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Religion | U.S. commission blasts Obama for slighting religious freedom

Issue: "GOP idea man," May 22, 2010

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) at the end of April released its annual report, which detailed religious freedom violators around the world-and slammed the Obama administration for its inattention to the issue.

"The U.S. government must do more," said Leonard Leo, chair of the commission, a government-funded but independent group.

In the report, the commission wrote that attention to religious freedom "seems to shrink year after year for the White House and the State Department." Leo added that the commission also criticized the Bush and Clinton administrations, neither of which, he said, gave adequate attention to this problem.

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The commission criticized the Obama administration for leaving vacant the office of ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, which could provide a leader on the issue at the State Department. President Obama has named individuals to other religious positions at the agency: the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, the special representative to Muslim communities, and the special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In recent months the commission has had meetings with high-level State Department officials, as well as with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."In a way there has been an open door," Leo said. "But as with previous administrations, foreign policy and national security are a mix of a lot of competing interests. . . . That's why to some extent there needs to be a cultural or intellectual shift."

The commission didn't make any changes to its list of countries of particular concern, the designation of the worst violators of religious freedom. It does plan to investigate recent events in Morocco, where Christians have been targeted and expelled from the country, but Morocco is not listed in this year's report.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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