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International religious freedom report released
The State Department's fourth annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released yesterday, names the usual suspects of inhibiting freedoms—Burma, China, North Korea—but also cites France, Belgium, and Germany for monitoring or discriminating against religious minorities.

The report says they are part of "a trend in Western Europe" that stigmatizes certain religions by officially and wrongfully associating them with dangerous "sects" or "cults."

As in 2001, the report names China, Cuba, Laos, Burma, North Korea, and Vietnam as totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that "regard some or all religious groups as enemies of the state." Seven other countries—Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan—are listed as governments hostile to specific religious groups.

The State Department report highlighted Afghanistan and Egypt as countries with improvements in religious freedom.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 requires the State Department to produce such a report each year and to designate "countries of particular concern" (CPCs). These designations have yet to be made for 2002. However, the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends that this year's CPCs include Burma, North Korea, India, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

There's Something Wrong with Evil
In the New York Times Book Review, "Close Reader" columnist Judith Shulevitz notes that the word evil is "fast edging out" regime change as "buzzword of the year." Considering that the President began talking about evil and the axis of evil long before preheating the oven for an attack on Iraq, Weblog marvels at her tardiness.

Nevertheless, ...

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France, Germany Chastised in Religious Freedom Report
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