For the first time ever, the United States was included in the International Christian Concern’s annual “Hall of Shame Report.” In the 2016 edition, released last week, the U.S. appeared in the “New and Noteworthy” category.
“The persecution in these countries is not anywhere near the same level of persecution as those in the rest of the list,” the report explains, “but events in these countries indicate declining religious freedom and are cause for alarm.”
International Christian Concern (ICC) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that advocates for, raises awareness of and assists persecuted Christians around the world.
The report’s introduction explains that previous editions simply listed the top ten worst countries for Christians’ religious freedom. The 2016 edition splits featured nations into three categories: “Worst of the Worst,” “Core Countries,” and “New and Noteworthy.”
The “Worst of the Worst” category includes North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria. “Core Countries” include Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Pakistan and India.
Russia and Mexico were also “New and Noteworthy.”
‘Alarming’ Decline in American Religious Freedom
On page 11 of the 16-page report, ICC details why the U.S. earned a spot in the “New and Noteworthy” category.
“Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist and close-minded,” the report states. It referenced as an example the fact that “numerous high profile media outlets” blamed last year’s nightclub shooting in Orlando on Christian attitudes toward the LGBT community, even though the shooter, Omar Mateen, declared his allegiance to ISIS.
The report also mentioned people like Eric Walsh, Joe Kennedy and Aaron and Melissa Klein, Christians who have been fired or faced penalties in the workplace because of their religious beliefs.
“Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through the law,” the report says, citing an annual study by First Liberty Institute. That report showed that attacks on religious people in the U.S. doubled between 2012 and 2015.
According to the ICC’s report, “the rise of these cases stems partly from a broad cultural shift towards secularism.” 23 percent of Americans now identify themselves as non-religious — compared with just 7 percent in 2007. “Anti-Christian entities have been able to leverage the growing secularization of society and culture to their advantage, utilizing the courts as a preferred venue to gradually marginalize and silence Christians.”
“Decades of accumulated poor judicial decisions and precedents have twisted the First Amendment,” the report notes,
so that the courts, in defiance of the Founders, are pushing religion out of the public square, and into the small space of private expression. In essence, the courts are deciding that you only have full religious freedom and expression in the church and your home. In the public domain, your religious views and thoughts must be restrained and controlled.
“While there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the US with persecuted believers overseas,” the report concludes, “ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States.”
‘Windows of Opportunity’
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, previously told The Stream that 2016 saw “an increase in attacks on religious liberty.”
In an interview at the end of December, Shackelford expressed hope in the incoming presidential administration, saying that the future holds “huge windows of opportunity.” “There should be a big change in the hundreds of judges appointed being more favorable to religious freedom and the Constitution,” he said. (For more from the author of “United States Included in Annual Christian Persecution Report” please click HERE)