full testimony, click here.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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