Following House committee action last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday introduced the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act. This legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), is intended to strengthen the State Department’s hand in identifying and responding to international religious freedom abuses around the world. Sen. Rubio said, “Religious freedom has rightly been called America’s first freedom and must be given priority in our foreign policy agenda.” He added, “Wherever assaults on religious freedom occur, America has a moral responsibility to speak up and to act.”
Among a number of organizational and procedural changes, this legislation establishes that no less than 25 full-time employees may be assigned to the State Department’s International Religious Freedom office. It also requires all Foreign Service Officers to be trained in the “strategic value of international religious freedom.” Moreover, it toughens country watch list designations and makes a category for non-state actors.
Similar legislation sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was approved last week in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Commenting on the importance of this effort, Rep. Smith declared, “It is increasingly clear that a robust religious freedom diplomacy is necessary to advance US interest in stability, security, and economic development. Research shows that where there is more religious freedom, there is more economic freedom, more women’s empowerment, more political stability, more freedom of speech, and less terrorism.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: April 29, 2016