Tag Archives: religious freedom

Is There A Religious Bias In America’s Military?

The United States military is theoretically free of bias toward any one religion, but it certainly is biased in favor of religion. The Justice Department is attempting to dismiss a case instituted by a soldier who believes the military by fostering religion discriminates against those who do not have religious beliefs. The government is also arguing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has the right to sue about discrimination against atheists. Spc. Dustin Chalker says he was compelled to attend military formations where Christian prayers were given. The Justice Department insists he could have requested to be excused from such formations.

Reality is the difficulty for a soldier to ask permission to be excused from formations. Such a request would anger the sergeant and place the person requesting it to be subjected to extra duties as well as other harassments.

Indonesian Christians Under Attack By Muslim Fanatics

Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wilding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. Historically, Indonesia has always displayed a moderate and open respect for those who are not Muslims, but there are increasing signs of a change in that attitude due to the presence of an increasingly militant Muslim faction. The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut down its campus in east Jakarta and relocate to a smaller building on the other side of town. A banner that was flown on the main street in the area said: “We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved.”

The government of President Susio Bambang Yudhoyono relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament which increases pressure not to take a strong stand in defense of religious freedom. Professor Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century commented: “People are still tolerant but there is a a growing suspicion among Muslims of others.” He said police have failed to prevent attacks on Christians and have forced closure of churches and nontraditional Muslim mosques which are disliked by militant Muslims. A spokesperson for the school, Manave, said: “We’re living in a country where there are m any religions but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups. The government cannot protect minorities.” Is the question whether the government “cannot protect” or is it “does not want to protect” minorities?

Atheist Soldier Claims Discrimination

A soldier has instituted legal action against the United States army for alleged discrimination against him because he is an atheist. Spc. Heremy hall says his religious rights were violated by the military which shows favoritism to fundamentalist Christians who constantly attempt to impose their views on other soldiers. The Justice Department insists there are procedures in the military to handle such complaints and Hall should follow the chain of command. Spc. Hall says he tried to bring the case to the Fort Riley inspector general but was denied. Hall’s cased is being handled by the Military Religious Foundation. He alleges while serving in Iraq in 2007, a captain forbid him to call a meeting of fellow atheists and he was harassed when it became known he was an atheist.

Upon his return home, Hall was placed on limited duty due to injuries suffered in Iraq but found himself the object of hate mail which claimed he was a “burden to the team” and “always quit.”

China To Bush– Butt Out!

The Chinese government reacted angrily to recent remarks by President Bush regarding the lack of religious freedom in their nation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Liu Jianchao bluntly told the American president, “China is a country under the rule of law , and the Chinese government protects its citizens’ freedom of religious belief according to law, and Chinese citizens enjoy full freedom of religious belief protected by law.” The Chinese comments came in response to remarks made by President Bush at Monday’s ceremony hailing religious freedom.

There is little doubt freedom of religion as known in most countries of the world does not exist in China and surely President Bush knew that much about life in China. However, the Chinese government does raise an interesting question as to why Bush focuses on them and ignores issues of religious freedom closer to home. Of Iraq’s 800,000 Christians who were in the country when United States troops invaded, only about 400,000 are left due to lack of religious freedom in Iraq. Why doesn’t the American president focus on gaining religious freedom in areas where he can assert more power? Bush has consistently ignored the persecution of Iraqi Christians, which incidentally, arose due to his invasion. We applaud statements in support of religious freedom in China, but actions in support of freedom of religion in Iraq might be more helpful.

Which Nations Oppose Religious Freedom?

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has identified several nations which should be included in the list of countries in which religious freedom is not the norm. The Commission urged the State Department to add Vietnam, Pakistan and Turkmenistan to the list which already includes Indonesia , Myanmar and North Korea. The 10 member group was divided wheter to downgrade the predominantly Muslim Iraq to the blacklist due to reports of extensive discrimination and terror against Christian Iraqis. Although Vietnam is being added, the State Department did acknowledge the Vietnamese government has taken positive steps and is moving in the direction of more religious freedom.

The Commission did not find any evidence that Pakistan is moving towards religious freedom despte a free election in which moderate Muslims assume control of parliament and the government. “Despite the dramatic events in Paklstan in the past year, the commission finds that all of the serious religous freedom concerns, includng violence, on which the government has previously reportd, persist.”

It is surprising that Iraq is not on the list, given the fact about half the Christian Iraqi population has fled in terror and those remaining are confronted with constant religious persecution.

“Burn, Burn, Kill, Kill” Chant Peaceful Protestors

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation and among the centers of a moderate approach to religious issues, but, in recent years, there has been an increase in the level of violence among a sector of its population towards an heretical group known as the Ahmadiyah sect. The sect arose at the end of the 19th century in what is now known as Pakistan and some Muslim insist it was created by British imperialists in order to divide Muslims. Yesterday, hundreds of Indonesians converged on the sect’s mosque, burned it down and torched a religious school while sending dozens of people fleeing in terror before the attack. “We heard the attackers chanting, ‘burn, burn,’ and ‘kill, kill,’ said Zaki Firdaus, a member of the sect. “It was horrible.”

Indonesian law guarantees religious freedom but the actions of a team of prosecutors and government officials have created chaos where none is necessary. There are only about 200,000 members of the group in a nation of over 120,000,000. If 200,000 can create such terror, one should look to one’s religion. Then, again, less than two dozen people completely terrorized the entire American nation!

German Foreign Ministry Report Blasts China!

A new German Foreign Ministry report on China’s human rights situation blasted its leaders for a systemaized process of abusing the rights of those who express disagreement with government policies. Although the report noted some improvement in the human rights situation, it listed criticisms such as laws that are introduced and then ignored for political reasons, holding dissidents in custody for as long as necessary, censoring the media, controlling Internet access, trials held in secret at which defendants are not even provided lelgal representation, torture, lack of freedom of speech, assembly and religion.

Defenders of China will no doubt point to America’s large prison population and its government sanctioned torture program in order to excuse away Chinese behavior. The essential difference is that in America, critics operate freely in the media and on Internet to attack the government for incorrect policies.

China Seeks Ties With Vatican

China’s head of religious affairs on his current tour of the United States offered to establish ties with the Vatican if the Holy See was prepared to accept certain preconditions. Ye Xiawen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs speaking at China’s Embassy in Washington D.C. made it clea: “China’s religious affairs brook no intervention by foreign forces” and claimed his nation respects the right of religious freedom. The two major preconditions for restoring ties were acceptance by the Vatican of the “One China” concept and promises there would not be any attempt by Catholic officials to interfere in the internal affairs of China.

China tells the world it respects religious freedom, but continues its harsh policy against the people of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Of course, the key issue is the meaning of what constitutes “interference in the internal affairs” of China.

Muslim Insurgents In South Thailand Continue Brutality

The ongoing insurgency in south Thailand which contains the nation’s largest center of Muslims continues to demonstrate brutality and callousness toward human life. The rebellion which began in 2004 when Muslims claimed they were being oppressed by the Buddhist majority has resulted in widespread atrocities committed against not merely members of the Thai armed forces, but against fellow Muslims. yesterday, insurgents took a Muslim man they accused of being a police spy and hacked his body with knives, then drove six-inch nails through is head, arms, and legs before transforming the body into a Christ like symbol of one who has been crucified. Later, insurgent kidnapped two fishmongers and after shooting them, took off their heads.

The south Thailand rebellion has mainly been fought with guns and knives rather than with economic, political and social programs which would address needs of the majority of people. The use of violence invariably results in more violence. It is about time the Thai government drew upon support from Indonesian Muslim leaders in order to deal with issues that arise from economic, religious and political issues.

Russian Schoolboy Takes Unorthodox Stand For Religious Freedom

A 7 year old boy in Russia was taunted and beaten by classmates because he refused to participate in an Orthodox service that is part of opening the school year. Prosecutors have determined the elementary school violated the rights of David Perov. The boy’s father is pastor of the local Community of Christ Church. Although Russia’s Constitution envisions separation of church and state, the Orthodox Church has made serious inroads into imposing its presence in schools. David’s troubles began when a local Orthodox priest arrived to conduct services. He was not familiar with the religious activities and said, “I did not want to kiss the cross” which led several boys to hit him. “The teacher saw that they were beating me but said nothing.” When his mother came to pick him up he was hiding in the bathroom and she asked the teacher what had happened and was told nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Later, a similar response was obtained from the priest. A spokesperson for the Orthodox Church said they had checked with the school and teacher and found no evidence any violence had been inflicted on David. It’s only the boy’s father who says his son was beaten.” The Russian parliament is discussing ways to cease Orthodox services in schools

Many religious leaders in Russia are still reacting to the anti-religious teachings in Soviet Communist schools. Those days are over and there is no longer any need to be defensive. Most Russians are members of the Orthodox Church and have opportunities in their daily lives to pray. Pray outside of schools.