In introducing the 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom, Secretary of State John Kerry said his department was fighting “to protect people’s right to exercise religious freedom.”
“[C]ountries benefit when their citizens fully enjoy” these rights “to which they are entitled,” he said.
John Kerry’s words prefaced the annual report delivered by Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom David N. Saperstein. The secretary continued:
I should emphasize that the concept of religious freedom extends way beyond mere tolerance. It is a concept grounded in respect for the rights and beliefs of others. It is deeply connected to our DNA as Americans – to everything that we are and everything that we came from. It’s a concept that is based on respect, and respect, in turn, demands legal equality. It demands that the practitioners of one faith understand that they have no right to coerce others into submission, conversion, or silence, or to literally take their lives because of their beliefs.
Kerry’s words come as the Obama administration has been relentless in forcing religious groups and schools to comply with the HHS contraceptive mandate, a part of Obamacare that demands employers provide free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures to employees through health insurance plans—even if these items are against the tenets of their faith. Failure to comply with the HHS mandate leads to onerous fines by the IRS.
Over the course of the past year, the Obama administration also signed an executive order barring federal contractors—including faith groups—from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama turned a deaf ear to churches that urged a religious exemption. In addition, the White House has directed federal agencies to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes in all federal grant agreements.
“By issuing this report, we hope to give governments an added incentive to honor the rights and the dignity of their citizens,” Kerry said.