Religious freedom, rightly understood, cannot be reduced to freedom of worship. Religious freedom includes the right to preach and evangelize, to make religiously informed moral arguments in the public square and to conduct the affairs of one’s religious community without undue interference from the state. If religious freedom only involves the freedom to worship, then, as noted above, there is “religious freedom” in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles and evangelism are forbidden but expatriate Filipino laborers can attend Mass in the U.S. embassy compound in Riyadh.
In its glory years, the State Department’s human rights bureau was a stalwart friend of those brave men and women in communist countries who were asserting, in addition to their right to worship, their rights as believers to be fully participant in society. That noble legacy should cause the present guardians of U.S. human rights policy to think very carefully about the path they seem to be taking in this field.
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