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04/12/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hopes to downplay the importance of international religious freedom in a time where the need to oppose international religious persecution has become more important than ever before in a shift that would come at the expense of many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern religious adherents.

With the March 30 release of the State Department’s annual human rights report, Blinken made a special point to repudiate the prior administration’s emphasis on religious freedom, declaring that “there is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others.” He also unfairly denounced a disbanded commission of the prior administration for its “unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy.”
The commission in question was the Commission on Inalienable Rights, which had been created by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the goal of re-grounding U.S. human rights policy in American founding principles. The commission’s report never mentioned a hierarchy of rights, but rather stated that prominent among the inalienable rights that the government was established to secure were religious liberty, among others. The commission report did assert, however, that giving priority to certain rights at certain times is a pragmatic and legal necessity and concluded with U.S. foreign policy should be consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The commission also pointed to Congress as having mandated special protections for religious freedom.

In conflating the concept of establishing a hierarchy with the need to set priorities in human rights policy, Blinken has put himself at odds with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which explicitly elevates religious freedom to the rank of those few rights that, in times of emergency are “non-derogable,” that is, cannot be suspended. As a result of his claim that a hierarchy existed under the last administration with an undue focus on international religious freedom, many believe that Blinken and the current administration may not believe in religious freedom as such an inalienable right, the lack of which right is the cause of the suffering of millions from persecution for their faith worldwide.

Some critics argue that downplaying religious freedom in an age where it is increasingly under attack is not only short-sighted, but misguided in today’s world where millions, such as the Uyghurs in China, are being persecuted and killed for their faith. Secretary Blinken and the current administration would do well to reconsider their stance on international religious freedom and ask themselves important questions about why they are downplaying it in a time when they should be focusing on it more heavily.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: [email protected].