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Rubio’s International Religious Freedom Bill Heads to President’s Desk

Dec 13, 2016 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Co-Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), released the following statement today after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150):

“America was founded in part by people fleeing religious persecution, and the U.S. has a moral responsibility to be a champion for oppressed people around the world. When it comes to universal human rights that must be respected, few are more fundamental to the human spirit than the freedom to live out your faith according to your conscience, without fear of persecution, violence or imprisonment. But this right is under assault in every corner of the globe, and we must do more to defend it and counter the vicious attacks on religious minorities. Every day, the headlines speak to the necessity of this legislation—a bombing targeting peaceful worshippers at a Cairo church over the weekend, another deadly self-immolation in Tibet last week, and a mob attack against a mosque belonging to Pakistan’s beleaguered Ahmadiyya community just yesterday. So I’m glad we were able to get this bill done this year, and I commend Congressman Chris Smith for his leadership in passing this legislation. I urge President Obama to sign it without delay.”

The Senate passed the bill unanimously last week, and the House passed it today in a pro forma session. The bill strengthens and modernizes the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, providing the State Department with new tools to counter the spread of violent extremism and promote and advance the universal human right of religious freedom around the world. In April, Rubio introduced the companion legislation to H.R. 1150 in the Senate with Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an amended version unanimously last week.

Rubio has been a leading advocate of international religious freedom issues in the Senate, and played a central role in the reauthorization of the bipartisan, independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom last year. In May, he visited Iraq and discussed the plight of the Christian community in Iraq and Syria with the Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, and the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, Iraq.