- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001

A 5-year-old U.S. human rights movement focused on religious freedom abroad finally may be having an impact on the White House and State Department, a panel of academics and advocates said yesterday.
Though the Clinton administration had set up advisory panels on religious liberty, the Bush White House may put teeth into foreign policy concerns over egregious violations of religious freedom in Sudan and perhaps China, they said.
"President Bush, in his five months in office, has done more than President Clinton," said Nina Shea of Freedom House, a human rights organization. But she added that his action on Sudan "is the litmus test for us on Bush foreign policy."
At a forum here organized by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, panelists said religious freedom is currently the only "sustained movement in human rights," comparable to the battles in the 1970s and 1980s against apartheid and for Soviet Jewry and opponents of Latin American dictators.
Miss Shea said that Mr. Bush's four appointments of human rights officials and three speeches condemning killings of Christians and animists by the Sudanese Muslim government suggest he might be willing to intervene.
Though the White House has declined to oppose China's bid to host the 2008 Olympics, which many U.S. businesses are plugging, she credits Mr. Bush for having a photo session with the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.
Among the new human rights appointments is Elliott Abrams, who stepped down as president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center yesterday to begin work as human rights adviser on the National Security Council.
Mr. Abrams had served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has recommended tough economic sanctions on Sudan and China.
Political scientist Allen Hertzke of the University of Oklahoma, a specialist on the role of religion in Washington lobbies and in political campaigns, said the religious freedom movement has turned heartland churchgoers into "an unexpected breeding ground of internationalists," not isolationists.
He said Mr. Bush's electoral base was 40 percent evangelicals, with the rest being more "fervent believers" among Catholics and mainline Protestants, and these are the grass-roots networks of the movement.
The movement, while focusing first on persecution of Christians, has widened to urge the United States to fight against the global sex trade and the slave labor that produces commodities sold in the United States.
To rival American business interests, the religious liberty movement must "maintain and even intensify its momentum," Mr. Hertzke said. "If it does, the president will act."
Otherwise, he said, foreign policy will default "to business as usual."
Gary Bauer, who made China's human rights violations a core issue of his Republican presidential primary bid, in remarks cited the image of the student who stood before a Chinese tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
"Are they going to stand with the guy in front of the tank, or stand with the guy inside the tank?" Mr. Bauer asked of a U.S. administration.
Miss Shea also said that getting Americans to focus on Sudan was tough because, unlike past human-rights crusades, there are no famous intellectuals or revolutionaries in prison to draw media fanfare.
"There are people being killed" in Sudan, she said, but "it's a faceless situation."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide