USA (MNN) — Politics have an impact on religious freedom around the world, like it or not. At this election time in the USA, Mission Network News looks at how the presidential election will impact not just religious freedom, but also outreach and evangelism.
MNN received criticism for analyzing this issue in 2004, even though we asked the same questions of the U.S. which we ask any other country. We may get criticism again this year, but an interview with a Georgetown University expert brings to light some issues which should concern every Christian worldwide.
Dr. Tom Farr heads up the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University. Farr served in the U.S. State Department Office of International Religious Freedom in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Farr notes recent challenges to religious freedom "that are new, in kind." He has observed a "philosophical shift" in matters of religious freedom and points out that the Obama administration has undermined religious freedom in several instances, including the government's representation in the Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court Decision involving a Lutheran pastor.
In this case, says Farr, "The Obama administration took, officially, the position that the First
Amendment did not protect churches from deciding who their ministers
should be. That is a real shot across the bow, as far as I'm concerned,
for religious freedom."
However, "In an extraordinary decision in which all 9 justices
agreed: if the first amendment means anything, it means that
government stays out of how a church decides who its ministers are."
Farr also cites the Obama administration's health care law as another assault on religious freedom. He says requiring anyone to provide health care coverage that violates their personal beliefs (especially Catholics), is a blatant attack. "It's not simply a matter of they won't: they can't and remain Catholic (for example). They're going to have to do it anyway, or get out of business. That is an assault on religious liberty that, no matter what one's views about abortion or contraception–should alarm every American citizen. It is a turn of the religious freedom part of the First Amendment on its head."
Looking at these two issues, coupled with the new law that places sexual orientation as a protected minority group in the criminal code, Farr says, "I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to see that the Obama administration poses a clear and present danger to religious freedom, at least as I see it."
Farr also claims foreign policy gaffs gives him pause for concerns. "Where religious freedom is very weak or non-existent–as it is in much of the world, instability is a result. Religion-related violence and terrorism result." He says it's in the vital best interest of the United States that we make this a priority and succeed in doing it.
Farr says apathy for religious freedom in foreign policy is also a red flag. "If it is the case that we are losing our own country, that this is the first freedom, then it's no wonder that we are ineffective to convince other countries to embrace it."
Farr has written a book called, World of Faith and Freedom, which talks about the importance of religious freedom in the security of any nation around the world.