Christian Groups Ask Bush to Defend Religious Freedom

Earlier this week I posted on Abdul Rahman, a man in Afghanistan who may be sentenced to death for practicing Christianity. Now Christian groups in the United States—the same ones that once applauded when the U.S. ousted the Taliban—are incensed that the President isn’t doing more to protect Rahman’s freedom of religion.

In a letter to President Bush, Tony Perkins head of the ultraconservative Family Research Council declared:

Democracy is more than purple thumbs. Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Religious freedom is not just ‘an important element’ of democracy; it is its cornerstone. Religious persecution leads inevitably to political tyranny. Five hundred years of history confirm this. Americans have not given their lives so that Christians can be put to death.

Bush has yet to put serious pressure on the Afghan government, but acknowledged that he is “deeply troubled.” The Afghan constitution, written in 2004, is very ambiguous about religious freedom, declaring the country to be an Islamic state while also claiming to protect human rights. Now as these contradictions are rising to the surface on an international stage. Ironically, in 2004 the New York Times called Afghanistan’s new constitution “one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world,” embracing its ability to balance “the goal of an Islamic state with the promise to abide by the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Earlier this month on his trip to Afghanistan, Bush painted a picture of life before Operation Enduring Freedom:

Under the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, there is no religious freedom. You have no chance to express yourself in the public square without being punished. There is no capacity to realize your full potential. And so we’re committed. We’re committed to universal values. We believe — we believe everybody desires to be free. And we know that history has taught us that free societies yield the peace. And that’s what we want. We want peace for our children, and we want peace for the Afghan children, as well.

Are we currently looking at a better existence for Afghanistan? Abdul Rahman is sitting in a cell preparing to be a martyr for religious freedom and America is left wondering why so many lives were lost to topple the Taliban. Clearly freedom in Afghanistan has not endured.