Kenneth Starr: religious freedom helps society flourish

The former US solicitor general, who investigated Bill Clinton, said allowing faiths and cultures to flourish leads to a prosperous society

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Attorney Kenneth Starr sat down with Taiwan News on Monday May 27,2019.

Attorney Kenneth Starr sat down with Taiwan News on Monday May 27,2019. (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Every human being regardless of culture or background should enjoy fundamental human rights, said former United States solicitor general Kenneth Starr in an interview on Monday (May 27).

Starr arrived in Taipei on Sunday (May 26), days ahead of the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum, in which he will give an opening address. The forum, which commences on Thursday, will focus on the pressing issue of global religious persecution.

Starr told Taiwan News that religious communities around the world should “lift up the concern of those who are oppressed,” in view of a deteriorating human rights problem.

"[They should] say to men, women, and families who are suffering oppression that ‘we hear your cries,’” said Starr, “and ‘we want to do our part.’”

Starr called China’s oppression of Christian and Muslim communities within its borders “a fundamental violation of human rights.” He particularly denounced the creation of Uighur Muslim re-education camps in Xinjiang, and the crackdown on underground Christian churches.

When asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which placed travel restrictions on citizens of Muslim-majority countries, Starr said he agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a “revised” version, in which restrictions were lifted on many nations. “Those subject to the ban are only [the countries] that have demonstrated records of failure to take the steps to protect us from the potential terrorist acts from members of their communities,” he said.

Starr is known to be a critic of same-sex marriage. He was previously lead counsel of a legal group that successfully argued to uphold “Proposition 8” in California, U.S., which banned same-sex couples from marrying.

When asked his opinion on Taiwan becoming first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, he said people should have the right to decide the definition of marriage as per their cultures and collective values.

“I applaud a process whereby the people have reasoned debate and come to their judgment on what is the most humane policy that promotes human rights and human dignity,” Starr said, “whether I agree with the particular policy or not.”