International Religious Freedom Bill Clears Senate

A bill NRB has supported for several years has been approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate.  The Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act (S.653), introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Carl Levin (D-MI), would create a special envoy at the State Department focusing specifically on the situations facing religious minorities in those regions of the globe.

Upon the bill’s passage, Senator Blunt stated, “As we continue to witness disturbing violence against religious minorities around the world, I’m pleased the Senate passed this bipartisan bill to show the U.S. takes religious freedom very seriously.” Similarly, Senator Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, “Such violence is a threat to regional stability in a part of the world where U.S. interests are great. Moreover, our support for these universal human values affirms the principles upon which our own nation was founded.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, noted in a release, “Persecution against Christians is real. Leaders in the United States must be a voice against such violence and intimidation inflicted on our Christian brothers and sisters, and indeed any religious minority, in the Middle East and around the world.”

Companion legislation (H.R. 301), sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), passed in the House of Representatives last year, and now minor differences between the bills must be worked out before it is sent to the President for his signature. Earlier this year, the NRB Board of Directors unanimously adopted a Resolution urging the Obama Administration “to actively advocate to the international community the principles of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution” and calling for final passage of this legislation.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 18, 2014