House Approves Funding for Commission on International Religious Freedom

After years of excessive spending, the United States is facing difficult economic and fiscal straits, Mr. Chairman. Presently, our country is suffering under $14.39 trillion dollars in national debt and roughly 40 cents of every dollar we spend must be borrowed and placed on the backs of our children. Make no mistake, funding for government programs and non-profit organizations that are not critical to the functioning of core government services must be considered for cuts.
— Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08) May 27, 2011

Mr. Cravaack made the comment as support for his Amendment 152 to terminate funding for the United States Institute of Peace … a Department of State program.
Mr. Cravaack reasoned that the “We are a nation teetering on the edge of insolvency. For Admiral Mike Mullen recently stated, “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.”
Now is the time to make the tough calls, Mister Speaker. The United States Institute of Peace is a program that our children and grandchildren should not be funding at the sake of their futures
According to Mr. Cravaack, the government funded “think tank” received $39.5 million in Fiscal Year 2011.

OK, so according to Mr. Cravaack America does not need to promote Peace … but what about the Commission on International Religious Freedom ?
Well, Mr. Cravaack voted FOR that funding … com’n Mr. Cravaack is that “a critical core function of government” ? Was that too “tough a call” to make ?

Under the legislation advanced by Mr. Cravaack, the Commission on International Religious Freedom would operate as a five-member panel (one each appointed by the President, House majority, House minority, Senate majority, and Senate minority).
The commentary on religious freedom could be done by the US State Department, but by having an “independent” body, it bypasses the President’s involvement … providing un-elected individuals a bureaucracy to promote their own political and theocratic agenda.

The Commission on International Religious Freedom will prepare an Annual Report describing conditions for freedom of religious or belief in countries of concern to the Commission and provides policy recommendations to ensure that the promotion of freedom of religious belief becomes a more integral part of U.S. foreign policy. The report contains chapters on countries the Commission had recommended for designation as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) for severe violations of religious freedom; countries the Commission has placed on a Watch List for violations of religious freedom that do not meet the CPC threshold
… yes, un-elected bureaucrats with an agenda.

The budget amount is irrelevant … $3 million dollars is a mere speck of the federal appropriations, yet when the Congress is debating which program to cut to offset funding for hurricane and earthquake disaster relief, why not start with the Commission on International Religious Freedom ?

But then again, why look at “International Religious Freedom” when there appears to be some in America that have problems with religious tolerance ?
For example, Peter King (R-NY-03) has stated that there are “too many mosques in this country”. “There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam,” King said. “We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.”

That feeling appears also to be a concern of Lynne Torgerson, a Republican candidate in the 2012 election to represent Minnesota in Congress … stating at her 9/11 candidacy announcement :

“I think I still need to expose Keith Ellison for being a radical Islamist.
I do believe that he says he does eventually want to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law.”

The Commission on International Religious Freedom has been criticized in the past including receiving an EEOC complaint. As the Washington Post reported :

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

From the start, critics say, the commission has disproportionately focused its efforts on the persecution of Christians, while too often ignoring other religious communities and downplaying their claims of persecution.

One researcher, Bridget Kustin, quit in protest, saying in her resignation letter that she would not “remain part of an organization that would be willing to engage in such discrimination.”

Was the commission’s extensive work condemning textbooks used by a Saudi-run private Islamic school in Northern Virginia a legitimate international issue or an example of anti-Muslim bias? Is the commission’s decision not to speak out for two years against efforts in Switzerland to ban minarets evidence of bias or of its desire to focus on harsher oppression elsewhere? Was hand-delivering a New Testament Bible to a Catholic priest in a Vietnamese prison the moral thing for a commissioner to do or a public-relations blunder for a country already seen by some as on a Christian crusade?

All good questions … a better one might be : Should the Commission on International Religious Freedom be investigating America for possible inclusion on their Countries of Particular Concern Watch List ?

Mr. Cravaack and the other Members of Congress failed to ask the key question : Has the Commission on International Religious Freedom proved beneficial … Mr. Cravaack has been successful in denouncing the Peace Institute yet when given the chance to confront religious intolerance here in America, he prefers to fund investing for International Religious Freedom.