US Senate should swiftly affirm Texan Rashad Hussain as religious freedom ambassador
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Since Roger Williams founded the first U.S. Baptist Church in Rhode Island in 1638, Americans have understood that religious freedom is not only the right thing to do, but for everyone’s benefit as well. Williams believed that forced worship “stank in the nostrils of God.”
When the state forces people to believe something they don’t want, the state violates God’s most precious gift – freedom of conscience – and this creates resentment against the state. Williams’ solution was simple: let people believe what they want and earn greater loyalty to the state. In other words, religious freedom is good for society and for security.
In 1998, Congress unanimously voted to create the post of U.S. Goodwill Ambassador for International Religious Freedom. Religious freedom is not so much a bipartisan issue as it is a non-partisan issue: it’s in the marrow of our bones to stand up for someone’s right to disagree with us. This is what makes us most American.
You should know: we are a 6th generation Texan whose ancestor fought at the Alamo (Bob Roberts), and the fourth of eight Marines in two generations of Seiples, whose father was the first American Ambassador for Freedom international religious (Chris Seiple). Together, we have worked with our government across administrations and politics, working with every religious freedom ambassador and around the world for a religious freedom that protects the conscience and ensures the safety of all citizens.
Soon the US Senate will consider President Joe Biden’s appointment as Goodwill Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussein, a Texan who grew up in Plano. We have known him and have worked with him for many years. He is a trusted and experienced diplomat and national security expert, having worked to protect our national security in the White House, State Department and Justice Department over the past three presidential administrations, for Democrats and a republican.
For example, Rashad ruled America successful efforts to eliminate the UN resolution on “defamation of religions”, a kind of global blasphemy law. He has led numerous multi-faith delegations and diplomatic missions to places such as the Central African Republic, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan to help protect vulnerable religious communities; and he actively supported visits by religious leaders to Holocaust sites to combat anti-Semitism. He has also worked as a National Security Law Enforcement Officer on counterterrorism issues.
That Hussain is a Muslim is a bonus. His service in this role, and his honorable record of public service, exemplify the deep and widespread contributions that American Muslims make to our country on a daily basis, in all walks of life.
As the first Muslim to fulfill this role, Hussain would send a strong signal rejecting the despicable anti-Muslim discrimination, stereotypes and hatred that we have seen in America and abroad. And, it should be noted, he is the ideal person to visibly and vocally defend the rights of religious minorities, especially Christians, in some Muslim-majority contexts who have struggled to promote religious freedom – as we have seen all. throughout his career.
Because of these combined attributes, Hussain has the trust and support of interfaith and civil society groups across religious and political specters, including the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and Jewish and Christian leaders. We ask for its rapid and unanimous confirmation.
If confirmed in this role, Hussain will be the focal point of America’s struggle against global restrictions on religious freedom, which is reaching an all-time high. The Pew Research Center global study of restrictions on religion found in 2019 that the governments of 180 countries had harassed religious groups in one way or another, and that 57 countries have “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion. Christians face restrictions in 153 countries around the world, most of all religious groups. Some religious communities are victims of horrific acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, especially in places like China and Myanmar.
The United States was not founded for any particular creed, race, or tribe; it was founded on the truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. Roger Williams believed that freedom of conscience was the cornerstone of civilization. As we continue to strive to achieve his vision, one thing is certain: the diversity and vibrancy of our multi-faith, multi-faith society is a source of strength and an example to the world. Hussain will help keep him that way.
Bob Roberts is the founder of GlocalNet, co-founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, Senior Global Pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, and host of the Bold Love podcast.
Chris Seiple is President Emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement, Senior Fellow at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and Global Policy Advisor to the Executive Leadership of the World Evangelical Alliance.
They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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