UNCompromising: Trump Steals the Show with Religious Freedom
September 23, 2019
There may have been 60 heads of state at today's U.N. climate summit, but it was the one person organizers weren't expecting who caused a stir. President Donald Trump surprised a lot of people by slipping into the environmental meeting -- but it's what he did down the hall a few minutes later that made history. Like most of his administration, he understands that there's a climate that poses a lot bigger threat -- and that's the climate of religious hostility presently harming men and women around the world.
Donald Trump is used to breaking new ground, but his decision to host a forum on international religious freedom at the general assembly is a first. And not a moment too soon, Vice President Mike Pence insisted in his introduction -- noting that 80 percent of the world's population suffers every day under some form of faith-based oppression. "When I first heard that number," the president told the audience, "I said, 'Please go back and check it.'" He, like a lot of people, can't believe that so many hundreds of millions of people live in fear of exercising the one liberty Americans take for granted every day: religious freedom. Unfortunately, he went on, the statistic was right. And today, the United States is challenging the rest of the world to do something about it.
"The United States is founded on the principle that our rights don't come from government -- they come from God," the president explained to a room that included a diverse faith community, dozens of victims of religious persecution, members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and U.N. leaders. "We've done a lot," the president said, highlighting the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, the two State Department ministerials, international coalition building, millions of dollars in foreign aid, and a new initiative to involve businesses in the safeguarding of liberties. As part of this morning's speech, the president also announced that the U.S. would dedicate another $25 million to the overall cause, which will also help in the preservation of "religious sites and relics."
But, he implied to America's neighbors, we can always do more. It is the "moral duty" of all nations, the president urged, to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, and repeal laws restricting religious freedom. "America stands with the believers of every country," President Trump vowed. "As president, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities -- and it always will be." Unlike past administrations, these aren't empty promises. As we've come to expect from this administration, these are strong words followed by concrete action.
This morning on "Fox & Friends," I talked about how important it is to keep moving the ball forward on this issue. Once again, the president is putting down very tangible markers in the fight against religious persecution and encouraging more world leaders to join in the fight. It is in everyone's interest, as FRC has said before, if the nations of the world unite around the cause of religious freedom. Not only does it stop the suffering of innocent victims, but, as research shows, it also leads to the economic and social stability so many countries desperately need.
The United States is truly fortunate to have a leader who doesn't just make religious freedom part of his agenda -- but who recognizes it as driving force in all public policy. We applaud the president for his leadership and call on nations around the world to join him in lifting high the torch of this fundamental human right.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.