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Rubio Announces Legislation To Strengthen U.S. Commitment To International Religious Freedom

Jul 28, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of State released its 2013 International Religious Freedom Report highlighting various countries whose governments repress religious freedom, including China, North Korea and Iran, among others. With global hostility toward religion on the rise, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to strengthen the United States’ role in monitoring and responding to violations of religious freedom throughout the world.

The legislation would strengthen the State Department’s Country of Particular Concern (CPC) designations, which are given to the worst violators of religious freedom. The CPC designation provides the opportunity for the U.S. government to sanction countries that commit particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Rubio’s bill comes amid the administration’s announcement re-designating the current 8 CPCs in addition to designating Turkmenistan as a CPC for the first time. The administration has not re-designated CPCs since August 2011.

“In light of today’s report, we are reminded of the religious intolerance, persecution and discrimination that continues to plague people of various faiths around the world,” said Rubio. “But more importantly, we are reminded of our responsibility to respond to such violations with meaningful measures that combat religious intolerance and display our dedication to religious freedom for all.

“While I welcome today’s announcement updating CPC designations, this administration has failed to do so since 2011,” added Rubio. “By amending the International Religious Freedom Act, this legislation encourages the administration to take a firmer stance on religious freedom violators and codifies America’s commitment to advancing religious freedom as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.”

A PDF of the legislation is available here.

The legislation proposes to amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to ensure that:

    1. The United States annually reviews the status of religious freedom in every foreign country;

    1. The United States takes action against countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom;

    1. The President notifies Congressional committees of actions taken, the purpose of these actions, and their effectiveness;

    1. The President consults with Congress and interested parties domestically, as well as advancing the United States’ commitment to religious freedom in multilateral forums and humanitarian organizations;

    1. The President explains any instances in which measures are not taken towards a country designated as an abuser of religious freedom;

    1. A country of particular concern retains that status until the President determines and reports to Congress that the country should no longer be designated as such; and

  1. Punitive actions towards countries of particular concern will only be terminated upon certification by the President, in consultation with the Commission on International Religious Freedom and certification to Congress, that the government in question had ceased or taken verifiable steps to cease severe violations of freedom of religion.