Andrew Bennett, the ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom, sort-of confirms that his mandate includes atheists.
The religious-freedom ambassador said he’s also monitoring the treatment of atheists abroad. “Freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have a particular religious faith,” he said. “I think that’s just logically consistent.”
But he signalled his greatest priority would be believers.
“The vast majority of people being persecuted are people of faith. They are the ones that are being killed. They are the ones that are facing legislative and regulatory restrictions.”
In a separate article about the same interview, Andrew Bennett continues:
It’s a concern but I think we also need to realize the vast majority of people being persecuted are people of faith. They are the ones that are being killed. They are the ones that are facing legislative and regulatory restrictions.
So the concerns of atheists, I understand it. And we will monitor it. And we will speak out if we need to. But I think we can’t lose sight of the fact that disproportionately the people being persecuted for freedom of religion are believers.
Hmmmm. Bennett’s statements are fine- including atheism under a broad definition of religious freedom is good to hear- but the implication that religious people are being persecuted more than atheist is suspicious.
Is there data to suggest that religious people are indeed being persecuted more? Being essentially a political department from the beginning, the unofficial intent of the office was always to defend oppressed Christians in Muslim countries so I understand the ambassador’s focus on oppressed religious minorities. But wherever Christians are being oppressed, atheists are too, and atheists are being oppressed in other countries where Christians are fine (i.e. Bangladesh) so the implication that atheists aren’t a priority over other religious minorities is silly.
CFI:Canada reps recently met with the ambassador to voice concerns that atheists aren’t being ignored (which may have led to the pro-atheist name dropping in the above articles) and reps from Humanist Canada will meet in a few weeks so I expect our activist groups to keep up the pressure.