The act called for the creation of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and the creation of a bipartisan commission to provide independent policy recommendations. While the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations appointed ambassadors and issued, as the act demanded, an annual report on religious persecution, the State Department has now augmented this effort by convening its first conference on the subject last week. The persecution has worsened in the past two decades, with little but lip service offered as a solution, so the timing of the conference was right. Moreover, even in an administration that is as polarizing as this one, this effort ought to have generated the same kind of bipartisan support as the original legislation.
But as a Sunday New York Times editorial demonstrated, the fight for religious liberty abroad is now as much a source of partisan division as the religious-freedom cause taken up by conservative Christians in America.
It’s not surprising that the Times would find something to criticize in just about anything the Trump administration does. But the views in the paper’s editorial, “A Too-Narrow Vision of Religious Freedom,” are indistinguishable from anti-Christian prejudice. As far as the Times was concerned, Evangelical Christians’ interest in religious liberty and the Trump administration’s effort on their behalf renders the subject questionable if not altogether suspect.
The U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback, pledged to protect freedoms for “all faiths,” but the editorial said that he made this vow “despite his own strict Catholic leanings” — as if American Catholics supported the imposition of a new edition of the Spanish Inquisition.