Category: Religious Freedom

The Stranglehold on Religious Life in China

The level of freedom of religion or belief in China is rapidly and significantly decreasing. There are tangible signs of this, such as the demolition of temples, mosques and churches by authorities, and the removal of religious symbols and pictures from homes and places of worship. There are also less visible changes, however: clergy removed from their positions and replaced with those with government approval; pressure on schools to check up on the religious beliefs of their students and staff; and surveillance cameras installed in and around places of worship. In the most extreme cases, religious adherents are arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even killed in connection with their religion or belief.

This downward trend fits into a broader pattern of increasing human rights abuses under Xi Jinping, accompanied by and manifested through a shrinking space for civil society, a heightened sensitivity to perceived challenges to Party rule, and the introduction of legislation that curtails civil and political rights in the name of national security.

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New York Times falsely smears DOJ religious liberty training as bigoted

In an article covering the recent training the Department of Justice held for its attorneys on religious liberty issues, the New York Times claimed with a blaring headline that the event spurned “concern among lawyers” because the workshops supposedly taught ways to “blunt civil rights protections for gay and transgender people.” This liberal spin on the topic chooses to paint the department as bigoted and discriminatory and overlooks the progress it’s made to bolster religious liberty protections. It’s also a blatant attempt to diminish the importance of religious liberty and mislead the public.

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USCIRF Strongly Condemns Terrorist Attack against Sikh House of Worship in Kabul

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns today’s Islamic State terrorist attack against a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul and expresses its deepest condolences to the victims and their families. The Afghan Interior Ministry announced that suicide bombers and gunmen killed 25 people, including a child, during the assault and wounded another eight. Following six hours of fighting, Afghan security forces successfully rescued 80 hostages held inside the Sikh house of worship.

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Learning From History: How Congress Can Protect Both Rights and Beliefs

Back in 1984, I received an unexpected call from Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR), a highly regarded Republican who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. I wondered, why would he call a young Democrat who had no significant position and little influence in the halls of Congress?

He asked if I would introduce legislation on the House side that he was sponsoring and pledged to send some background material. I quickly responded, “Mark, if it is something you want, I’d be glad to do it,” with little clue of its content. The next day I learned that the so-called Equal Access Act (EAA) was about students having the right to hold noncurriculum religious meetings in high schools.

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Yes, the government can force churches to close. Here’s why

Faced with new restrictions on in-person gatherings, most houses of worship in the U.S. have temporarily closed their doors.

But some churches, synagogues and mosques have rebelled against requested — or, in some cases, required — changes, and sometimes faced police raids as a result.

Amid a public health crisis like COVID-19, can the government really force a house of worship to close?

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A Quebec Ban on Religious Symbols Upends Lives and Careers

A Muslim lawyer who wears a head scarf has put aside her aspiration to become a public prosecutor.

A Sikh teacher with a turban moved about 2,800 miles from Quebec to Vancouver, calling herself a “refugee in her own country.”

And an Orthodox Jewish teacher who wears a head kerchief is worried that she could be blocked from a promotion.

Since the Quebec government in June banned schoolteachers, police officers, prosecutors and other public sector employees from wearing religious symbols while at work, people like these three women have been grappling with the consequences.

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Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression

Bangladesh has seen an increase in terrorist activity in recent years, including attacks on foreigners, activists and religious minorities.

Perpetrators of these attacks have included people from privileged backgrounds. News reports indicate they were all motivated by the idea that Islam is under attack by secularists and must be defended.

This is significant in a country that was founded in 1971 on principles of secularism following an independence war with neighboring Pakistan.

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Do coronavirus closings violate religious liberty? A religious freedom expert weighs in

Few were surprised when the Chinese Communist Party banned church services in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province. But the Italian government decree suspending all public religious ceremonies — leading to the suspension of Masses in the pope’s own diocese — provided more of a jolt.

All four of the vastly different countries with the most documented cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus — China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea — have suspended religious services.

As more government leaders will soon face tough decisions in the face of a spreading pandemic, the president of the Religious Freedom Institute told CNA about important criteria to ensure the protection of a foundational freedom.

“There must be a presumption in favor of full religious freedom for all religious communities in every country, especially in democratic countries.

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Alabama bans yoga in public schools as ‘Hindu’ and ‘religious.’ That might change.

Alabama more than a quarter-century ago banned yoga as a “Hindu philosophy” and a “method of religious training.”

Now lawmakers might change that.

Rep. Jeremy Gray, a Democrat from Opelika, has proposed a bill that passed in the Education Policy Committee with bipartisan support on Wednesday and that he expects will go to the House floor next week.

Gray’s bill would allow school districts to offer yoga as an elective class. It specifies that “all instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises and stretching techniques” and that all techniques “shall have exclusively English descriptive names.”

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