Wed, May 22, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan fares well in US’ religious freedom report

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Religious freedom is “generally respected” in Taiwan with no major problems last year, according to an annual US Department of State report issued on Monday.

Taiwan’s record was in stark contrast to that of China where — according to the report — Beijing routinely enforces laws that restrict religious freedom.

Findings for last year of the International Religious Freedom Report emphasized an increase in anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe and Asia and growing anti-Semitism in Venezuela, Egypt and Iran.

“This report shines light on the challenges that people face as they seek nothing more than the basic religious freedom and right to worship as they wish,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Governments around the globe continued to detain, imprison torture and even kill people for their religious beliefs, he said.

“The report identifies global problems of discrimination and violence against religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs,” Kerry said.

However, in Taiwan, the report said, there were no cases of government abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice.

It estimated that 35 percent of the Taiwanese population was Buddhist, 33 percent Taoist and that many also practiced traditional Chinese folk religions, including some aspects of shamanism, ancestor worship and animism.

The report noted that Taipei authorities fined a private Roman Catholic school for firing two female US teachers who were Mormons.

“This was the first case of an employer being fined for religious discrimination,” it said.

“The school had determined the two Mormon teachers actively worked against Catholic beliefs and that one teacher offered extra credit to students who attended Mormon religious services,” the report said.

“Local representatives of the Catholic Church stated that a religious school should be permitted to dismiss a teacher if the individual had a conflict with the school’s religion and thus appealed the fine,” it said.

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