U.S. Ignores Religious Oppression, Federal Panel Says

May 2, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: CNN


China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among 11 countries that practice religious oppression, a federal commission says.

Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department hasn't designated or re-designated those nations as "countries of particular concern," the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms said Friday.

The other eight countries cited are Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

"In the past year, violent government repression of religious communities in China, Burma (known as Myanmar), and Sudan, among other countries, confirms that religious freedom is [a] vulnerable human right that must be protected by the international community," Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie said in a press release.

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires the United States to identify "countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief."

The act created the federal panel that annually surveys world religious freedom and gives recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress. The law allows policy responses to listed countries, such as sanctions.

The commission said it is troubled that the State Department has not made any designations or redesignations since 2006, even though it issued a report on religious freedom in September.