After pressure from conservatives, including this blogger, and others concerned about religious liberty around the world, United States President Barack Obama finally named an Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom, after another lengthy vacancy in the post. See my post from August of last year, The Obama Administration Should Make More Effective Use of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-obama-administration-should-make.html.
After there was no Ambassador for Religious Freedom from 2009-2011 and again from 2013 until recently, which represents most of Obama’s presidency, he finally nominated a Jewish rabbi to the post. The Ambassador reports to a Deputy Secretary of State, even though ambassadors-at-large hold a higher rank. However, the Secretary of State assured Congress the ambassador would have direct access to him and also that religious freedom was a priority of American foreign policy.
The lengthy lack of an ambassador, the placement of the office in terms of reporting in the State Department’s organization chart and the Administration’s practice of seldom championing freedom of religion, which is fundamental to liberty, combined to signal to foreigners that freedom of religion is an American foreign policy priority and that the Administration is thus less inclined to invoke the enforcement mechanism of the act that created both the office of the ambassador and the Commission on International Religious Freedom of accepting the Commission’s recommendations to impose sanctions on states of concern that do not respect religious liberty. Obama has still not named several foreign governments that meet the definition as “countries of concern,” as he may do under the law that authorized the Commission.
Furthermore, although Obama signed another piece of legislation in August of 2014 to create a special envoy for the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, where much of the persecution is centered, even as religious minorities, such as Yazidis and Christians, for example, are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria by the violent jihadist terrorists known as the “Islamic State,” he has still not filled that post.
Freedom, peace and stability are essential foreign policy interests of the
U.S., as they are the basis for
good relations and commerce. Religious
liberty is the foundation of all of these interests. Therefore, conservatives and others concerned
about the freedom of religion abroad should continue to pressure the Obama
Administration to make it more clear that religious liberty as a priority in
American foreign policy.