Poor choices for religious freedom commission


In a nod to his conservative evangelical base, President Donald Trump appointed longtime activist Gary Bauer to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom — an independent body that tracks religious freedoms overseas. Bauer will join fellow commission member Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who has drawn criticism because of his past controversial statements about Muslims and the LGBTQ community.
Bauer is the Washington director of Christians United for Israel and is a former head of the Family Research Council, which advocates that homosexuals are harmful to society. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Family Research Council a hate group.
In a tweet, Bauer said his “focus” on the commission “will be on the growing persecution of Christians and the rising tide of anti-Semitic hatred around the world. Muslim majority nations are [the] biggest culprits.”
We find Bauer’s tweet troubling in two significant respects: First, its broad-stroked accusations are anti-Muslim. Second, it sloppily seeks to link anti-Semitism with the persecution of Christians. While persecution of Christians is very real in Egypt, Iraq, China and Turkey (some of Bauer’s supporters might say in the United States, too, given their yearly invocation of a fictional “war on Christmas”), the persecution of Jews in the Muslim world is limited by the fact that so few Jews live there. Yes, many Muslim nations are rife with overt anti-Semitism, and terrorists supported by Muslim nations generally hate Jews. But so do many among the rising tide of arch conservatives and far-right political movements in Europe, as do some of their counterparts in the United States.
Bauer’s eliding of Jewish and Christian — seen in the adjective Judeo-Christian — is one of conservative Christians’ contributions to American thought. Doing so tends more to support the universality of Christian culture in the United States than legitimizing Judaism and Jewish culture, all while it casts not only Islam, but Buddhism and a host of other religions as well, as somehow un-American.
With people like Bauer and Perkins on the commission, there is a good chance that the U.S. approach to international religious freedom will be influenced by such an ideological tilt.
Meanwhile, we still don’t have a U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Last week 120 members of the House Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to appoint an envoy. “You have my word,” Pompeo responded.
We hope that the appointment, if it ever comes, will go to someone with a wider base of support and less ideological baggage than the administration’s appointees to the religious freedom commission.

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