The following Op-Ed by Rick Santorum first appeared on Ricochet.com on April 6, 2012:
In January 2011, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize (President Obama) pulled out all the stops to host a full state dinner for the Paramount Leader of the world's largest dictatorship (Chinese President Hu Jintao), who at that very moment had imprisoned in China the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize (Chinese human rights lawyer Liu Xiaobo). When subsequently asked if President Obama had raised Liu's case with President Hu, Secretary of State Clinton could not give an answer. Recently, President Hu's presumed successor, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, also came for a visit. Again, there's no indication Liu's case was ever raised.
Moreover, Xi's visit coincided with a trip our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom wanted to make to China. However, the Chinese government denied her visa request. The Administration did nothing to protest this affront. China is a country with more Christians than Communist Party Members. It's also home to significant populations of Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong members – all of whom are oppressed primarily because the Chinese government views organized religion not controlled by the state as a threat. Has the Administration made any significant effort to speak up for them? Last summer, Vice President Biden refused to criticize China’s one child policy. Do you think this has consequences for Chinese families' freedom to practice their religion? Secretary Clinton herself stated early in the Obama presidency that pressing the Chinese on human rights would take a back seat to economic, environmental, and security issues. These are signals that the Chinese government understands. The message: limited worship opportunities in government sanctioned churches is sufficient to check the religious liberty box as far as this Administration is concerned. In contrast, Ronald Reagan stood up to the threat of the Soviet Empire and Communism while also standing with Soviet dissidents. America’s leaders, reflecting American interests and values should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time- standing for our security and with standing with advocates for fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom.
Perhaps the region of the world with the most, and most severe, violations of religious freedom is the Middle East. Indigenous minority religious communities there, including Christians, are undergoing an existential threat. In Iraq and Egypt, we've basically abandoned them through our policies, despite perennial calls by human rights champions in Congress and elsewhere to come up with a comprehensive, integrated strategic foreign policy aimed at preserving them. In fact, throughout the region, groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and even more radical Islamist views are coming to power. Throughout the majority Muslim countries, religious minorities are being purged from lands they have occupied going back nearly 7,000 years. For these groups – the ones whose values, world view, and inclinations are most aligned with ours and who are our natural allies in the region – the part of the President's heralded 2009 Cairo speech that extolled the importance of religious freedom to the future of the Middle East rings tragically hollow today for religious minorities.
In contrast, like Ronald Reagan did to the former Soviet Union, I have called upon the majority Muslim countries to tear down the walls of oppression against freedom of conscience and religion, of religiously motivated violent jihadism, and of the subjugation of women. My positions are clear; like most Americans I am on the side of freedom, because, like the Founders, I believe that freedom of religion is an inalienable right endowed by our Creator, and it gives us the passion for the human dignity of all people.
In a vacuum, an inadvertent reference to "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion" might be overlooked, but the Obama Administration's actual record is crystal clear. Seen in this context, not only are warnings about President Obama's terminology and poor record on religious freedom completely legitimate, but a clarion call for the protection of religious liberty at all levels.
Our Founders understood it was relatively easy to establish freedom in our Constitution, the harder task was to create a system that would maintain it against the corrosive force of time. The combination of "religious free exercise" and no state supported religious monopoly has created a vibrant marketplace of religions in America. Our Founders' inspired brilliance and acknowledgment in the Declaration of Independence of inalienable rights that come from our Creator not government, created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time. It is time to return to the wisdom of that constitutional protection and prescription and resurrect our country's respect for freedom, including religious freedom, both here and around the world.