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ICC Note: Is religious freedom still important to American’s? Does America care if others around the world are free to practice their beliefs without fear of harassment, arrest, imprisonment and even death? “It would be difficult to name a single country in the world over the past 15 years where [the State Department’s] religious freedom policy has helped reduce religious persecution or increase religious freedom…” The quote, attributed to Thomas Farr, opens up this article to discuss just how little the U.S. has actually done to promote religious freedom around the world. 
8/6/2013 United States (Charisma) – “It would be difficult to name a single country in the world over the past 15 years where [the State Department’s] religious freedom policy has helped reduce religious persecution or increase religious freedom…”
That was the testimony of Thomas Farr, the widely respected director of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center. Farr was testifying before the House National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. And in his original statement, he referred to “America’s religious freedom policy,” not the bracketed “State Department” I added.
But that is exactly the problem: The U.S. State Department is the nexus. It is there that American foreign policy is largely hammered out. And it is there that religious freedom is routinely hammered down.
Farr testified that some foreign policy professionals think it violates the First Amendment for the United States to promote religious freedom abroad. Others view the defense of religious freedom as a battering ram wielded by American evangelicals to open mission fields in hostile lands.
George Weigel, in a column at First Things, defended Farr and recognized the world historical import of religious freedom and America’s defense of this “first freedom.”
Why call religious freedom a first freedom at all? It is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights.
But more than that, our Founding Fathers so regarded it. James Madison’s Federalist 51 states:
“In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.”

All such understandings of the religious freedom foundation of American civil liberty and foreign policy seem long forgotten by the elites of today. The media cares little about religious freedom. The famous Rothman-Lichter study of 1981 surveyed 240 journalists from the prestige press. Of course, 80 percent of them voted one way, but a whopping 91 percent said they never attended a religious service of any kind. No wonder CNN’s Bill Schneider could famously say the media “doesn’t get religion.”
But if 91 percent of top journos never worship, they are a tent revival in comparison to our foreign policy clerisy. And there’s the rub: Not only is religion not important in their own lives, but our top foreign policy thinkers also fail consistently to understand why religion is important in the lives of others—especially those restive peoples whom they are forever trying to explain to America’s rapidly dwindling readership on foreign affairs.

As a matter of fact, Americans’ religious freedom is in grave jeopardy. We are forced to prop up and pay tribute to oppressive regimes abroad. Consider Egypt, Libya, the PLO. These are persecutors of Christians, Jews and off-brand Muslims.
But we are also taxed to support an administration that issues “mandates,” including the Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Some of these mandates are the greatest threat to religious freedom at home since 1786. It is no accident, as our non-believing Marxist friends would say. When those in power care nothing for religious freedom, all civil and religious liberty are at risk.

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