Liberal Mormon and conservative Catholic join forces for religious freedom

Published: Monday, Nov. 5 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

“I don’t subscribe to any kind of multiculturalism that would regard it as imperialistic for us to protect people from bad acts that are done in the name of religion,” George said. “Whether its female genital mutilation, or executing people for blasphemy, or anything else.”

An expanding agenda

“Katrina and I came in with the same agenda,” George said. “We had never met. We had various connections. We had never met, but we had the same beliefs and the same agenda for the commission.”

“I would like to see USCIRF let people know what it is we do and why it’s important,” Swett said. “We have a lot of debates in this country about the role of faith in public dialogue. I think there would be a lot of interest in understanding how strong protections for religious freedom will strengthen global security.”

Religious freedom advocates have long argued that religious liberty is a “canary in the coal mine,” and that abuses of religious minority signal deep problems in societies and governments — problems that will soon lead to internal and regional instability.

Swett thus wants to push USCIRF to integrate religious freedom into the broader human rights movement and into global diplomacy more generally.

“Over a year ago Clinton gave a landmark speech on internet freedom,” Swett said, “outlining State Department initiatives to increase access to the Internet in closed societies, circumventing firewalls, etc..”

Since Swett and George see eye to eye on the centrality of individual liberty in religious freedom, they both have latched onto the importance of Internet freedom. “Think of China and North Korea, any place where you have these kinds of problems, and you see how valuable Internet freedom can be,” George said.

Halfway through their first year on the commission, George and Swett have already coauthored two major opinion pieces, in addition to their intensive work reviewing reports and conducting meetings.

The personal connection in a shared vision is, they both believe, is precisely the kind of bipartisan and ecumenical cooperation needed to move USCIRF’s agenda to the next level.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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