One of the hallmarks of the United States Constitution is that it guarantees freedom of religion in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.
This is a fundamental right that is so ingrained in our law and culture, that most Americans take freedom of religion for granted. But we really should be aware that people in many countries around the world aren't free to practice the religion of their choice.
An agency of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, monitors religious persecution throughout the world and points out serious violations.
It recently named nine "Countries of Particular Concern" and seven were put on its "Special Watch List."
"By calling out the governments that perpetrated or tolerated the most severe religious freedom violations globally in the past year, these designations send a strong signal that the U.S. government will not stand for these abuses," said Tony Perkins, chairman of the commission.
"USCIRF is particularly gratified that the State Department recognized the severity of the violations in Nigeria, for which USCIRF has recommended CPC designation for years, and Cuba, a longstanding USCIRF Tier 2 country, by placing them on its Special Watch List for the first time," Perkins added.
He also noted the nation of Sudan has been moved from the Countries of Particular Concern to the Special Watch List in recognition of the new government there taking positive steps to improve religious freedom.
"Now that these designations have been made, the State Department must take strong action in response, as required by the IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act)," said Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. "We urge the State Department to fully utilize the range of tools available to ensure strong consequences for the most egregious violators, and not rely on waivers or pre-existing sanctions. The CPC-designated countries must know that the United States will not only call them out but also impose costs for violations of this most sacred right."
The countries the State Department designated as CPCs are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, all of which it had previously so designated. Those on the SWL are Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
We should never take for granted our God-given and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, especially the freedom of religion.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, Jim Beam and Mike Jones.