In 1998, the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) created both the International Religious Freedom Office in the Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Since this date, a report has been produced every year within the United States, "reviewing and making policy recommendations on the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations globally". In other words, it evaluates every country on its "religious freedom", designates "countries of particular concern" and makes recommandations to the American government. Hence, the United States tend to impose to the whole world its own conception of what should be the relations between Church and State.
This paper will attempt to show why it is very dangerous for the United States to try to evaluate the religious freedom of other countries and to promote "religious freedom" as a foreign policy goal. The United States, whose foundation is linked with the immigration of people fleeing religious persecution in Europe, has a particular conception of religious freedom, which is reflected in the religious clauses of the First amendment to the United States Constitution, stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". I consider that this conception should not, in any case, be used to judge other countries.
[...] Hence, one should understand that by defending this particular right (and at the same time not ratifying other international texts such as the Rights of the Child Convention), the United States creates a hierarchy of human rights - religious freedom being considered the most important of them. In addition, it tends to promote a particular conception of religion, which is that of an individual, private religion typically a Protestant conception. On the contrary, for instance in Muslim countries, religion is public and enacted. [...]
[...] judge the religious freedom within foreign countries. To begin with, it is important to examine the concept of religious freedom. Law and religion are both social phenomenon, playing a significant role in mankind's life. Hence, their interaction seems inevitable. However, this interaction can take different forms, which are necessarily intertwined with each country's particular identity - including culture, tradition and history. The religious expression in the world's societies is rich and diverse. Some countries, mainly Western ones, have established a sharp distinction between church and state, religion and law, what is sacred and what is secular. [...]
[...] Jeremy Gunn, Religion in the News, Vol No Fall 2001 Reports “Religious persecution as a US policy issue: Proceedings of a consultation held at Trinity College Hartford”, edited by Hackett Annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, May 2006 Internet ressources United States Department of State: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/ United States Commission on International Freedom: http://www.uscirf.gov/ Annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2006 Church-State relations Tensions and Transitions, introduction William Fautré speaking at the Hartford conference, part IV, p.33 Abdullahi An-Na'im speaking at the Harford conference, part [...]
[...] In addition to the fact that the report could be viewed as a means for protecting the international religious freedom of Christians only, we should ask ourselves to what extent the United States foreign interests influence its judgments given that all the members of the Commission are appointed by the United States government. For instance, it has been argued that the successive reports have definitely been too indulgent with Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most repressive nations on the issue of religious freedom but at the same time an ally of the United States. [...]
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