(CNSNews.com) - Asked on Monday if Islamic State terrorists are carrying out a campaign of genocide against Syria's Christians, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said the word genocide "involves a very specific legal determination that has, at this point, not been reached."
He condemned the terrorists' "willingness to target religious minorities, including Christians."
Earnest noted that the Obama administration has long expressed its concerns over ISIS/ISIL's "slaughter" of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
"You'll recall, at the very beginning of the military campaign against ISIL, at the--some of the first actions that were ordered by President Obama, by the United States military were to protect Yazidi religious minorities that were essentially cornered on Mount Sinjar by ISIL fighters. We took those strikes to clear a path so that those religious minorities could be rescued.
"So we have long been concerned by the way that--that ISIL attempts to target religious minorities.
"We also know that they target Christians in the area, too. In that region of the world, Christians are a religious minority, and we certainly have been concerned--you know, that's one of the many reasons that we're concerned with ISIL and their tactics, which is that it's an affront to our values as a country to see people attacked, singled out or slaughtered based on their religious beliefs."
The reporter asked Earnest, "But you're not prepared to use the word 'genocide' yet in this situation?"
"The -- my understanding is the use of that word involves a very specific legal determination that has, at this point, not been reached. But we've been quite candid and direct, exactly, about how -- how ISIL's tactics are worthy of the kind of international, robust response that the international community is leading. And those tactics include a willingness to target religious minorities, including Christians."
As CNSNews.com recently reported, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last week that he is having an “additional evaluation” done to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East should be declared “genocide.”
“I will make a decision on it as soon as I have that additional evaluation, and we will proceed forward from there,” Kerry told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Feb. 24.
Kerry was responding to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.), who is the sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that the slaughter of Christians is in fact genocide.
Hillary Clinton in December agreed that "genocide” describes the Islamic State’s treatment of Christians.
A New Hampshire voter asked her, "Will you join those leaders, faith leaders and secular leaders and political leaders from both the right and the left, in calling what is happening by its proper name -- genocide?"
"I will, because we now have enough evidence," Clinton replied.
Speaking in Bolivia last July, Pope Francis denounced the persecution of Christians: "In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end," he said.
In January, the United Nations released a report on the "armed conflict" in Iraq, stating that "the violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering." The report noted that ISIS "continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law. These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide."
The same report said that ISIL continues to target members of different ethnic and religious commuities, "systematically persecuting these groups and subjecting them to a range of abuses and violations. These acts exemplify ISIL's apparent policy of suppressing, permanently expelling, or destroying some communities. Women and children remain particularly vulnerable...."
And finally, the report noted that, "While the precise reasons for many of the targeted killings are unknown, information indicates that ISIL continues to target particular individuals and groups, such as those opposed or perceived to be opposed to it and its ideology." The report then mentions cases where Islamic State terrorists blew up the homes of Christians.
Kerry Having ‘Additional Evaluation’ Done to Decide if Slaughter of Mideast Christians is Genocide
Clinton calls IS killings of Christians, Yazidis 'genocide'