persecutory impulse emanates from both those with secular and theocratic world views – those who seek to be “free from religion” and those who seek to “enforce religion” (that is, from a shared sense of ecumenical and community values) in the public square. This struggle is not new to the history of public policy.
It was former Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who recently stated in a speech at the University of Dublin in Ireland, that "The religious zealot and the theocrat frighten us in part because we understand only too well their basic impulse. No less frightening is the totalitarian atheist who aspires to a society in which the exercise of religion has no place."
But what has been only hedged at, is that the seeds of persecution are often sown through subtle acts of discrimination perpetrated both officially and unofficially over a gradual period of time on an unsuspecting and apathetic people at large, and particularly on religious minorities and other subsets of marginalized classes of peoples and ethnic groups, and many times in the name of “reform.” This has been true in most all societies throughout history, and continues to be true today.
Who can forget the gradual progression of discrimination laws enacted by the Wehrmacht and Hitler that systematically led to the Holocaust of over six million Jews prior to the outbreak of WWII? Visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., brings this fact into horrific relief.
It is not my intent to demean particular countries, or those who represented them at this extremely beneficial World Congress on Religious Freedom and Human Rights. Suffice it to say, however, it is important to highlight a persistent and problematic standard that falls consistently short of both the spirit and letter of the international Article 18 standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which otherwise peaceful and law abiding religious peoples are singled out for disapproval and discriminatory treatment because they are viewed as a competitive threat by the predominant religion(s) of the land.
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