Despite law, State Department misses deadline to name religious freedom violators

Religion News Service | 8/15/2017 | Emily McFarlan Miller
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(RNS) — The U.S. State Department often misses its deadline to release a list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom — or doesn’t release a list at all. This year, Congress had hoped to break it of the habit.

In December, lawmakers passed a law mandating that the department name those “Countries of Particular Concern” within 90 days of releasing its International Religious Freedom report.

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That report came out on Aug. 15, making Monday (Nov. 13) the deadline for the State Department. But there is still no list of CPCs, even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said religious freedom is a “human rights priority” for the Trump administration.

The delay bothers some religious freedom watchdogs, including members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan body set up by Congress in 1998 to monitor the issue.

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“Failing to designate CPCs tells the violators of religious freedom around the world that the United States is looking away,” USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said in a written statement.

The Countries of Particular Concern are a list of nations that violate religious freedom in a “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” way, according to USCIRF.

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USCIRF must provide its own list of recommended CPCs to the State Department by May 1, according to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The department does not always include all of the commission’s recommendations on its list — the one to which world leaders pay more careful attention.

In April, USCIRF recommended 16 countries as Countries of Particular Concern, including North Korea, China and, for the first time in the history of the list, Russia. The commission noted in its report that in 2016, Russia has passed a new law “effectively criminalizing all private religious speech not sanctioned by the state,” all but banned Jehovah’s Witnesses and tried Muslims...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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