In 1996, evangelical Protestants awakened to the problems of religious persecution worldwide. To achieve results, they have learned to work with Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, and secular human-rights activists. University of Oklahoma professor Allen D. Hertzke tracks these amazing developments in his new book, Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights (Rowman & Littlefield). CT editor David Neff interviewed Hertzke by telephone. Neff also reviewedFreeing God's Children.
How did the international religious freedom movement catch your attention? Why did you decide to chronicle it?
I've been poking around and writing about the religious-political world since 1982 when I started my graduate work at Wisconsin with explicit interest in studying religion and politics. In 1982, the Christian Right was all the rage, but I was interested in the full spectrum. I'd been involved in religious communities where political activities were a part of church life, so I felt like I had something to offer the political science community that it might not have.
In 1996 I read about the first conference that the National Association of Evangelicals held on religious persecution, so I was generally aware that this movement was percolating, but I didn't have any sense that it would be very big at all. I did some interviewing, and I thought it was an interesting phenomenon. And then I was asked to present a paper at an Ethics and Public Policy Center conference in January of 1998. It turns out a lot of the activists were there—Mike Horowitz and, I think, Nina Shea were there, and Paul Marshall.Â Mike Horowitz came up to me afterwards and said, in effect, For a political scientist, you have a pretty good view of this ...1