International Christian Concern (ICC) announced that the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote. The bill updates the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, making religious freedom a greater priority in American foreign policy and diplomacy.
The upgrade would allow for the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the U.S. State Department to now report directly to the Secretary of State.
In addition, the tier system for countries designated by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in regards to religious liberty would be strengthened by creating a distinction between CPC countries working with the United States to improve religious liberty and those not taking steps to guard this right. Thirdly, it allows for executive power to name non-state actors and individual violators of religious freedom as some of the most egregious.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who sponsored the legislation, said of its passage in the House, “Nearly 20 years ago, led by U.S. Congressman Frank R. Wolf, the Congress had the foresight to make advancing the right to religious freedom a high U.S. foreign policy priority. Today religious freedom is still under attack, and we must upgrade our programs and methods to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock , Wolf’s successor, stated that the bill would provide “stronger and more flexible political responses to the disturbing and growing denial of basic religious freedoms around the world.”
Nate Lance, ICC’s advocacy manager, stated, “International Christian Concern is grateful for the leadership that Congressman Smith and the other supporters of this bill have shown in stressing the importance of international religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy.”
“It is the responsibility of the international community to defend the basic human right of religious freedom. This bill makes vital strides in ensuring that the United States continues to be at the forefront of protecting religious minorities around the world. We are now optimistic that the Senate will follow the House in passing this vital piece of legislation.”
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