Judd Birdsall is a PhD candidate at Cambridge and an editorial fellow with The Reivew on Faith & International Affairs in Washington, DC.
Prior to coming to Cambridge, he worked at the State Department, where he served in the Office of International Religious Freedom and the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff. He also chaired of the Department’s Forum on Religion & Global Affairs. MORE.
Obama’s Religious Freedom Record is Strong
Originally published by Religion News Service on 1/21/2014
Barack Obama’s critics allege that the president doesn’t practice what he preaches on international religious freedom policy. Last week they pounced on an apparent gap between presidential rhetoric and reality.
On Thursday (Jan. 16), the same day that Obama issued his annual Religious Freedom Day proclamation, Religion News Service published an article highlighting his administration’s failure to quickly nominate a new ambassador at large for religious freedom.
Suzan Johnson Cook resigned in October, and a successor has yet to be named. It took the administration well over a year to nominate Johnson Cook in the first place, and then a skeptical Senate took an additional year to confirm her. During her brief tenure Johnson Cook never escaped criticism that she was unqualified for the job.
Even so, Obama used his proclamation to affirm, “America proudly stands with people of every nation who seek to think, believe, and practice their faiths as they choose.” He promised that his administration “will remain committed to promoting religious freedom.”
Critics aren’t so sure. The RNS article quotes Georgetown University’s Tom Farr as lamenting, “A continued vacancy will confirm the suspicion that already exists among foreign governments, persecutors, victims and American diplomats that the issue is not a priority.”
So who’s right? Does the current administration stand for religious freedom globally or does the delay in appointing an ambassador cast doubt on that stand? My answer: Yes.
Both sides are right, at least partially.
Continue reading at RNS