Home > Uncategorized > It’s Time to Kill the Beast

It’s Time to Kill the Beast

Today the Washington Post ran a scandalous story about the incredulous actions of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

It appears that among the litany of reasons the body should be shut down is that it not only discriminates against non-Christians in its policies, it does so in its own offices.

The Post article states:

Some past commissioners, staff and former staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom say the agency charged with advising the president and Congress is rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism, with commissioners focusing on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background. In particular, they say an anti-Muslim bias runs through the commission’s work– a charge denied by its chairman, Leonard Leo.

I have been on the record for many years saying that the Commission should be shut down. Since its very first days, the Commission has failed to understand let alone fulfill its mandate. The commissioners — three appointed by the White House, three appointed by the Senate and three appointed by the House of Representatives in a Byzantine process — have over time used the body and its tax-payer funding to promote their own political or personal interests rather than working to guarantee that religious liberty is integrated in overall US foreign policy as called for in the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) which created the agency and was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress.

With a revolving door of executive directors and staff over the last 12 years, the Commission is a glaring example of wasteful and useless government spending. Acting in essence as tax-payer funded NGO rather than a government agency, the Commission’s nearly $4 million annual budget would be better suited as program funding to be spent on civil society building and religious liberty advocacy by the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.

That nearly $4 million annual budget was also used so that commissioners could lobby Congress for an extension of the Commission’s existence (it was supposed to die in 2003 but was extended) and to seek money to pay the commissioners for their time in violation of the spirit and letter of IRFA.

But all the blame for mission-creep and mismanagement doesn’t lie with the Commission itself. It lies with the political leaders who appoint the commissioners and whose oversight and appointment absence demonstrates their complete lack of interest, care or concern for the issue.

According to Title II, Section 201 (c) (1) of the International Religious Freedom Act,

In general.–The term of each member of the Commission shall be 2 years. Members of the Commission shall be eligible for reappointment to a second term.

Despite that very clear legislative language, Members of Congress and both the Bush and Obama Administrations have reappointed members as many as five times! To me, that is a clear violation of the law by the very people whose job it is to make and execute laws!

Let’s also keep in mind that in the 12 years since the establishment of the Commission, Congress has not ONCE held an oversight hearing to look into where the money goes, whether the Commission is fulfilling its mission, or any other element of the work of the body. It’s been a nearly $4 million annual pass…

International religious liberty is an issue that has impact far beyond the petty politics of petty people on a pointless body. The sad reality is that each of commissioners has served to only harm religious liberty by their personal politics rather than to advance the issue in the ways in which it needs to be done. And worse, Members of Congress and the Executive Branch don’t care enough to do anything about it.

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