Friday, August 14, 2009

Who the heck is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom?

This week a US government agency that most people have never heard of announced that they were placing the nation of India on a "watch list" based on claims that Christians and Muslims in India are being "persecuted" by the Hindu majority.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has a total of eight members: a Chair and two Vice Chairs and five Commissioners. Five of the current members are Republican appointees, three of them appointed by former president George W. Bush and one each by former House leader Dennis Hastert and former Senate leader Bill Frist. Of those five one (the Chair) is an officer of the Federalist Society (which some called the "Shadow Justice Department" of the Bush Administration), one is an officer of the Hudson Institute (the "think-tank" that hired Dan Quayle!), one (the Vice Chair) an officer of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (a think-tank whose "fellows" include Rick Santorum and Stanley Kurtz), one an officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the fifth Republican appointee is the founder of the Islamic Institute of Boston (go figure).

One irony is that the Chair and two of the Commissioners of the USCIRF are members of groups that have earned a place on a "watch-list" of their own! The Federalist Society, the Hudson Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center have their own pages at the website of And some people might also find it odd that a member of the "Ethics Committee" (sic) of the Southern Baptist Convention sits on the USCIRF, since, as everyone knows, the SBC was formed originally for no other purpose than the preservation of the institution of human slavery, and today the SBC does not allow women to serve as pastors, and is openly and unapologetically homophobic.

None of the members of the Commission are Hindu or Buddhist.

Two countries not on either the Watch List or the even more serious Countries of Particular Concern list are Greece, where it is a crime to establish a religious organization without the government's permission, and government produced schoolbooks contain antisemitic materials; and South Korea, where arson attacks on Buddhist Temples by fanatic Christians have occurred regularly for decades, and where the current President is a fundamentalist Christian who has shown blatant favoritism to Christians in government appointments.

Obviously the agenda of the USCIRF is to serve as an advocacy group for US funded Christian missionaries operating abroad.

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