USCIRF Report 2014: Ambassador Robert Seiple Gives Insight
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a semi-independent Government entity created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, has just issued a most comprehensive report on the state of religious freedom today as well as a very helpful perspective on the implementation of this Act over the last 15 years.
We've come a long way. As the first Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, I was there at the beginning, and I had concerns with the Commission. Truth be told, the Commission was written into the Act because there was a general distrust that the State Department, left to its own devices, would be tough enough on religious freedom abuses taking place globally. Two different methodologies emerged, one based on the promotion of religious freedom (State Department) and one designed to punish global offenders (Commission).
Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, once asked me for advice relative to engaging the Commission. I responded metaphorically, "Feel free to date them, but don't let them kiss you good night." The need for caution was well understood.
That said, this latest report amply demonstrates that history has given way to a most productive present. The report is a thoughtful, comprehensive, educational presentation of this issue today. The staff at USCIRF, always able and committed, has provided a rich trove of informative topics. The appointed set of Commissioners has never been stronger. In short, the Commission has evolved into a most helpful partner with the State Department. Indeed, during the prolong absences between Ambassadors, the Commission has emerged as the stronger entity in the implementation of the IRF Act of 1998. A careful reading of the report should underscore this conclusion."