Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Question I Would Like To Hear Answered In The State Of The Union Address...But Won't

I said in my first article in this blog that I intended to discuss a number of topics-politics among them.  Here is the first one on politics.  On Tuesday 28 January 2014, President Barak Husein Obama will deliver the “State of the Union” address.  I have a question which I would like to hear him answer, but I know it will not be answered.

In 1998 Congress passed and president Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act-IRFA.  It created a commission and religious freedom office in the State Department and charged them with monitoring the status of religious freedom around the world and making concrete policy recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of State, and the President.

The act requires this annual review of religious freedom overseas and identification of “countries of particular concern,” defined as governments engaging in or allowing “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” religious freedom violations.  The State Department is then required to use this information to designate certain countries as “Countries of Particular Concern” on this vital matter.  The head of the Commission, Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, recently spoke about this subject and said the law “requires every administration, without fail, to engage fully in the job of designating countries.”  It isn’t optional, and it is the nation’s way of bearing witness to abuses of religious freedom around the world and to try to do something about it.

The Commission has done its annual review faithfully with care and professionalism.  But sad to report, the Executive Branch mandated with seeing that the laws of the United States are properly executed, this one included, has not been equally faithful or professional.  According to Professor George:
“The Obama administration issued designations only once during its first term, in August 2011–more than three years ago.
The result is that some of the world’s worst violators–such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Vietnam–are escaping the accountability that the IRFA law is meant to provide.” [Robert P. George, “Those of Us who Care about Religious Freedom have a Job to Do,” 2013 Leland Award Religious Liberty Lecture, Southern Baptist Convention Ethicss & Religious Liberty Commission, Washington D.C., 13 December 2013, in Vital Speeches of the Day 80 (February 2014), p. 41.]
So, here is the question:

Why hasn’t your administration fulfilled its legal obligation, except once in your administration, to designate as “Countries of Particular Concern,” those nations who have shown themselves to be egregious violators of religious freedom based on the “objective standard” set forth in and required of you in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998?

Let's think together again, soon.


  1. You were right, of course. This question is very far from the president's heart it is sad.

    1. Ah, you listened--like a good citizen. But don't make me confess my sins by asking if I did!