Press Releases

Miami, FL – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues, issued the following statement regarding today's release of the State Department’s Annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2015:‎
“Once again this report serves as a reminder that we as Americans are blessed to live in a country founded on the idea that everyone should be able to worship and live out their faith according to their consciences, without fear of persecution, violence or imprisonment. Religious freedom is enshrined in our Constitution, and it bestows on us the great responsibility of helping to ensure others around the world can also freely exercise their religious beliefs.

“Right now, in virtually every corner of the globe, people are being attacked because of their faith. In the Middle East, radical Islamic terrorists are committing genocide against religious minorities, including Yezidis and Christians. In Iran, Bahá'ís are systematically persecuted along with other minority faiths, and the government continues to advocate for the extermination of Israel and all Jews. In Africa, Boko Haram continues to kidnap and ruthlessly murder innocent people. In Europe and elsewhere, houses of worship have been turned into scenes of brutality and violence. In China, house church Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners are detained, imprisoned, or worse, while in Burma, Rohingya Muslims face torture and unlawful detention. In Cuba, harassment of the Ladies in White on their way to Mass and the demolition of churches are on the rise.
 
“Even here in America, the Obama Administration has encroached on our liberty and sought to force Christians, Muslims and others to violate their consciences under penalty of law. Thankfully, some of these attempts have been rebuked by our courts.
“The United States must forcefully oppose any attack on religious freedom abroad. Sadly, for much of the last eight years the Administration has not been willing to make this issue a priority, or address it with the urgency it deserves. Even following the recent genocide determination with respect to ISIL, there has been too little action and we still lack a real strategy to defeat this group. Additionally, the State Department has consistently underutilized tools like the designation of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)‎ for egregious violators of religious freedom. As I said last year, countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam should be considered for a CPC designation, as the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has repeatedly recommended. It’s shameful that another year has gone by without this action. Countries already designated as CPCs should face real consequences, including the loss of the many waivers they keep receiving as if handing them out occurs on auto-pilot.
 
“However, the CPC designation alone is insufficient given that today, as the State Department report makes clear, some of the world's worst violators of religious freedom are in fact non-state actors. That’s why I introduced legislation to modernize the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, so this universal right is afforded the prominence it deserves in U.S. foreign policy, and the State Department has the tools the current global landscape requires.

“I continue to believe that religious freedom must be a key pillar of America’s foreign policy, but this Administration chooses to keep letting repeat violators off the hook. Reports like this one contain useful information, but if it does not lead to real action in defense of those being oppressed, America will have missed an opportunity to take a firm stand in support of the universal human right of religious freedom, and hold accountable those who refuse to respect it.”