Friday, June 14, 2013

House Hearing Is Critical of US Implementation of International Religious Freedom Act

Yesterday, the Subcommittee on National Security of the U.S. House Oversight & Government Reform Committee held a hearing titled "Examining the Government’s Record on Implementing the International Religious Freedom Act." A video of the hearing and transcripts of all the witnesses' prepared statements are available on the Committee's website.  The hearing began with a kerfuffle over the State Department's refusal to make Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook available to testify because of the Committee's insistence that all witnesses testify on a single panel.  State Department policy does not permit executive branch officials to testify on panels with non-government witnesses.  Four witnesses did testify-- USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett; director of Georgetown's Religious Freedom Project, Thomas F. Farr; Chris Seiple, President of Institute for Global Engagement; and Amjad Mahmood Khan, National Director of Public Affairs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

In her testimony, USCIRF Chair Swett said in part:
Unfortunately, neither Republican nor Democratic Administrations have fully utilized IRFA as the key foreign policy tool it was intended to be. Neither have designated CPCs in a timely manner nor issued specific Presidential actions based on these designations.
Mr. Farr in his testimony also criticized U.S. action:
Notwithstanding the hard, creative work of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, it would be difficult to name a single country in the world over the past fifteen years where American religious freedom policy has helped to reduce religious persecution or to increase religious freedom in any substantial or sustained way.

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