A Note from ICRF President Bruce Casino
You hold in your hands the first edition of the International Religious Freedom Report, published bi-monthly by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom. The Report intends to provide current information on the state of religious freedom in the world today. Its readership includes human rights activists, civil libertarians, religious leaders, legislators, journalists, lawyers, scholars and other interested individuals.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which operates as an authoritative guide in the field of human rights. The ICRF seeks to promote the vision of religious freedom found in Article 18 of the Declaration:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
International Coalition for Religious Freedom intends to be a leader promoting religious freedom for all people. Although the ICRF gratefully acknowledges the significant funding it receives from the Unification Church, we are a non-sectarian association devoted to the proposition that every individual and religious entity, of whatever nation or belief, possesses the right to freedom of religious belief and expression as his or her conscience leads. This right, of course, must be balanced against the requirements of generally applicable criminal law. In fulfilling its task, ICRF will build on and bring to the international level the successful work of its predecessor, the Coalition for Religious Freedom, which has worked so diligently since its founding in 1983 to promote religious freedom in the United States.
Sadly, in this era when humankind is making progress on so many fronts, discrimination against persons of faith and the institutions to which they belong is rampant, and tragically, not merely in the nondemocratic nations. Democratic nations such as Germany, France and Russia have a curious blind spot when it comes to freedom for smaller religions within their borders. It is the treatment of these smaller, politically powerless groups which, of course, is the acid test for religious freedom in any nation. I believe it was Tom Wolfe who said, "a cult is any religion without political power."
The eminent French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, analyzed the realm of religion - the sacred - and noted that it is not subject to the empirical verification available in the everyday world of the profane. This distinction is crucial to understanding that government simply has no role in dictating or denying religious belief and expression since they are outside the regulatory competence of the state, which must necessarily deal in the realm of the empirical.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. As we launch this first edition of the International Religious Freedom Report, I trust you will join us in praying that the blessing of religious liberty will reach every person throughout the world. Toward that end, let us resolve to work together beyond creedal boundaries in the months and years ahead.
Bruce J. Casino, Esquire