Agency that monitors religious freedom abroad accused of bias
Allegations of religious bias are being leveled against a notable federal body: the one responsible for monitoring international religious freedom.
Some past commissioners, staff and former staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom say the agency charged with advising the president and Congress is rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism, with commissioners focusing on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background. In particular, they say an anti-Muslim bias runs through the commission’s work– a charge denied by its chairman, Leonard Leo.
“I don’t know of any other organization who defends as many Muslims in the world as we do,” said Leo, who was appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2007.
Nevertheless, the commission was hit this fall with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed by a former policy analyst, Safiya Ghori-Ahmad, who alleges that her contract was canceled because of her Muslim faith and her affiliation with a Muslim advocacy group.
The commission’s six researchers signed a letter unsuccessfully urging their bosses to keep Ghori-Ahmad because of what they described as her strong résumé and the need for an analyst to cover the key region of South Asia. One researcher, Bridget Kustin, quit in protest, saying in her resignation letter that she would not “remain part of an organization that would be willing to engage in such discrimination.”
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