What a Real War on Religion Looks Like

by Amy Sullivan | July 16, 2012

Vatican correspondent John Allen (of the National Catholic Reporter, NPR, and CNN) is respected for his thoroughly-sourced reporting and scrupulously-fair analysis. If anything, he is occasionally accused by some liberal Catholics of being too sympathetic to Vatican spin. So when he used his latest weekly column to take the American bishops to task over their concern about a “war on religion,” it got my attention.

“Too often lost in the shuffle,” wrote Allen, “is the fact—not a hunch, theory or conjecture, but hard empirical fact—that in a growing number of other places, there’s a decidedly literal war on religion under way. Its victims don’t just lose government contracts or debates over insurance mandates; they’re threatened, beaten, imprisoned and even murdered.”

The bishops do often acknowledge as much in some of their statements about religious liberty, and they dedicated an hour of their recent gathering in Atlantic to the topic of international religious freedom. But a good portion of that hour was spent attacking the Obama administration for not doing enough to protect religious liberty around the globe. And if concern is measured in action and not rhetoric, the bishops’ interest in repression abroad pales in comparison to fights over the contraception mandate. In his column, Allen cited some incidents that took place far away while the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was observing its Fortnight for Freedom here, including:

Allen could have noted as well that on July 8, Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani observed his 1,000th day in prison. The pastor was arrested in 2009 for protesting the Iranian government’s decision to force all children to read the Qur’an, and he has been sentenced to death by hanging on apostasy charges. In December 2011, Hillary Clinton called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Pastor Nadarkhani.

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Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//article/105033/amy-sullivan-what-real-war-religion-looks