- Aug 3, 2020
Although Pope Francis surprised many by meeting with Myanmar’s military leadership shortly after arriving in Yangon on Monday, on Tuesday the pontiff balanced the scales by delivering a speech offering clear support for democratic government, and encouraging a transition looking to leave six decades of military rule behind.
Watchdogs had hoped the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed last year would prod the State Department to release its list sooner, Daniel Mark, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “but they did miss the deadline.”
Given that President Donald Trump repeatedly has vowed to make defending religious freedom a key element of U.S. foreign policy, release of the first State Department International Religious Freedom Report on his watch was keenly anticipated. Overall, observers say there’s good stuff in it, but it still leaves the basic question unanswered: Having named the problem, what are we going to do about it?
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the United States promotes religious freedom as a moral imperative. “As importantly, we promote religious freedom because countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant, and peaceful,” — Tillerson continued — “The failure of governments to protect this right breeds instability, terrorism, and violence.”
On July 28, four secularist organizations – American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition for America – issued a joint statement calling for “dialogue with the Trump administration.” The four signatory organizations urged Trump to call upon them as a resource, so they can work together to “ensure religious freedom and inclusion for all Americans throughout your tenure as President of the United States.”
Donald Trump has nominated Sam Brownback, the current governor of Kansas, to be the new ambassador for the Commission for International Religious Freedom. Brownback has a long history with religious freedom including being one of the sponsors who created the commission when he was in the U.S. Senate.