In Testimony, Berschinski Calls on State Dept. to Pair Religious Freedom Efforts with Human Rights
Washington, D.C.—In testimony today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski urged Congress to press the Trump Administration to pair its efforts to protect freedom of religion with a broader prioritization of promoting human rights. Berschinski, testifying at a hearing on “The U.S. Government’s Role in Protecting International Religious Freedom,” argued that governments acting in the name of countering terrorism to repress their citizens are among the greatest threats to religious freedom, and highlighted the unprecedented and alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Europe.
“Freedom of religion—to believe or not believe, to change one’s beliefs, and to practice one’s faith in private or in observance with others—is the essence of what makes us human,” noted Berschinski in his testimony. "Simply put, repressive governments tend to seek control over any organized body of individuals, and to view those outside the government’s direct control as a threat to their power. Thus, attacks on religion and belief often relate to, and sometimes stand in for, attacks on political opposition, human rights lawyers and activists, women, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities,” he added.
Human Rights First calls on Congress to urge Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to show leadership on protecting religious freedom by: fully funding the State Department and USAID; nominating qualified individuals to serve as assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and in assistant secretary positions for regions with groups experiencing religious persecution and sectarian violence; and maintaining other special envoy positions working to advance religious tolerance.
Berschinski’s testimony included additional recommendations for the U.S. government, including to review its security-focused policies and programs, protect the rights of displaced minority religious communities in Iraq, and uphold the bipartisan tradition of welcoming refugees.
For more information or to speak with Berschinski, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.