Credit where it’s due since it doesn’t happen often: During a conference about “religious freedom” hosted by the State Department, Vice President Mike Pence urged the nation of Saudi Arabia to release Raif Badawi, the blogger who, in 2012, was sentenced to a decade of jail time and 1,000 lashes all for supposed “apostasy.”
By Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist
Last year, Canada’s Justin Trudeau spoke with King Salman bin Abdulaziz calling for Badawi’s release. Now Pence has joined in, including Badawi in a list of four men who have been punished for speaking out about faith.
Well, it was brief lip service. But it’s not nothing.
“All four of these men have stood strong in defense of religious liberty, despite unimaginable pressure, and the American people stand with them,” Pence said, “The United States calls upon the governments of Eritrea, Mauritania, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to respect the freedom of conscience and let these men go.”
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, said she was “grateful” to Pence for the mention. She’s been critical of Trudeau for not doing enough, but the U.S. has more leverage in these situations.
While Pence is right to call for Badawi’s release, it’s hard to imagine this administration doing anything substantive to make it happen, especially when they looked the other way following Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman‘s order to assassinate journalist Jamal Khashoggi.