Pompeo Pledges to Make Religious Freedom a Priority

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged the administration’s support for religious freedom May 29 International Religious Freedom Report

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (photo credit: Christianity Today)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo credit: Christianity Today)

“The United States will not stand by as a spectator,” said Pompeo. “We will get in the ring and stand in solidarity with every individual who seeks to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights.”

Pompeo said he will host a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington in July to discuss ways to push back against governments in countries where religious minorities are persecuted.

“Religious freedom is indeed a universal human right that I will fight for.”

He plans the ministerial meeting to be his first to host as secretary of state. “And that’s very intentional. Religious freedom is indeed a universal human right that I will fight for,” he said.

Among its findings, the report covers the following countries:

  • Myanmar: The plight of the Rohingya and Kachin people.
  • North Korea: As many as 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, and 1,304 cases of alleged religious freedom violations in the country last year.
  • Eritrea: The government “reportedly killed, arrested, and tortured religious adherents and coerced individuals into renouncing their faith.”
  • Tajikistan: Minors are prohibited from participating in any religious activities.
  • Saudi Arabia: Non-Muslims are not permitted to practice their religion in public and individuals are imprisoned, receive lashes and fines for apostasy, blasphemy, and insulting the state's interpretation of Islam.
  • Turkmenistan: Individuals who gather for worship without registering with the government face arrest, detention and harassment.
  • China: Falun Gong adherents, Uighur Muslims and members of other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned, with many dying in custody.
  • Iran: The government deals harshly with religious minorities. Shia religious leaders who do not support government policies reportedly continue to face intimidation and arrest by authorities. The government continues to harass, interrogate and arrest Baha’is, Christians (particularly converts), Sunni Muslims and other religious minorities, and regulates Christian religious practices closely to enforce a prohibition on proselytizing. Government officials discriminate against Jews.

“We also remain very concerned about religious freedom or the lack thereof in Pakistan, where some 50 individuals are serving life sentences for blasphemy, according to civil society reports. Seventeen are awaiting execution,” said Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback in releasing the report. “And in Russia, authorities target peaceful religious groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, equating them with terrorists.”

“So today, 20 years after Congress passed the original International Religious Freedom Act, we’ve made important progress, but for far too many, the state of religious freedom is dire,” Brownback added. “We have to work together to accomplish change.”

He called the new report critical and important, but said that “strong action must follow… We must move religious freedom forward. We must defend it in every corner of the globe.”

From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.

The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.

For more information visit the Scientology website or Scientology TV Channel.

Freedom of Religion U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom U.S. State Department