Family Research Council: Kerry’s ‘Advocate for Freedom of Religion’ Claim ‘Simply Not Accurate’

By Brittany M. Hughes | July 28, 2014 | 4:14pm EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 28, 2014, during a news conference to announce the 2013 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

( - Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, said Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that the United States is an “unwavering advocate for the right to freedom of religion worldwide” is “simply not accurate.”

“Religious freedom – that’s not something this administration has championed. You look at violations of religious freedom around the world, including in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, and this administration has pretty much been silent on those situations. So no, in terms of the U.S. being an advocate of religious freedom internationally, that’s not accurate,” Weber said.

In a phone interview following Kerry’s statement via press release, asked Weber: “In his statement following the release of Meriam Ibrahim from Sudan, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will ‘continue to be an unwavering advocate for the right to freedom of religion worldwide.’ Do you believe Secretary Kerry’s statement was accurate?”

“I wish I could find evidence to agree with that statement. The idea that the U.S. is a champion of religious liberty internationally is one we’d love to get behind. But no, it’s simply not accurate,” Weber replied.

“While other human rights have been championed, like the rights of LGBT people around the world, religious freedom has not been one of them,” he continued.

Kerry’s claim was part of a longer statement applauding last week’s release of Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian previously imprisoned by the government of Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Sentenced to death for apostasy, she was imprisoned with her 21-month-old son and forced to give birth to her daughter while held in shackles. She remained in prison from Feb. 17 until late June.

Ibrahim was released from prison following an international outcry against the Sudanese government. After her release, she was again detained on June 24 at an international airport under alleged document fraud charges and held at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum for nearly a month. She was finally released and flown to Rome last week.

“I am especially proud that our diplomatic efforts through the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum helped secure Ms. Ishag’s and her family’s release,” Kerry wrote in his statement. “The United States will continue to be an unwavering advocate for the right to freedom of religion worldwide.”

“I extend my personal best wishes to Ms. Ishag and her family as they rebuild their lives and restore hope for a future where all people can live their faiths fully and freely,” Kerry added.

While Weber slammed the Obama administration’s claim as inaccurate, he added that Americans don’t have to look overseas to find abuses of religious liberty.

“There are certainly problems with the U.S. government’s approach to religious freedom domestically,” Weber explained. “The right as articulated in the international covenant on international civil and political rights is that of a freedom of religion, which includes the right to choose what one will believe and the right to practice that belief.

“It’s very broad, and it’s a strong protection of the individual conscience as it pertains to religion. And there are problems with the U.S being an advocate for that internationally, but certainly also here at home. So it would be hard to argue that that right as articulated in that international treaty, of which the U.S. is a party, has been upheld domestically,” he said.

Weber pointed to the government’s actions regarding contraception mandate in Obamacare, “the treatment of sincere religious objectors of whom the administration was well aware of their beliefs, and with regard to religious objections regarding the administration’s push for non-discrimination” as examples.

“In this executive order recently, and President Obama’s stance on anti-discrimination laws as it pertains to sexual orientation, the administration basically disregarded religious objections in these areas from a lot of folks. And that’s a real problem when you claim to be an advocate of religious freedom. You can’t have one without the other in terms of claiming to support it internationally and then disregarding it at home,” he said.

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