Cliff May, a Republican-appointed USCIRF commissioner from 2016 to 2018, accused Singshinsuk of partisanship in a recent Washington Times op-ed. After questioning a potential hire, Singshinsuk “warned me that I would be violating his rights were I even to suggest disqualifying him on the basis of his politics. But of course she had taken his politics into account when she selected him.”
Meanwhile, Democrats complain that recent Republican appointments (Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and Johnnie Moore) are all white, evangelical males who support President Donald Trump—adding to the perception that the commission exists primarily for Christians.
Democrats also want limits on commissioner travel after Johnnie Moore spent Sept. 11 visiting with Saudi Arabia’s embattled Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—and subsequently praised him publicly. (Saudi Arabia, known for its oppression of religious minorities, is one of the countries USCIRF monitors.)
Seiple, co-founder of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, said Khawaja’s indictment adds to the momentum for a “strategic pause.” He’s calling for a blue ribbon panel to evaluate USCIRF, the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF), and the Office of Strategic and Religious Engagement, which was recently brought under the IRF office.
Another consideration is how all of this affects U.S. foreign policy decisions. Last month Politico reported that the Trump administration may tie foreign aid to how a country treats its religious minorities.
Seiple said that would bring government policy in line with the original intent of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which created USCIRF.
Meantime, Seiple proposes Congress extend USCIRF funding for one year while a strategic review takes place. He said policymakers should ask why persecution and religious nationalism are worse problems today than they were two decades ago.
“We’ve got to figure this out,” he said. “It’s a moral imperative that we look at ourselves and address our strategy and structure to reduce religious violations around the world. Otherwise, we’re a part of the problem.”