From Humanist Network News
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently recommended in an 85-page report that the U.S. government develop a strategy to make religion "integral" to American foreign policy. Here's the good news in the report. It recommends that Foreign Service officers learn more about the religious and cultural beliefs of people in other countries, so we can more effectively communicate with them. This is a no-brainer. Religious and cultural literacy should be a prerequisite for all diplomats. Many conflicts in the Middle East and other parts of the world make no sense apart from recognition of the role that religion plays in them. If we are to have any hope for a solution, we need to understand better the problem.
Now here's the bad news in the report. It claims that American foreign policy's uncompromising Western secularism fuels religious extremism throughout the world, and recommends that we remove obstacles to constructive engagement with religious groups overseas. What does this mean? Unfortunately, the report is ambiguous about the importance of religious freedom and human rights, and would seem to open the door for U.S. officials to make our precious First Amendment secondary when we try to ingratiate ourselves with religious leaders abroad. Such oversights could have disastrous outcomes. We have enough problems at home with government officials chipping at the fragile wall that separates church and state. We don't need to export those troubles to our work abroad.