ON-Lion Letter

In late July, "the Obama administration seemed to present a united front on one of the many crises that threaten American interests in the world" -- "the precipitous global decline in religious freedom, characterized in some areas by a descent into vile, inhumane, and destabilizing religious persecution," according to a National Review Online (NRO) article by Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

President Barack Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein to the position of U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, a position created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and the U.S. State Department released its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, also mandated by IRFA.  Citing a parade of horribles, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the nomination of Saperstein and the issuance of the annual report demonstrated “the abiding commitment of the American people and the entire U.S. government to the advancement of religious freedom worldwide.”

In his NRO piece, Farr says "Rabbi Saperstein is a good choice for the post.  In terms of religious freedom at home, conservatives (including your scribe) do not agree with his strict-separationist tendencies -- for example, he criticized the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision (on the other hand, he supported the Court’s decision in Hosanna-Tabor).  But he is a veteran advocate for religious freedom abroad and has assured friends that he will work assiduously to succeed.  I believe him.

"As for Secretary of State Kerry, his words were good ones," Farr goes on, "especially his rejection of 'lists' as mere rhetorical devices, and his emphasis on planning and 'action' in our international religious-freedom policy.  The problem is that it is very difficult to believe this administration on the issue of international religious freedom -- it has a six-year litany of splendid words, and a record of 'plans and action' that has added up to zero, zilch, nada.

"The stakes are high," Farr concludes.  "The Senate should confirm David Saperstein immediately and, at the same time, Congress and the State Department must ensure that he is given the tools to succeed."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports the Berkley Center's Religious Freedom Project.

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