In the wake
of yet another terrorist attack on European soil—followed by threats against
Americans in Washington, DC, and the revelation that one of the suicide
bombers in Paris entered the European Union by posing as a Syrian refugee—many
Americans and Europeans have expressed concern about accepting refugees fleeing ISIS-controlled
regions, most of whom are Muslim, for fear of compromising national
security. In response, some politicians—both in the United States and Europe—have suggested favoring or even accepting
only Christians seeking refuge, while others have called for an outright ban on
accepting refugees. Cornerstone asks: Can Western democracies enact
reasonable security measures while still retaining robust protections for
members of minority religions seeking refuge? If so, how? Is there a
danger that governments will enact illiberal policies in response
to the fight against ISIS and the ensuing migrant crisis? What kind of a
threat might such policies pose to religious freedom in the West?
Since the attacks in Paris on Friday, I have been following
the news and analysis of the situation quite closely. Certainly, some valid
points have surfaced regarding ISIS, the fight against terrorism, and the
military and political implications of the attacks. One aspect I have not seen
discussed but that deserves more consideration is how religious freedom factors
into this situation.
One argument in favor
of religious liberty is that it unleashes religion's pro-social potential and
benefits. Conversely, an argument against religious liberty is that religion is
a socially dangerous force that needs to be held in check or at least highly
regulated. Given these contending positions, it becomes important to engage
studies such as the one by University of Chicago professor
Jean Decety and colleagues entitled “The Negative Association between
Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World.”
On October 8-9, the Religious Freedom project, together with several sponsors, including the British Council, hosted a public dialogue on religious freedom policy and opportunities for transatlantic cooperation on this issue. Recently, several European countries, the EU, and Canada have addressed religious freedom in their foreign policies. Given that US policy is already shaped by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) passed by Congress, the potential exists for transatlantic cooperation in promoting religious freedom. However, differences among Western democracies are significant. These blog entries further explore this issue, and they also discuss the state of religious freedom in countries that are often the targets of the West's policies.
October 31 is also known as Reformation Day. Nearly 500 years
ago, Martin Luther issued the 95 Theses, an act that sparked the Reformation.
This week, Cornerstone asks what the 95 Theses
did for religious freedom. How have they contributed to the formation of the
ideal of religious liberty in the West?
“How many divisions does the Pope
of Rome have?” asked Joseph Stalin in 1944. Criticized for his harsh treatment
of Catholic minorities, Stalin’s retort was plain: A lack of military power
meant a lack of influence on the world stage. Soldiers, aircraft, tanks,
battleships: this was the stuff of power. The Catholic Church wielded great
doctrinal and ideological power over its members, but without military might,
it was woefully under-equipped to challenge such dogged realpolitik.
The branches of the United States
military comprise members of myriad faiths and religious traditions. As such,
they face the interesting challenge of preserving religious freedom within
their institutions while protecting religious liberty for all. This week, Cornerstone asks: What challenges do religious military personnel face in practicing their faith? What policies ensure religious freedom within the military? Are these policies effective? Can they be improved? Why is religious freedom in the military important?
On September 1, 2015, the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay to Kim Davis, a county clerk based in Kentucky who was refusing to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The act of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she claims, would be against her religious beliefs and therefore in contravention of her right to free exercise of religion granted by the Constitution.
This week, Cornerstone asks: Should individuals in
government jobs be required to act against their consciences by participating
in same-sex weddings? How does Davis's position as a government employee—as
opposed to a baker or florist—impact the legal standing of her refusal? Is
there a solution that provides adequate protection of both the rights of
same-sex couples and the conscientious objections of government employees? How
are similar cases likely to play out in the future, and how are religious
individuals opposed to same-sex marriage likely to respond?
Twenty years ago, Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson
identified religion as the “missing dimension of Statecraft.” While the US
State Department has recently taken some positive steps toward integrating religion
into its training of aspiring diplomats, religious literacy—the ability to
analyze the religious dimensions of socio-political life—remains largely absent
from the professional development of American military officers. In many
official Army publications, like the Stability Operations Field
Manual 3-07 (2014), religious issues tend to be treated
superficially; in other cases, religion receives no treatment whatsoever. Yet
the military ignores religious factors at its own peril as it continues to
operate in regions where faith plays a fundamental and growing role in society