Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Christians to Candidates: International Religious Freedom a Priority

“Freedom of religion and the freedom to speak openly about ideas and beliefs here and abroad should be a high priority for the next president of the United States.”

-- From "McCain, Obama Urged to Make Int’l Religious Freedom a Priority" by Patrick Goodenough, International Editor, CNSNews 7/18/08

In a recent poll of American Christians commissioned by Open Doors USA and released this week, 54 percent of respondents said religious freedom should be a high priority in making U.S. foreign policy.

The organization, which estimates that 100 million Christians around the world are facing repression for their faith, said the poll result presented a challenge for presidential aspirants Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama.

Ninety-six percent of respondents in the poll believed strongly that religious freedom was a basic human right, and more than eight in 10 believed it was a very important basic right.

Respondents favored the U.S. using “indirect” methods, such as economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, to apply pressure on regimes that abuse religious freedom.

At a White House ceremony this week marking the IRFA’s 10th anniversary, President Bush cited continuing problems in a number of countries, including China and Saudi Arabia. “We urge these leaders to respect the rights of those who seek only to worship their God as they see fit,” he said.

McCain has pledged to make religious freedom “a subject of great importance” in America’s relations with other nations.

“As president … I will work in close concert with democratic allies to raise the prominence of religious freedom in every available forum,” McCain said.

Obama in a speech on Latin America delivered in Florida in May, said U.S. backing for democracy abroad must go beyond the ballot box and include support for religious freedom, among other things. Among the presumptive Democratic nominee’s policy advisors is Preeta Bansal, a commissioner and former chairperson of the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom].

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