The gathering gives Trump a high-wattage spotlight for showing his pro-Christian bona fides to the evangelical voters who helped him win the Oval Office. But it also gives the president’s critics a platform to assail what they see as his hypocrisy on human rights, especially when it comes to Muslims, whom Trump once proposed banning from U.S. soil.
…According to a State Department staffer, countries that managed to snag seats include Bahrain and Hungary, whose governments have been accused of hostility toward some religious groups. In Bahrain, Shiite Muslims, many of whom are opposition activists, have faced crackdowns by the Sunni-led monarchy. Hungary’s increasingly autocratic ruling party has faced a backlash over a law stripping recognition from a range of religious groups.
…The State Department staffer said that Russia and Turkey, whose religious-rights records have been increasingly problematic, were left off the invite list. The staffer added that administration officials hoped to highlight in particular the religious abuses by the government of Iran, an Islamist-led country that the Trump administration has singled out for pressure to the point where analysts say it is effectively aiming for regime change.
On the civil-society front, the administration is taking an inclusive approach: Invitees range from atheists to Scientologists, according to the State Department staffer. Representatives of more broad-based organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, are also on the list. Many are hosting side events.
…Trump ….avoids church.