FFRF asks Congress to reauthorize religious freedom body — with modifications


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, but with more oversight and less politics.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will expire in late November unless Congress reauthorizes it. USCIRF commissioners are appointed by the president, speaker of the House, and Senate majority and minority leaders, but is an independent government agency that Congress oversees. FFRF has given it mixed reviews over the years, but has commended the USCIRF report Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws.

FFRF and other secular groups, including the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition for America, signed an interfaith coalition letter asking Congress to reauthorize the USCIRF. But FFRF has reservations.

“The commission has been captured by Christian Nationalists, like Tony Perkins,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. A notorious anti-LGBTQ, anti-atheist and anti-Muslim hatemonger, Perkins is the president of the faith-based Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has rightly labeled a hate group. Perkins once referred to FFRF as “the Atheist Taliban,” a shocking slander that FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel picked apart. FFRF objected to Perkins’ appointment.

The commission includes other Christian Nationalists affiliated with Liberty University and Gary Bauer, who called the “left … an American Taliban” and frothed about “judicial terrorism” after the Supreme Court decided in favor of marriage equality.

“The work of the USCIRF is important, but we’re so concerned that the Christian Nationalists are not only perverting that work, but using the commission to advance a regressive Christian Nationalist agenda,” warns Gaylor. “While we’re calling on Congress to reauthorize USCIRF, we want more safeguards and transparency in place,” she adds.

“Commissioners cannot use this critical public trust, and the power that attaches to that office, to promote their personal religion,” agrees Seidel. “No doubt some on the commission want to continue its noble work, but Perkins and Bauer are dangerous Christian Nationalist hacks who cannot be trusted.”

FFRF hopes the commission lives on to carry out its original purposes, and that the damage Christians Nationalists do will be limited and eventually repaired.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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