WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom was a no-show today at a congressional hearing on the issue.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee) says Suzan Johnson Cook should not have been asked to testify on the same panel with advocates for religious rights from outside the government.
But Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz — noting the ambassador's empty chair — calls her absence "inexcusable."
Thomas Farr, who heads a religious freedom center at Georgetown University, says the Obama administration's failure to send anyone to the House hearing shows the low priority it gives to advancing or even protecting religious rights.
He says administration policy treats religious freedom as less important than promoting gay marriage and access to contraceptives.
Farr and other witnesses say nations that persecute believers tend to be less stable and more likely to produce religious extremists.