USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report on the State of International Religious Freedom Identifies World’s Worst Violato rs
Source: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, today released its 2013 Annual Report. The Report highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators.
The 2013 Annual Report recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
Ten years after the March 19, 2003, U.S. military intervention to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, accelerating violence and growing political schisms call into question whether the fragile stability left in place after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will collapse. Iraq’s stability is increasingly threatened by a revolt—with both peaceful and violent components—by Sunni Arab Muslims who resent Shiite political domination. Sunni Arabs, always fearful that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would seek unchallenged power, accuse him of attempting to marginalize them politically in part by arresting or attempting to remove key Sunni leaders. Sunni demonstrations have grown since late December 2012 and some have led to protester deaths. Iraq’s Kurds are increasingly aligned with the Sunnis, based on their own disputes with Maliki over territorial, political, and economic issues. The Shiite faction of Moqtada Al Sadr has been leaning to the Sunnis and Kurds, and could hold the key to Maliki’s political survival. Adding to the schisms is the physical incapacity of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has served as a key mediator, who suffered a stroke in mid-December 2012 and remains outside Iraq. The rifts have impinged on provincial elections on April 20, 2013, and will likely affect national elections for a new parliament and government in 2014. Maliki is expected to seek to retain his post in that vote.
The violent component of Sunni unrest is spearheaded by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I). The group, apparently emboldened by the Sunni-led uprising in Syria, is conducting attacks against Shiite neighborhoods and Iraqi Security Force (ISF) members with increasing frequency and lethality. The attacks are intended to reignite all-out sectarian conflict, and some fear that goal might be realized. Should the violence escalate further, there are concerns whether the ISF—which numbers nearly 700,000 members—can counter it now that U.S. troops are no longer in Iraq.
U.S. forces left in December 2011 in line with a November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. Iraq refused to extend the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, seeking to put behind it the period of U.S. political and military tutelage and arguing that the ISF could handle violence on its own. Since the U.S. pullout, many observers assert that U.S. influence over Iraq has ebbed significantly. Cornerstone programs of what were to be enduring, close security relations—U.S. training for Iraq’s security forces through an Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (OSC-I) and a State Department police development program—have languished. The U.S. civilian presence in Iraq has declined from about 17,000 to about 10,500 as of March 2013, and might fall to 5,500 by the end of 2013. However, the Administration—with increasing Iraqi concurrence—has asserted that the escalating violence necessitates that Iraq rededicate itself to military cooperation with and assistance from the United States. In December 2012 signed a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States.
Although recognizing that Iraq wants to rebuild its relations in its immediate neighborhood, the United States is seeking to prevent Iraq from falling under the sway of Iran. The Maliki government has built close relations with the Islamic Republic. Apparently fearing that a change of regime in Syria will further embolden the Iraqi Sunni opposition, Maliki has joined Iran in supporting Bashar Al Assad’s regime. However, the legacy of Iran-Iraq hostilities, and Arab and Persian differences, limit Iranian influence among the Iraqi population. Another limitation on Iranian influence is Iraq’s effort to reestablish its historic role as a major player in the Arab world. Iraq took a large step toward returning to the Arab fold by hosting an Arab League summit on March 27-29, 2012.
Provo-Orem, Utah, is the most religious of 189 U.S. metropolitan areas Gallup surveyed in 2012, with 77% of its residents classified as very religious. Burlington, Vt., and Boulder, Colo., are the least religious, with 17% meeting that threshold. Most of the top religious cities are in the South — the exceptions are Provo; Ogden-Clearfield, Utah; and Holland-Grand Haven, Mich. The least religious cities are clustered in the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast, with the exception of Boulder and Madison, Wis.
New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT
State Department and Commission Are Implementing Responsibilities but Need to Improve Interaction
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Policy Center)
This report presents a profile of the membership of the 113th Congress (2013-2014). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.
As of February 2013, in the House of Representatives, there are 232 Republicans, 206 Democrats (including 5 Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), and 3 vacant seats. The Senate has 45 Republicans, 53 Democrats, and 2 Independents, who caucus with the Democrats.
The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 113th Congress was 57.0 years; and of Senators, 62.0 years. The overwhelming majority of Members of Congress have a college education. The dominant professions of Members are public service/politics, business, and law. Most Members identify as Christians, and Protestants collectively constitute the majority religious affiliation. Roman Catholics account for the largest single religious denomination, and numerous other affiliations are represented.
The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 113th Congress was 9.1 years (4.6 terms); for Senators, 10.2 years (1.7 terms).
One hundred women (a record number) serve in the 113th Congress: 80 in the House, including 3 Delegates, and 20 in the Senate. There are 43 African American Members of the House and 2 in the Senate. This House number includes 2 Delegates. There are 38 Hispanic or Latino Members (a record number) serving: 34 in the House, including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner, and 4 in the Senate. Thirteen Members (10 Representatives, 2 Delegates, and 1 Senator) are Asian American or Pacific Islanders. Two American Indians (Native Americans) serve in the House.
The portions of this report covering political party affiliation, gender, ethnicity, and vacant seats will be updated as events warrant. The remainder of the report will not be updated.
Source: Public Religion Research Institute
In the coming weeks, debates over next pope will be not only about the person who will embody the office but about how the church will wrestle with shifting demographics and the relationship between tradition and modern culture. A look at these shifts and tensions among American Catholics provides a microcosm into the larger global dynamics at play.
First, the Catholic Church has been experiencing significant demographic and geographic transformations over the last century. In the American context, the demographic changes began relatively recently. In 1990, nearly 8-in-10 (78 percent) Catholics were white, while less than 1-in-5 (14 percent) were Hispanic. Today, less than two-thirds (63 percent) of Catholics are white, while nearly 3-in-10 (29 percent) Catholics are Hispanic. In other words, in the span of two decades, the ratio of white to Hispanic Catholics has dropped from 5-to-1 to 2-to-1. This shift has also had considerable impact on the Catholic political engagement, given the decidedly different profiles of white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics: in the 2012 election, 75 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for Barack Obama, while 59 percent of white Catholics voted for Mitt Romney.
The Global Catholic Population
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Over the past century, the number of Catholics around the globe has more than tripled, from an estimated 291 million in 1910 to nearly 1.1 billion as of 2010, according to a comprehensive demographic study by the Pew Research Center.
But over the same period, the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly. As a result, Catholics have made up a remarkably stable share of all people on Earth. In 1910, Catholics comprised about half (48%) of all Christians and 17% of the world’s total population, according to historical estimates from the World Christian Database. A century later, the Pew Research study found, Catholics still comprise about half (50%) of Christians worldwide and 16% of the total global population.
What has changed substantially over the past century is the geographic distribution of the world’s Catholics. In 1910, Europe was home to about two-thirds of all Catholics, and nearly nine-in-ten lived either in Europe (65%) or Latin America (24%). By 2010, by contrast, only about a quarter of all Catholics (24%) were in Europe. The largest share (39%) were in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway
This factsheet discusses laws that require members of the clergy to report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. The issue of whether a member of the clergy can claim privileged communications as a reason for not reporting also is discussed. Summaries of laws for all States and U.S. territories are included.
The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010
Source: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1
At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.
Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
The newly elected, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.
Catholics have seen the biggest gains among the 530 seats in the new Congress that have been decided as of Nov. 16. So far, Catholics have picked up five seats, for a total of 161, raising their share to just over 30%.1 The biggest decline is among Jews, who have been elected to 32 seats (6%), seven fewer than in the 112th Congress, where Jews held 39 seats (7%).2 Mormons continue to hold 15 seats (about 3%), the same as in the previous Congress.
Protestants also appear likely to continue to occupy about the same proportion of seats (56%) as in the 112th Congress (57%). In addition, the Protestant share of each political party in the new Congress is about the same as in the 112th; roughly seven-in-ten Republicans are Protestants, compared with fewer than half of Democrats. However, the members elected for the first time in 2012 are less Protestant than the group first elected in 2010; 48% are Protestant, compared with 59% of those elected for the first time in 2010.
Protestants, Catholics and Jews each make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. The same is true for some sub-groups of Protestants, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. By contrast, Pentecostals are a much smaller percentage of Congress than of the general public. Due in part to electoral gains in recent years, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus now are represented in Congress in closer proportion to their numbers in the U.S. adult population. But some small religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.
Perhaps the greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – a group sometimes collectively called the “nones.” But only one member of the new Congress, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is religiously unaffiliated, according to information gathered by CQ Roll Call. Sinema is the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as “none,” though 10 other members of the 113th Congress (about 2%) do not specify a religious affiliation, up from six members (about 1%) of the previous Congress.3 This is about the same as the percentage of U.S. adults in Pew Research Center surveys who say that they don’t know, or refuse to specify, their faith (about 2%).
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Medicare Part D Coverage Gap: Discount Program Effects and Brand-Name Drug Price Trends. GAO-12-914, September 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648974.pdf
2. Religious Compensatory Time: Office of Personnel Management Action Needed to Clarify Policies for Agencies. GAO-13-96, October 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/649464.pdf
Religious Support (PDF)
Source: Headquarters, Department of the Army (via Federation of American Scientists)
This manual contains four chapters. Chapter 1 describes religious support foundations, including the historical precedents for the Army Chaplain Corps as well as its roles, missions, and functions. Chapter 2 delineates the current security environment, including the requirement to provide religious support across the range of military operations. Chapter 3 details the execution of religious support at the different levels of command within our modular Army. Chapter 4 depicts planning for religious support for unified land operations using the operations process.