Should Western democracies make the defence of religious freedom around the world a separate, fenced-off part of their foreign policy? Or is it better simply to include that concern under the general heading of human rights?

These are the questions asked by The Economist, as it watches with interest the developments in the story of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom. Its ambassador, Andrew Bennett, was recently granted a short contract extension until the end of next month, but the general consensus is that the office will likely be axed after that.

The Economist hails the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as an impressive model, which uses “a powerful legal mandate, but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with the [US] administration, which it frequently criticises”.