re•lig•ious [ri lijjǝss] (adj) free-dom [fre’edǝm] (noun)

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min.  www.docriggs.com   Ministry Minute ~ when there’s only a minute for ministry  

An original work of Riggs Family Ministry and True North Ministries

The Human Rights Report “The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – The Human Rights Report – cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.”[i] According to the May 2010 National Security Strategy, “We see it as fundamental to our own interests to support a just peace around the world – one in which individuals, and not just nations, are granted the fundamental rights that they deserve.”[ii]

In a recent report by Thomas F. Farr, “Religious Freedom Under the Gun: The Obama administration neglects a key foreign policy issue,” [iii] he reports that the U.S. State Department announced that it is dropping coverage of religious freedom from its annual Human Rights Report. According to the State Department it is to “avoid duplicating coverage available in the annual Report on International Religious Freedom.”[iv] On the State Department website where ‘current’ reports from both categories are to be found (neither has anything more current filed than 2010), the following quote is highlighted at the top from Secretary Clinton: “Religious freedom provides a cornerstone for every healthy society. It empowers faith-based service. It fosters tolerance and respect among different communities. And it allows nations that uphold it to become more stable, secure and prosperous.”

In fact, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the Human Rights Report pays homage actually does list, all the way at number 18, the following: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”[v] This may come as a surprise to most who read this, the U.N. by its article 18 gives more standing to the public practice of one’s religion than the current U.S. administration does! Article 19 continues the thought of 18 with: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This would certainly put a damper on those who seek to silence the National Religious Broadcasters and political pundits such as Mr. Limbaugh and others who utilize ‘any media and regardless of frontiers’ to ‘impart information and ideas.’

A further review of the Declaration also seems to logically read the description of marriage for the purpose of raising a family and seems to indicate it is between a man and a woman, although not specifically stated. It is logical to conclude however from the language. (Article 16: 1-3)

Before you look to your loving spouse, of the opposite sex, and say that it appears the kindly but aging Rev. Riggs has dropped his false teeth in the soup, and I am endorsing anything that comes out of the United Nations, I am simply pointing out that this administration’s favorite play toy in Manhattan seems to be utilizing terminology that gives support to those whom this administration is seeking to gag (maybe a poor choice of words, because many fundamentals and conservatives have gagged at the rhetoric that comes out of 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue), let’s use the word ‘silence.’ U.N. doctrine is supportive in written text at least, of exercising religious freedom even outside the place of worship and the U.N. does use the term ‘religious freedom’ rather than ‘freedom of worship’ which is in vogue in polite Democratic circles. (It keeps those Christians off the streets and out of the public square!) Granted, the Declaration was ratified on December 10, 1948 and that was at a time when the U.N. also saw fit to “grant” Israel sovereign nation status. Obviously much has changed in sixty-four years but the Declaration’s wording remains the same.

However, back to Mr. Farr’s article and the evidence with which he convinces us that while the administration is trying to distance itself from the notion of enforcing ‘religious freedom’ declarations on the international front, there is certainly a crisis of epic proportions world-wide. Mr. Farr cites two studies by the Pew Research Center. First, “…70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is severely restricted, by either governments or private actors.”[vi] In the second report (2011) “found that between mid-2006 and mid-2009 the situation deteriorated in twice as many countries as it improved.”[vii] This is not making headway at all but rather is steering the U.S. on a collision course with the countries having even less tolerance than a decade ago.

As many of the nations where the restrictions on religious freedom are non-Western, Muslim-majority; it should not surprise you that: “Of all the religious groups subject to persecution, Christians came out on top…”[viii]  The noted harassment of Christians was found in 130 countries. Muslims did not fare much better. They were reported as receiving harassment in 117 countries. The article states that a growing degree of anti-religion sentiment is in Western Europe which had been previously a purveyor of practicing priests and parishes. It does not indicate, however, whether the Western European disdain of religion is all religion or, perhaps because of the rapid spread of Islam there that it might be directed toward the Muslim. In any event, according to Pew, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all in the category of ‘high’ social hostility to religion. France has moved ahead of Cuba in government restrictions against religion. Again, one wonders if France’s disdain is directed more at the Muslim than any other religion but the information is not available from these sources to determine the answer.

Although Western Europe has not engaged in torture, rape, murder, unjust imprisonment and execution for religion as many more extreme ‘societies’ have; there is a belief that “religious freedom is not only unnecessary for human flourishing or social development, but that it poses a threat to these and other goods.”[ix] Especially troubling is that democratic majorities, as well as authoritarian regimes, are rejecting religious freedom. Canada sometimes mirrors and sometimes leads Western Europe where now an “aggressive secularist majority…refuses to permit religiously informed moral arguments into public life.”[x] A recent conference in Oxford brought to light the possibility that “Once same-sex marriage is legalized in the United Kingdom, (an audience to popular media on the matter), agreed, dissenters should be ‘pursued by the law.’”[xi] As I mentioned, sometimes Canada is ahead of their European relatives. “In Canada, it is estimated that since the adoption of gay marriage in 2005, between 200 and 300 proceedings have been launched against defenders of marriage in courts, human rights commissions, and employment boards.” It is reported that the Catholic bishop of Calgary was threatened and charged with a human rights violation for a letter he circulated on his teaching on marriage. According to Farr, the bishop capitulated and stopped his teaching.

Recently, sociologists have proclaimed that religious freedom is good for democracy. It is also linked to economic development, the equality of women and the ‘absence of violent religious extremism’ all of which one would think are things to be sought after in a democracy. From President Obama, however we hear statements such as March 2009, at Notre Dame: “It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God… asks of us.”[xii] Later that year, in December at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defined the content of religious liberty: “To fulfill their potential, people… must be free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose.” So, it seems, the President and Secretary of State are out of step with even the Declaration on Human Rights set down by the U.N. I suppose that is to be expected since the U.N. has not done enough in line with the Declaration on Human Rights since about the time that it was enacted in 1948. If you doubt that, ask the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem “Navi” Pillay. She is an Indian South African who seems to be a remarkable lady and jurist with an incredible record as well as a husband who was imprisoned under Apartheid. She said, in 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Declaration that: “The promises enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) remain unfilled for tens of millions of people worldwide.”[xiii]

Amen to that! (Oopps… can you say ‘amen’ to a statement by the U.N.)


[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Farr, Thomas F “Religious Freedom Under the Gun” The Weekly Standard  July 16, 2012 (22-24)

[iv] Ibid. 22

[vi] Farr, Thomas F “Religious Freedom Under the Gun” The Weekly Standard  July 16, 2012 (22)

[vii] Ibid. (22)

[viii] Ibid. (23)

[ix] Ibid. (23)

[x] Ibid. (23)

[xi] Ibid. (23)

[xii] Ibid. (24)

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