State Department report slams some Muslim nations, China and Europe for religious freedom restrictions

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

McClatchey Newspapers noted that even some allies came under the critical eye of the State Department. Europe was chided for failing to keep pace with its growing ethnic and religious diversity, with the report saying the demographic change is sometimes accompanied by “growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered ‘the other.’ ”

The article said Belgium and France passed laws restricting dress that “adversely affected Muslims,” while Hungary introduced changes making it so difficult to register religious organizations that the number of recognized religious groups plummeted from more than 300 to fewer than 32.

New accounts mentioned Libya, Myanmar, Cuba and Russia as bright spots where conditions have improved but still have a long way to go to realize the free practice of one's faith. The report also noted improvements in Turkey and Ukraine.

“Even as this report documents abuses of religious freedom, the events of 2011 show that change is possible,” the report's conclusion states, “and suggests that countries whose constitution, laws, policies, and practices protect religious freedom and human rights will be the most vibrant and stable.”

Religion News Service reported that Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called the State Department report “commendable” but said the department still must convince policymakers that religious freedom should be a “moral imperative."

“The other challenge is convincing foreign governments to make needed improvements,” she said.

ADDED information on North Korea and Iran from the State Department report

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