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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Christians and Human rights
Via The Volokh Conspiracy: comes a report (PDF) called "Human Rights Advocacy in the Mainline Protestant Churches (2000-2003) a critical analysis". From the Executive Summary:
Mainline Protestant denominations pride themselves on being defenders of human rights worldwide. However, anecdotal
evidence suggested to us that their criticisms were narrowly focused on a few nations, while many other serious instances of human rights violations went ignored. We set out to test this impression against a quantitative measure of the mainline churches’ attention to human rights issues in various countries. On which nations did their focus fall most heavily? And how did the geographical distribution of church criticisms of human rights abuses compare to the distribution of the most serious human rights problems, as estimated by a respected human rights group?

This has been a pet peeve of mine. I am glad someone else noticed and gathered some real data on the subject. What are the results? Again from the Executive Summary:
Overall, criticisms of Israel amounted to 37 percent of the 197 human rights criticisms offered by the churches during those years, only slightly higher than the 32 percent of criticisms leveled at the United States. The remaining 37 percent of criticisms were shared by twenty other nations. For every one criticism of any other foreign nation, one criticism was made of the United States and one of Israel. Nearly all churches demonstrated this focus on the United States and Israel in their legislative actions, their statements, their news sources, or all three.

As a result, nearly three out of four human rights criticisms were made of nations designated as free (mostly the United States and Israel) by the Freedom House assessments. Those rated not free totaled 19 percent of criticisms, while partly free nations totalled only 8 percent of criticisms. Of the fifteen worst human rights offenders in the world, only five were criticized by the churches during the four year period studied.

Regions like the Middle East (apart from Israel) and Central Asia (former Soviet republics) were the most notable areas ignored by the churches in their human rights advocacy. Partly free nations, where church influence might be most effective in widening the limited civic space already open to indigenous Christians and other citizens, received the least

The study concludes:
The mainline churches are not adequately addressing the wide range of human rights abuses taking place in the world. Denominations are focusing on the United States and Israel as the primary perpetrators of human rights violations.
(bold added)

Nice to have some validation for views I have held since before I left the Presbyterian Church USA.

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