President Obama yesterday met at the White House with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. (White House blog.) Before the meeting, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote the president asking him to make freedom of religion an important part of his talks with Erdogan. USCIRF said that while there are some hopeful developments, Turkey continues to apply the concept of secularism in a way that restricts freedom of thought, conscience and religion both for its majority Muslim population and for minority religions. (Full text of letter.) In remarks after his meeting with Erdogan, President Obama said in part:
I complimented the Prime Minister for the steps that he's taken, often very difficult steps, in reintegrating religious minorities and ethnic minorities within Turkey into the democratic and political process, and indicated to him that we want to be as supportive as possible in further steps that he can take, for example, assuring the continuation of the Halki Seminary and addressing the vital needs of continuing the ecumenical patriarchy within Turkey.