U.S. gathering on religious freedom sets up competing narratives - 2018-07-21
"There is clearly an effort here to use the peer pressure of the international community to urge respect for religious freedom," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "The importance of this is to send a very strong message that America is once again concerned about religious freedom. They see it not as an American right, but as a human right."
The State Department staffer said that Russia and Turkey, whose religious-rights records have been increasingly problematic, were left off the invite list. The staffer added that administration officials hoped to highlight in particular the religious abuses by the government of Iran, an Islamist-led country that the Trump administration has singled out for pressure to the point where analysts say it is effectively aiming for regime change.
On the civil-society front, the administration is taking an inclusive approach: Invitees range from atheists to Scientologists, according to the State Department staffer. Representatives of more broad-based organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, are also on the list. Many are hosting side events.