Relationship of political foreign Policy to the Persecuted Church

I may be stepping into a hornet's nest here, but the involvement of governments in expanding or restricting religious freedom is an issue on which mission mobilizers should be able to give advice. I believe that our life and philosophy should be a connected whole and that we should know how to act in the political milieu just as we know how to act in missions circles since both realms have a great impact on our lives. What would you say to a church leader who asks you what you think about the U.S. government imposing sanctions on China? Some Christians maintain that a stubbornly Communist government will not heed anything but strong-arm measures like sanctions. On the other hand, it is argued that if sanctions are put in place, the people who would be hurt the most would be the persecuted Christians. It is a tough issue. Another issue is the effect of government action concerning freedom of religion where religious persecution is not a serious problem. The following articles relate to a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on this very topic. ~The Editor

By: Edna Gleason <>
I am a Christian who has been concerned about the persecution of Christians for years. I have read the accounts of persecutions, am friends with one who has been beaten and burned in a Muslim country, and I have prayed. I tell you this because it seems that anyone who is against the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act is considered unsympathetic to the plight of persecuted Christians. That is NOT the case. Please take time to consider reasons why this bill should be significantly revised or defeated.

My primary objection to the bill is that it puts the Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring in the executive branch - first, in the White House and, now, in the State Department.

When objections arose early concerning the failure to clearly exclude the United States from being monitored, they were met with scornful reproach and astonishment that anyone would consider monitoring of religion in America to be a possibility. It is very naive to consider this an impossibility or even an improbability. I have enclosed an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (1-25-98) that is evidence that the United Nations, with the cooperation of our government, is monitoring religion in America. Who gave permission for this investigation and who selected the groups that would be invited to participate in the forum? Are the groups representative of religion in America? Not one of the groups represents most of the Christians that I know. Did Congress vote to allow this invasion or was this arranged by the executive branch with a few select sympathetic Congressmen involved? I doubt that this would have been condoned by any Congressional committee. The concerns of Americans are more broadly represented in Congress than in the executive branch, no matter which party is in control. And, therefore, there is more of a safety net in Congress...

Any time that we put decisions about religion into the hands of government we are taking a risk. Sometimes it may be necessary. But, always it should be done with much caution and with careful attention to details. It concerns me that so many leaders are promoting this bill without reading it or listening to the objections of brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not question their motives. Because of my concern for persecuted Christians I would likely be promoting this bill if I had not read the bill carefully... Please at least consider making a revision to this bill that moves the office to Congress.

by Gayle White Religion Writer
United Nations officials will be at Emory University on Thursday for a forum on the status of religious liberty in the southeastern United States. U.N. Special Rapporteur Abdelfattah Amor will head the delegation of members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which also will visit several other cities. Each year the special rapporteur must submit a report to the U.N. Security Council on the state of religious freedom around the world. The United States is one several countries due to be examined in detail during 1998. "It's ironic that he is here at a time when religious liberty is not what it was several years ago," said John Witte, director of Emory's Law and Religion program. He cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year that declared the Religious Freedom Restoration Act unconstitutional as evidence that religious freedom in the United States is not as solid as it may once have been. The act required that any law that imposed a "substantial burden" on anyone's religious beliefs or practices must serve a "compelling" government interest and must be the least intrusive way to serve that interest. Congress passed the law in 1993 with the support of a broad coalition of religious groups on the left and right. Among speakers at the Emory conference will be Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas School of Law, author of the act. Of special interest in the Southeast is the relationship between race and religion, Witte said. The burnings of black churches and the rise of neo-Nazi groups have accentuated the endemic theme of race and religion in Southern culture, Witte said. The forum will be held from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Emory's law school. Among groups that have been invited to make presentations are the Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Center, Muslim Legal Defense League, Seventh-day Adventist Conference, Church of Scientology, Baptist Joint Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union. The position of Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance was established by the United Nation's 53-member Commission on Human Rights in 1986. Amor was appointed by the chairman of the commission in 1993. The standard for examining religious rights is the U.N.'s 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. It states in part: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice. Freedom to manifest one's religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1-25-98)

The United Nations Human Rights Commission opened its annual meeting in Geneva March 16. Its most outstanding feature: the absence of Western condemnation for China's human-rights record. The United States has sought such a resolution every year since China's 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, but has never come up with the support needed for passage. Last year the Clinton administration said the UN agency was the "appropriate forum" for addressing Beijing's human-rights abuses; this year both Washington and the European Union declined to do so. In the U.S. House, lawmakers passed a resolution, 397-0, disagreeing with U.S. foreign policy and urging President Clinton to reverse the decision. "This is an administration that says we'll have a national policy of trade without a conscience," said Rep. Linda Smith, R-Wash. (World 3-28-98)

From: (Chris)
Great submissions. Yes, Freedom of Religion is a double-edged sword. Most religions proclaim that theirs is the only truth. Even the Bahais deny the exclusivity claims of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and set up tolerance as the highest virtue, so even they claim to have the edge on truth. Couple the exclusivity of religion with the tolerance of government in a pluralistic society and you have Muslims demanding equal time in the military, government and media. Are Satanists to be excluded in a pluralistic, free society? As long as they don't hurt anyone? What about the censorship of the media for objectionable, hurtful content? Tough issues with no clear answers. However... I believe that the Lordship of Jesus Christ must apply to every area of life, politics included. Calvin set an example in Geneva and Knox in Scotland. America's founders also applied religious convictions in drawing up the Constitution and separating government into branches in a biblical model of God as King, Lawgiver, and Judge.

From: Gregory Bliss <>
I am unsure in the article you wrote about the presuppositions for your objection on the religious freedom act.

  1. You mention the issue of executive and state department control. But foreign policy is a matter not of the legislation but the executive branch or do you disagree?
  2. You mention that "United Nations, with the cooperation of our government, is monitoring religion in America." I do not understand the link between the Act and the UN issue. It would seem your objection to the U.N. issue is based on national sovereignty. An aggressive foreign policy aimed at securing religious freedom does not seem to me to mean a loss of sovereignty. Please explain