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Rubio Introduces Bill To Reauthorize The United States Commission On International Religious Freedom

Jul 17, 2015 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. 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, has introduced legislation to reauthorize the independent, bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“As religious freedom continues to be threatened around the world, the Commission’s defense of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad is more important than ever,” said Rubio. “Religious freedom, often referred to as America’s first freedom, must be a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The Commission plays a vital role in ensuring that the plights of the beleaguered Iraqi Christian nun, the imprisoned Baha’i leader in Iran and the repressed Tibetan Buddhist monk are not forgotten. Its mandate is too important to keep subjecting the Commission to constant reauthorizations, which distract from the vital work they are charged with undertaking.
“This bill would strengthen the Commission and give its work greater relevance by empowering both USCIRF and the State Department to assess the religious freedom violations of non-state entities like ISIS and Boko Haram, which are increasingly among the most severe violators globally,” Rubio continued. “I encourage my colleagues to support this bill so we can send a clear message to those who threaten religious freedom that the United States is committed to shining a light on these cases of injustice and to standing with those who desire nothing more than to worship and peacefully live out their faith as they choose.”
PDF of the legislation is available here. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Reauthorizing USCIRF for six years;
  • Changing the definition of “Countries of Particular Concern” to include areas where there is effectively no governance, and add a new designation, “Entities of Particular Concern” to capture the growing threat posed by non-state actors;
  • Amending the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to require the Secretary of State to receive assistance from USCIRF when establishing training for Foreign Service officers in the field of internationally recognized human rights, including instruction regarding the relationship between religious freedom and security, as well as the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy;
  • Codifying the Commission’s current practice of rotating the chair and vice chair between appointees from the two political parties;
  • Requiring an “Annual Review” of the Executive Director; and
  • Ensuring that Commissioners who have a conflict of interest recuse themselves from relevant decisions.