- Jan 18, 2020
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday continued to raise the alarm about religious freedoms around the world, receiving a warm welcome in Tennessee as his department faced heightened scrutiny amid the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump was addressing a conference for world leaders at the United Nations, but he was talking to his political base Monday as he breezed by a major climate change summit and focused instead on religious persecution, an issue that resonates with evangelical supporters who want to see him reelected next year.
Religious freedom conditions worsened across the globe in the past year, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report, released April 25.
Blasphemy laws are used to persecute critics of Islam in many Muslim countries, whether moderate Muslims, Christians or Jews, and to attack so-called “non-believers,” thus forming an impenetrable barrier to any form of acceptance of other religious beliefs and contributing to the growth of Islamic extremism. Ending these laws could set the stage for free expression of religious opinions in the Muslim world and help modernize Islamic societies.
The former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (2005-2008), Francis Rooney, says due to its stabilizing role in society, religious freedom can be used as a “soft power” weapon to deter extremist ideologies, as evidenced by Holy See diplomacy. Rooney points to the Vatican using inter-religious dialogue as a platform to nurture an exchange of ideas oriented toward finding an Islamic rationale to combat extremist ideology.
World attention is being turned to the blasphemy laws in much of the Muslim world, especially when religious minorities are prosecuted for allegedly offending Islam. Yet active blasphemy laws also exist in many Western, secular nations. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one-fifth of European countries and a third of countries in the Americas – including Canada and several U.S. states – have laws against blasphemy.