International Christian Concern (ICC) has announced that they are elated that the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (H.R. 1150) has now passed both Houses of Congress by unanimous consent.
The legislation updates the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, making religious freedom a greater priority in US foreign policy and diplomacy. This reprioritization marks one of the most important legislative actions in support of religious freedom globally since the original IRFA was passed.
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The new legislation is designed to improve the federal government’s effectiveness in promoting religious liberty by, among other measures:
The most notable upgrades include that the Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the US State Department must now report directly to the Secretary of State.
Establishing an “entities of particular concern” category—a companion to the “countries of particular concern” classification used for nearly 20 years by the State Department—for non-government actors, such as the Islamic State (IS) and the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram.
Instituting a “designated persons list” for individuals who violate religious freedom and authorizing the president to issue sanctions against those who participate in persecution.
In addition, the tier system for countries designated by the State Department as “Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)” in regards to religious liberty will be strengthened by creating a distinction between “CPC” countries working with the US to improve religious liberty and those not taking steps to guard this fundamental right. Thirdly, it allows for the executive power to name and possibly sanction “non-state actors” and individual violators of religious freedom.
Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, stated, “International Christian Concern is grateful for the leadership that Congressman Smith, Senator Rubio, Senator Corker, and the other supporters of this bill have shown in stressing the importance of international religious freedom in US foreign policy and diplomacy. It is the responsibility of the international community to defend the basic human right of religious freedom, and this bill makes vital strides in ensuring that the United States continues to be at the forefront of protecting religious minorities around the world.”
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