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In with the New Old

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Several years ago I had what I thought was the brilliant idea of launching a BlogTalkRadio show. The show ran weekly until I got crazy busy and couldn’t manage to produce and host it anymore

The show essentially died in 2009.

Well, I’ve decided that it was in fact a brilliant idea to have the show, and I am relaunching The Grieboski Report live today at 3pm EST.

Today’s show will focus on something I know little about and have no opinions on whatsoever: Religious Freedom and the Obama Administration… [insert smirk here]

My guests today will be Anthony Clark Arend, Dean of the Master’s Program in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Dr. Tom Farr, Visiting Associate Professor of Religion and World Affairs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the founding Director of the Office of International Religious Freedom at the US Department of State; Shai Franklin, United Nations Fellow at THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy; Steve Moffett, a principal in Capstone Nations Partner’s Washington, DC office and one of the authors of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.

I’m excited about launching the show again. The show will be much broader than it had been in the past, with new areas to cover, new guests and experts, and once in a while guests hosts who will take their episodes in their own directions.

You can hear us live at 3pm EST here.

If you’d like to join the conversation, you can email us at TheGrieboskiReport@gmail.com, or send us messages over Twitter and Facebook.

If you do have a chance to listen, I’d love to have your feedback!

Obama’s Potemkin Village

March 29, 2010 1 comment

This week, I am being inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr Board of Sponsors of Morehouse College. It is indeed an overwhelming honor for me.

But besides being an honor, it is a call to action.

Morehouse states the following about those inducted:

Because of the crises of character in America requiring more ethically and spiritually oriented role models and moral examples, those inducted into the Morehouse College prophetic religious tradition, are charged and challenged to be examples for this generation of students, remembering that our vision is the creation of a global society in which the full development of each individual’s potential is the central goal. They are to use their time, talent and resources to help usher in an age of peace and nonviolence for the children of the world and to raise another generation of morally inspired leaders committed to building the “Beloved Community.”

The last eleven years have been an ongoing struggle to usher in that age of peace and nonviolence. For me, that age of peace and nonviolence has been for religious minorities, agnostics, and atheists.

But that struggle has not gotten easier; in fact has gotten much more difficult. The cause of the greater obstacles, interestingly enough, is not always an increase in discrimination and persecution, but also an increase in apathy and a decrease in attention.

The US Congress’s 1998 unanimous passage of the International Religious Freedom Act was meant to engage the United States Government in the protection of religious believers and non-believers globally. Instead, the law has been minimally followed by all three Administrations since its passage.

And while each Administration was terrible, this Administration so far is the worst.

By this point in the Bush Administration, an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (whose position was created in the IRFA of 1998) was nominated, confirmed, and preparing to be sworn in. The Obama Administration has not even gotten so far as to name anyone yet.

If that were the only failing of the Obama Administration on religious liberty, I wouldn’t be so critical. But the facts are far worse.

See, the Clinton State Department has decided that the Ambassador will not even manage her own staff. Instead, the Office Director and staff report to a Deputy Assistant Secretary, while the Ambassador is to report to the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights – which is a violation of IRFA. By law, the Ambassador at Large is the principle advisor to the President and Secretary of State. As such, she should report to the President and the Secretary of State, not a lowly Assistant Secretary.

That Office of International Religious Freedom staff, already overworked and understaffed, is now reporting to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Now it appears that the Front Office is asking the staff to focus even more on anti-Semitism and interfaith dialogue at the expense of the work that the staff is supposed to be doing under the IRF Act, and while they’re already short staffed. The IRF office has not hired a single Civil Servant in over two years.

The Obama Administration came into office with a fresh vision of new relations with the Islamic World, a commitment to human rights, and a dedication to combat religious discrimination.

Instead, the Obama Administration has created a religious liberty Potemkin Village, undermining Congressional intent and the letter of the International Religious Freedom Act.

And don’t think people aren’t noticing: religious discriminators and persecutors understand that this Administration has no interest in defending fundamental human rights. And while the president has said a lot of nice words, his actions – and lack thereof – have spoken far more loudly, far more clearly, and have been heard far more broadly.

As I prepare to be awarded in the name of Martin Luther King, I too can hear a message:

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.

Since the freedom of nearly 70% of the world’s population that faces religious discrimination and persecution on a daily basis is of no interest to the President or his Administration, I will straighten my back and continue to work for freedom.

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