WASHINGTON - A religious freedom report released by the State Department criticizes U.S. allies Afghanistan and Pakistan, while also taking aim at chronic violators Iran, China and North Korea.
It said Afghanistan's courts interpret Islamic law to punish non-Muslims for exercising their faith. Pakistan has issued death sentences for cases of blasphemy and despite increased extremist attacks on minorities or even pro-tolerance Muslims there, authorities have rarely investigated perpetrators.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a speech in Washington that more than a billion people live in countries where they lack religious freedom. She said countries that are emerging as democracies are still repressing religious minorities. Clinton also said that some governments are misusing emerging technologies to persecute faith groups.
Clinton says the jury is still out on the emerging government in Egypt, where Christians have told her they have great concerns about their rights.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
President Barack Obama credits God's grace for his accomplishments.
Pope Francis urged his church to be more welcoming, but he also gave a warning.