- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced a gathering of “like-minded” political counterparts from foreign nations to discuss ways to advance religious freedoms around the globe.

Atheists will no doubt scream, criticizing the openly, unapologetically Christian-believing Pompeo for daring to tie foreign policy to what they see as a figment of imaginations, God. But they shouldn’t.

Fact is, as America’s own history shows, religious freedom is foundational to a lasting free society. And that’s something that benefits all, believers and atheists alike.

But first, here’s what’s happening on the political end: Pompeo, on the heels of the State Department’s release of its most recent annual International Religious Freedom report, announced that he would be hosting a first-of-its-kind meeting this July to determine how America, and U.S. allies, might fight for religious freedom around the world via policy and pressure.

The two-day forum will not just be a “discussion group,” Pompeo vowed.

“It will be about action,” he said, Politico reported. “We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against persecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”

Sounds sensible enough, right? Yet wait for it; wait for it.

It won’t be long before the left, and particularly, atheists on the left, either turn this forum into something it’s not — an evangelical training ground — or worse, downplay and deride America’s political interest in bringing religious freedom to other nations.

And make no mistake about it: There is a decided interest.

Aside from the humanitarian side — the line of thought that states that every human should have the right to choose his or her religious beliefs, and exercise them without fear of persecution — there’s a larger benefit to America to be gleaned here, and it’s one that goes like this: Freedom of speech is crucial; freedom of the press, great. But absent freedom of religion, tyrannical, dictatorial, despotic closed societies ensue — bringing, of course, tyrannical, dictatorial, despotic and closed-minded leaders.

And as any good politician knows, those people are tough-to-impossible to deal with on a diplomatic, foreign policy front.

Just look at America, the root of America’s own freedom.

America is the free nation it is today in large part because of the Judeo-Christian principles that were etched into our DNA at the country’s creation, both within the country’s founding documents and morphing from the country’s original documents.

It’s hard to justify slavery, for instance, in the face of a religious teaching that says men and women are created in the image of God. It’s difficult to tax at ridiculously high levels, or cheat citizens of their earnings and properties, when doing so seems so out of line with biblical stories about dishonesty. It’s tough to order military members to confront their fellow citizens when considering the concept of the Golden Rule and doing unto others as they should do unto you. It’s harder still to rule as a tyrant while acknowledging the day of judgment, the day of giving account for all acts, actions and even thoughts to a higher power.

Simply put, a nation without religious freedom is one run by either despots or zealots.

Neither benefit America, or America’s allies, when it comes to the advance of fair-minded political and foreign affairs. And really, even atheists ought to recognize the benefit of governments that allow their people the freedom to worship freely, absent persecution. Even atheists ought to fight for the right of citizens around the world to attend church absent fear of arrest — or beheading.

After all, when it comes to the exercising of personal freedoms and the living of life without fear of government persecution or fanatical subjugation, atheists have benefitted well from America’s own biblical roots, and from American politicians who feel accountable to a higher power — much as they hate to admit it.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.


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