The State Department just released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2016 and Secretary Rex Tillerson marked the occasion with a speech that mentioned atheism as a reason people are persecuted in certain nations:
In Iran, Baha’is, Christians, and other minorities are persecuted for their faith. Iran continues to sentence individuals to death under vague apostasy laws — 20 individuals were executed in 2016 on charges that included, quote, “waging war against God.” Members of the Baha’i community are in prison today simply for abiding by their beliefs.
We remain concerned about the state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. The government does not recognize the right of non-Muslims to practice their religion in public and applied criminal penalties, including prison sentences, lashings, and fines, for apostasy, atheism, blasphemy, and insulting the state’s interpretation of Islam. Of particular concern are attacks targeting Shia Muslims, and the continued pattern of social prejudice and discrimination against them. We urge Saudi Arabia to embrace greater degrees of religious freedom for all of its citizens.
It couldn’t be more clear, to me anyway, that he’s referring to Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who still faces jail time and lashes for his criticism of Islam years ago.
There are plenty of reasons to criticize Tillerson, including the way he’s decimated the very department that could be working to release Badawi, but for a brief moment, he (or whoever writes his speeches) rightly acknowledged the persecution faced by critics of religion.
If only he had the wisdom to actually do something about it.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)