WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - President Donald Trump is protecting religious freedom by reasserting the United States as a global watchdog with teeth.
Trump's Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom (EO), signed on Tuesday, is being seen as a staunch new initiative to stamp out religious persecution around the world.
Global analyst and president of Population Research Institute Steven Mosher told Church Militant Trump's EO has real teeth.
"In order to put teeth in the order, he has mandated that foreign service officers and all those government employees assigned to work overseas must undergo training every three years, and he has also created a special fund to assist in these efforts," Mosher commented.
The president's EO references countries of particular concern that are "noted in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom." There has been a global surge in religious persecution, according to this annual report, released in May 2019 by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF is a federal commission initiated by the "International Religious Freedom Act of 1998," which was also referenced in the EO.
The USCIRF report found religious persecution as of 2019 at a historical high and made a special mention of Christian persecution committed by communist China. A commissioner drafting the report, Johnnie Moore, specifically criticized the Vatican deal signed in 2018 with communist China as being a catalyst for ramping up persecution of China's faithful Catholics:
[O]ne of the most alarming incidents as it relates to religious freedom in the entire year was the decision by the Vatican to negotiate a diplomatic relationship with China that resulted in the recognition of government-appointed bishops. ... Literally, within days of the Vatican negotiating its deal, the Chinese used it as cover to embark upon the closure of several of the nation's largest and most prominent unregistered church communities. That has continued. ... The Vatican made a terrible mistake, which it must take seriously. This debacle must be dealt with urgently and seriously.
An expert on China, Mosher sees Trump's EO as being especially useful in reining in China's persecution of its religious-minded citizens.
"I can't stress how important this EO is in terms of calling major offenders of religious freedom like China to account," remarked Mosher. "All of the provisions of this EO seem to be directed at specific violations of religious freedom that China is committing."
The EO signing comes on the heels of Trump calling out China for its legislative efforts to control Hong Kong and for being complicit in spreading the Wuhan virus. The EO puts on notice countries like China that are hotspots of persecution:
The secretary shall direct chiefs of mission in countries of particular concern, countries on the Special Watch List, countries in which there are entities of particular concern, and any other countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom as noted in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
The United States' Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in December 2019 placed China near the top of the list of such countries of special concern.
The Department of State then "redesignated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as countries of particular concern ... for having engaged in or tolerated 'systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.'"
Mosher says this EO is special for making religious freedom a top priority of U.S. diplomats.
"All too often these kinds of human rights concerns in general, and religious freedom issues in particular, are put in a separate 'basket' and never pursued with the same vigor and persistence that economic and trade issues received," observed Mosher.
Former vice president Joe Biden has been noted for his pro-China policies while ignoring human rights violations — so much so that he's earned the nickname "Beijing Biden."
Biden helped China in the 1990s join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by carefully leading the Marxist nation through the process as an influential senator. During this time, he bulldozed roadblocks attempting to tie China's economic status to its human-rights violations.
Ignoring China's record on religious persecution that dates back to 1950 continued under the Obama administration, in which Biden was a two-term vice president and Hilary Clinton served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
But Trump is launching a new era for international religious freedom with his EO, according to Mosher.
"Once again, the president has taken a dramatic step forward in terms of reasserting traditional American values, this time in prioritizing the first freedom — freedom of religion — in U.S. foreign policy," affirmed Mosher. "This EO will put religious freedom on a more equal footing with other American interests that our diplomats are charged to advance."