Press Releases

Washington D.C. – Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and James Lankford (R-OK) and eight of their Senate colleagues are urging the Trump Administration to prioritize the nomination of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the State Department. Considering the extreme religious persecution around the world, the senators expressed the urgent need for a diplomatic advocate in the State Department working to protect and advance religious freedom abroad.

Rubio’s Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act was signed into law in December 2016, giving the State Department new tools to support the promotion of international religious freedom around the world and counter the spread of violent extremism.

Lankford and Rubio were joined in sending the letter by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), James Risch (R-ID), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Todd Young (R-IN).

The full text of their letter to President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson is below:

February 1, 2017

Dear Mr. President:

As of January 20, 2017, the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom position within the State Department, is now vacant. 

Given the extreme persecution of religious groups around the world, including the genocide of Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims at the hand of ISIS, we urge you to act quickly to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large.

The nominee must have significant foreign policy experience and understand the relationship between religious freedom and national security. It is also critical that the Ambassador is vested with the authority and the resources necessary for success.  As mandated by the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 114-281), this bipartisan law requires that the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom “shall report directly to the Secretary of State,” rather than being buried in the bureaucracy of the Department, underscoring the centrality of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy. Additionally, we are committed to ensuring that funding for this crucial position and the work of the Office of International Religious Freedom remains a priority.

The promotion of the freedom of religion – the right to practice any faith or to choose no faith at all –as a fundamental human right, is a proven source of stability for all countries.  As such, the mission of the Office of International Religious Freedom should be to promote religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. 

Under previous administrations, this position was not immediately filled and the prolonged vacancy sent a message that religious freedom was not a priority of the United States government. 

We encourage you to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large not only to ensure that the key value of religious freedom is protected, but to show that religious freedom is a priority for our government. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

 

James Lankford (OK)

United States Senator

 

Marco Rubio (FL)

United States Senator

 

Steve Daines (MT)

United States Senator

 

John Boozman (AR)

United States Senator

 

Roy Blunt (MO)

United States Senator

 

Jerry Moran (KS)

United States Senator

 

James E. Risch (ID)

United States Senator

 

Cory Gardner (CO)

United States Senator

 

James M. Inhofe (OK)

United States Senator

 

Todd Young (IN)

United States Senator

 

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