HAF Presidential Candidate Questionnaire Response: Gary Johnson Campaign

Washington, DC (October 31, 2016) — Recently the Hindu American Foundation sent out questionnaires to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump. HAF has received the following statement from the Johnson campaign in reply.

"1. How will your Administration engage with nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that openly discriminate against their own citizens from ethnic and religious minority communities, and those who engage in proxy wars by employing the use of non-state actors to destabilize cross border regions?

A Johnson-Weld administration will work with other nations to encourage freedom and liberty among all citizens of all nations. If non-state actors are employed in destabilization efforts, the US will act as a responsible member of the world community, provided however, that unilateral use of military assets would be reserved for defense of national interests.

2. Even if previous Administrations, under either Democratic and Republican presidents, have given direct military and humanitarian assistance to such nations, how will your Administration choose to proceed?

Fulfill our treaty obligations, but use those obligations as both carrot and stick to improve their treatment of their ethnic and religious minorities while committing more fully to American citizens and eschewing foreign military involvement.

3. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reauthorization was passed in Congress during this current session until 2019, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. USCIRF monitors religious freedom internationally, and publishes an annual report with recommendations to Congress and the Administration. The President has the authority to appoint three Commissioners to USCIRF. To date, there’s only been one non-Abrahamic Commissioner appointed since the body’s inception in 1998.

Any commission on international religious freedom has to have scope and representation from all international religions, including those not well represented in our own government—Hindu, Atheist, Buddhist, Agnostic, Shia, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Jain, and any number of religions on every continent. It may be difficult and even impossible to represent these traditions in only three directors, but a Johnson-Weld administration will endeavor to represent those religions which are experiencing particular hardship through persecution.

4. How will your Administration ensure that USAID funds and programming are directed to the most needy around the world, and whose application and distribution are completely within the confines of the law, particularly the Establishment clause of the Constitution (when evaluating how recipient organizations utilize such funds)?

Any USAID funding must be subject to US law, but sometimes faith-based organizations have the best and closest boots on the ground in crisis situations. All USAID projects must be chosen primarily based on need, and secondarily based on American interests, and finally the organization's ability to guarantee delivery of those resources without favoritism or corruption.

5. Hindu temples and religious life in the United States currently require access to trained priests, who have specialized training that is not currently available in the United States. These priests from India do not qualify for the same visa categories as religious ministers. As such, they enter the US on the religious non-minister worker visa, which serves specialized staff and volunteers from across the spectrum of religious communitiesThis program has a quota and is subject to sunset every five years. Will your Administration work with Congress to maintain this visa category?

A Johnson-Weld administration sees all faiths as fundamentally equal, and will endeavor to continue equal access for officials of Church, Synagogue, Mosque, Mandir, and other houses of worship, and we will work towards loosening or ending any quotas in keeping with our basic immigration policy.

6. Will your Administration continue to monitor hate crimes perpetrated against religious, ethnic, and social minorities in the United States by retaining current hate-crime categories in law enforcement reports?

A Johnson-Weld administration views violent crime as antisocial, whether or not motivated by any sort of ethnic or personal animus, and we view the additional data as helpful in knowing how to allocate resources and aid local, state, and federal authorities in pursuing any leads.

7. Which response best outlines your Administration’s perspective regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)?

We view any decision of conscience and religious practice as fundamentally sacrosanct, but still subject to federal laws regarding racial, religious, and other forms of discrimination."