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house Bill H.R. 1150

Do Programs Promoting International Religious Freedom Need an Update?

Argument in favor

The U.S. needs to continue to promote religious freedom around the globe while calling out countries and groups that repress or carry out acts of violence against religious groups.

Loraki's Opinion
···
07/18/2016
[Obama is protecting his Muslim buddies. He sure as heck doesn't care about religious freedom violations against Christians here in the U.S.!] State Dept. Gives #Pakistan Pass on #ReligiousFreedom Violations--for 14th Straight Year • Pakistan is the single worst case among countries not currently listed as a “country of particular concern” (CPC). • Even where countries have been named CPCs, the administration has frequently withheld taking action, such as the imposition of sanctions or other measures, invoking waiver authority built into the law. This has been especially the case for Saudi Arabia, which like Pakistan is viewed as a key U.S. ally in a troubled region. • Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, with the administration requesting $742 million in aid for the country in fiscal year 2017. • U.S. lawmakers have drafted bipartisan legislation that is due to be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150) includes a sense of Congress clause stating that “ongoing and persistent waivers” in the case of CPCs “do not fulfill the purposes of this Act,” and calling on the administration to “find ways to address existing violations, on a country-by-country basis,” through specified actions. Among other provisions, the bill will allow CPC designation to be broadened to cover non-state actors, such the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Boko Haram. (CNSNews.com) – For a record 14th year in a row, the #StateDepartment has overruled the advice of an independent statutory watchdog and decided not to blacklist Pakistan for religious freedom abuses. The decision not to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern” under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (#IRFA) comes despite its government’s continuing rejection of calls to amend or rescind the world’s most notorious blasphemy laws [1] – which carry the #deathpenalty and are frequently used to target #Christians and other #minorities. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/pakistan-radicals-end-protest-after-govt-gives-assurances-blasphemy It also comes just days after a new U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (#USCIRF) report highlighted dozens of instances of intolerance of religious minorities being promoted in public school textbooks [2] in the #Islamic country. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/lauretta-brown/study-public-school-textbooks-pakistan-teach-intolerance-non-muslims This year’s “country of particular concern” (#CPC) designations, announced by State Department spokesman John Kirby on Friday, are little different than those listed every year of the Obama administration. The core of eight countries – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan – remains unchanged since 2007. In 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry added Turkmenistan to the list, and this year he has made one additional designation, Tajikistan. The USCIRF, which like the CPC designation itself is a creation of the IRFA, has called on the current administration and its predecessor every year since 2002 to designate Pakistan – to no avail. The U.S. potentially wields significant leverage over Pakistan. It is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, with the administration requesting $742 million in aid for the country in fiscal year 2017. Pakistan’s omission is not the only disappointment for the USCIRF. It called in its last annual report for an additional seven countries not listed by the State Department to be designated CPCs. Of those seven recommendations only one, Tajikistan, has now been accepted. (The other six are Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.) Still, the commission, whose mandate is to advise the administration and Congress on promoting religious freedom abroad, says Pakistan is the single worst case among countries not currently listed as CPCs. On its 2016 watch list of the world’s 50 worst persecutors of Christians, the religious freedom advocacy group Open Doors has Pakistan at number six this year – the highest ranking it has reached in the 13 years the annual list has been compiled. (Other countries on the Open Doors’ top 10 that are not designated CPCs by the State Department are Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Libya.) ‘National interest’ The executive branch’s application of the IRFA has long been source of frustration among religious freedom advocates, including those on Capitol Hill. The IRFA provides for the imposition of sanctions or other measures against governments which violate citizens’ religious freedom or allow non-state groups or other parties to do so. But even where countries have been named CPCs, the administration has frequently withheld taking action, invoking waiver authority built into the law. This has been especially the case for Saudi Arabia, which like Pakistan is viewed as a key U.S. ally in a troubled region. The USCIRF recommended CPC status for the kingdom every year since the law first came into effect in 1999, but neither the Clinton nor Bush administration did so until Secretary of State Colin Powell took the step in 2004. Ever since that designation in 2004, both the Bush and Obama administrations have waived CPC-related action against Saudi Arabia, despite appeals by the USCIRF [3]. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/religious-freedom-watchdog-wants-us-act-against-saudi-arabia Kirby confirmed on Friday that Saudi Arabia will once again be subject to a waiver, along with the three Central Asian republics on the blacklist. “We have waived application of presidential actions with respect to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan following determinations that the important national interest of the United States required exercising this waiver authority,” he said. “Presidential actions” have been implemented for the remaining CPCs (Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan), he said. Even in these cases the actions, whether sanctions or other steps, are not new or additional. Instead, they underline existing measures, which can include limitations to military aid or visa restrictions. “This is another layer of validity to our concerns over that particular country,” Kirby said. ‘Ongoing and persistent waivers’ In an attempt to strengthen the implementation of IRFA, U.S. lawmakers have drafted bipartisan legislation that is due to be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150 [4]) includes a sense of Congress clause stating that “ongoing and persistent waivers” in the case of CPCs “do not fulfill the purposes of this Act,” and calling on the administration to “find ways to address existing violations, on a country-by-country basis,” through specified actions. https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr1150/BILLS-114hr1150ih.pdf Among other provisions, the bill will allow CPC designation to be broadened to cover non-state actors, such the #IslamicState of Iraq and Syria or #BokoHaram. It requires the State Department to maintain publically-available lists of people forced to renounce their faith, or who are imprisoned, detained, placed under house arrest or tortured for religious reasons – whether by governments or by non-state groups. The legislation also requires incoming foreign service officers to undergo mandatory international religious freedom training. http://cnsnews.com/print/news/article/patrick-goodenough/state-dept-gives-pakistan-pass-14th-consecutive-year-over-religious
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patriphied's Opinion
···
07/02/2016
Countries where religious freedoms are not allowed are typically not open to hearing about religious freedom from its people. You can not expect a massive uprising by a large group of people when no one is willing to start it because certain religions may be illegal in that area. As the US is the leader of the free world we should apply the same ideologies of freedom to the countries that need it most.
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Doug's Opinion
···
08/23/2016
Yes we need more Religious freedom all over the world !
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Argument opposed

Efforts to promote international religious freedom need to be led by people who live in countries where it’s lacking, as there is little the U.S. can do to change sentiment in those places.

operaman's Opinion
···
05/16/2016
This program(s) doesn't need updating, it needs to be canceled. Every year the State Department makes up excuses for Christian being persecuted or killed because "WE" need permission to use their land for some other reason. So foreign aid continues to be passed out and Christians die. And the sad part is that the money we give to these countries usually goes to their military so new arms could be purchased.
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Alis's Opinion
···
06/11/2016
As a religious person, this strikes me as manipulative. It is one of the great lies we tell ourselves that we guarantee religious freedom here. While it is true that there is a Christian church on every block (or, if you live in the South as I do, 6 or 7 Christian churches on every block), there is little popular support for religious diversity. Catholics are considered nonChristians in the South, nonbelievers are considered a threat to Christianity throughout the US. Muslims & Jews are regular victims of hate crime. If you get dressed up on Sunday to go worship Rock n' Roll Jesus, you are unlikely to be attacked. Should you go to worship another god--especially one that is on the current hate list--you are taking a chance. Could we embrace a tiny smidgen of humility & get our own house in order BEFORE we go off in a self-righteous huff telling other countries to play nice when we don't bother.
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Robert's Opinion
···
07/08/2016
That would be very hypocritical of us to do this. We would essentially just be spreading Christianity to countries. Our own government needs to tolerate the religions at home before we can spread tolerance elsewhere. Let's face it, your God is not my god, nor is it a Muslim's God or a Buddhists god. We are too varied and or government let's their faith step in far too much
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What is House Bill H.R. 1150?

This bill would offer a number of reforms to how the Office on International Religious Freedom operates. It would be placed under the control of the Secretary of State’s office.

The Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom would be directed to coordinate policies and engagement strategies across all relevant U.S. programs, projects, and activities. The Ambassador’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom would include a Special Watch List of countries or violent nonstate groups that have engaged in or tolerated actions that violate religious freedom but don’t quite meet the criteria for being a country of “particular concern.”

The Commission on International Religious Freedom would be required to compile and periodically make publicly available lists of people imprisoned, detained, placed under house arrest, tortured, or forced to renounce their faith by a foreign government or violent nonstate group. Additionally, the Commission’s termination date would be extended.

Reporting requirements imposed by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) would be revised for presidential actions related to designations of country and violent nonstate actors, particularly regarding countries on the watch list. Congress would also declare the following:

  • Ongoing persistent waivers for designated countries, especially those with severe violations of religious freedom don’t fulfill the purposes of the IRFA;

  • The president, the Secretary of State, and other executive branch officials should consult with Congress to find ways to address violations on a case-by-case basis.

This legislation would make it U.S. policy that violent nonstate actors could be designated as countries of concern and presidential actions could apply to them or individual member groups. The automatic termination of a presidential designation after two years would be repealed.

Funding would be authorized for the Human Rights and Democracy Fund from fiscal year 2016 through 2021, and a Religious Freedom Defense Fund would established and administered by the Ambassador at Large.

The president would be authorized to take specified actions against foreign persons responsible for committing or supporting systemic violations of religious freedom or acts of violence and terrorism against religious groups.

Impact

The Office of International Religious Freedom; the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom; the State Department; and the executive branch.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1150

$3.00 Million
The CBO estimates that implementing this bill would cost $1 million in 2017 and $500,000 per year over the 2018-2021 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced this bill to give the State Department and other federal agencies new tools to counter the persecution of religious minorities around the world:

“The need to advance religious freedom globally is more important now than ever before. From Beijing to Burma, Nigeria to Syria, and to Pakistan and beyond, the need to protect religious minorities, mitigate sectarian violence, end government restrictions and counter radicalism and extremism are critical priorities for US foreign policy.”

This legislation was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by unanimous consent, and it has the bipartisan support of 118 cosponsors — including 97 Republicans and 19 Democrats.



Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user hope_art)

AKA

Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act

Official Title

To amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to improve the ability of the United States to advance religious freedom globally through enhanced diplomacy, training, counterterrorism, and foreign assistance efforts, and through stronger and more flexible political responses to religious freedom violations and violent extremism worldwide, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • EnactedDecember 16th, 2016
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The senate Passed December 10th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
  • The house Passed May 16th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Financial Services
      Committee on Foreign Affairs
      Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedFebruary 27th, 2015

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    [Obama is protecting his Muslim buddies. He sure as heck doesn't care about religious freedom violations against Christians here in the U.S.!] State Dept. Gives #Pakistan Pass on #ReligiousFreedom Violations--for 14th Straight Year • Pakistan is the single worst case among countries not currently listed as a “country of particular concern” (CPC). • Even where countries have been named CPCs, the administration has frequently withheld taking action, such as the imposition of sanctions or other measures, invoking waiver authority built into the law. This has been especially the case for Saudi Arabia, which like Pakistan is viewed as a key U.S. ally in a troubled region. • Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, with the administration requesting $742 million in aid for the country in fiscal year 2017. • U.S. lawmakers have drafted bipartisan legislation that is due to be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150) includes a sense of Congress clause stating that “ongoing and persistent waivers” in the case of CPCs “do not fulfill the purposes of this Act,” and calling on the administration to “find ways to address existing violations, on a country-by-country basis,” through specified actions. Among other provisions, the bill will allow CPC designation to be broadened to cover non-state actors, such the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Boko Haram. (CNSNews.com) – For a record 14th year in a row, the #StateDepartment has overruled the advice of an independent statutory watchdog and decided not to blacklist Pakistan for religious freedom abuses. The decision not to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern” under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (#IRFA) comes despite its government’s continuing rejection of calls to amend or rescind the world’s most notorious blasphemy laws [1] – which carry the #deathpenalty and are frequently used to target #Christians and other #minorities. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/pakistan-radicals-end-protest-after-govt-gives-assurances-blasphemy It also comes just days after a new U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (#USCIRF) report highlighted dozens of instances of intolerance of religious minorities being promoted in public school textbooks [2] in the #Islamic country. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/lauretta-brown/study-public-school-textbooks-pakistan-teach-intolerance-non-muslims This year’s “country of particular concern” (#CPC) designations, announced by State Department spokesman John Kirby on Friday, are little different than those listed every year of the Obama administration. The core of eight countries – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan – remains unchanged since 2007. In 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry added Turkmenistan to the list, and this year he has made one additional designation, Tajikistan. The USCIRF, which like the CPC designation itself is a creation of the IRFA, has called on the current administration and its predecessor every year since 2002 to designate Pakistan – to no avail. The U.S. potentially wields significant leverage over Pakistan. It is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, with the administration requesting $742 million in aid for the country in fiscal year 2017. Pakistan’s omission is not the only disappointment for the USCIRF. It called in its last annual report for an additional seven countries not listed by the State Department to be designated CPCs. Of those seven recommendations only one, Tajikistan, has now been accepted. (The other six are Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.) Still, the commission, whose mandate is to advise the administration and Congress on promoting religious freedom abroad, says Pakistan is the single worst case among countries not currently listed as CPCs. On its 2016 watch list of the world’s 50 worst persecutors of Christians, the religious freedom advocacy group Open Doors has Pakistan at number six this year – the highest ranking it has reached in the 13 years the annual list has been compiled. (Other countries on the Open Doors’ top 10 that are not designated CPCs by the State Department are Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Libya.) ‘National interest’ The executive branch’s application of the IRFA has long been source of frustration among religious freedom advocates, including those on Capitol Hill. The IRFA provides for the imposition of sanctions or other measures against governments which violate citizens’ religious freedom or allow non-state groups or other parties to do so. But even where countries have been named CPCs, the administration has frequently withheld taking action, invoking waiver authority built into the law. This has been especially the case for Saudi Arabia, which like Pakistan is viewed as a key U.S. ally in a troubled region. The USCIRF recommended CPC status for the kingdom every year since the law first came into effect in 1999, but neither the Clinton nor Bush administration did so until Secretary of State Colin Powell took the step in 2004. Ever since that designation in 2004, both the Bush and Obama administrations have waived CPC-related action against Saudi Arabia, despite appeals by the USCIRF [3]. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/religious-freedom-watchdog-wants-us-act-against-saudi-arabia Kirby confirmed on Friday that Saudi Arabia will once again be subject to a waiver, along with the three Central Asian republics on the blacklist. “We have waived application of presidential actions with respect to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan following determinations that the important national interest of the United States required exercising this waiver authority,” he said. “Presidential actions” have been implemented for the remaining CPCs (Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan), he said. Even in these cases the actions, whether sanctions or other steps, are not new or additional. Instead, they underline existing measures, which can include limitations to military aid or visa restrictions. “This is another layer of validity to our concerns over that particular country,” Kirby said. ‘Ongoing and persistent waivers’ In an attempt to strengthen the implementation of IRFA, U.S. lawmakers have drafted bipartisan legislation that is due to be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 1150 [4]) includes a sense of Congress clause stating that “ongoing and persistent waivers” in the case of CPCs “do not fulfill the purposes of this Act,” and calling on the administration to “find ways to address existing violations, on a country-by-country basis,” through specified actions. https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr1150/BILLS-114hr1150ih.pdf Among other provisions, the bill will allow CPC designation to be broadened to cover non-state actors, such the #IslamicState of Iraq and Syria or #BokoHaram. It requires the State Department to maintain publically-available lists of people forced to renounce their faith, or who are imprisoned, detained, placed under house arrest or tortured for religious reasons – whether by governments or by non-state groups. The legislation also requires incoming foreign service officers to undergo mandatory international religious freedom training. http://cnsnews.com/print/news/article/patrick-goodenough/state-dept-gives-pakistan-pass-14th-consecutive-year-over-religious
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    This program(s) doesn't need updating, it needs to be canceled. Every year the State Department makes up excuses for Christian being persecuted or killed because "WE" need permission to use their land for some other reason. So foreign aid continues to be passed out and Christians die. And the sad part is that the money we give to these countries usually goes to their military so new arms could be purchased.
    Like (31)
    Follow
    Share
    As a religious person, this strikes me as manipulative. It is one of the great lies we tell ourselves that we guarantee religious freedom here. While it is true that there is a Christian church on every block (or, if you live in the South as I do, 6 or 7 Christian churches on every block), there is little popular support for religious diversity. Catholics are considered nonChristians in the South, nonbelievers are considered a threat to Christianity throughout the US. Muslims & Jews are regular victims of hate crime. If you get dressed up on Sunday to go worship Rock n' Roll Jesus, you are unlikely to be attacked. Should you go to worship another god--especially one that is on the current hate list--you are taking a chance. Could we embrace a tiny smidgen of humility & get our own house in order BEFORE we go off in a self-righteous huff telling other countries to play nice when we don't bother.
    Like (17)
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    That would be very hypocritical of us to do this. We would essentially just be spreading Christianity to countries. Our own government needs to tolerate the religions at home before we can spread tolerance elsewhere. Let's face it, your God is not my god, nor is it a Muslim's God or a Buddhists god. We are too varied and or government let's their faith step in far too much
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    Promoting "International religious freedom" while at the same time aligning that entity with the state department of the United States is humorously ironic.
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    With such high levels of ongoing violence against Muslims and Sikhs in the United States, we are not in any position to scold other nations. If we are truly serious about protecting the safety and civil rights of religious minorities around the world, we need to get our own house in order first. Until that time, any effort to promote "religious freedom" abroad looks hypocritical at best.
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    Countries where religious freedoms are not allowed are typically not open to hearing about religious freedom from its people. You can not expect a massive uprising by a large group of people when no one is willing to start it because certain religions may be illegal in that area. As the US is the leader of the free world we should apply the same ideologies of freedom to the countries that need it most.
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    No, only because I don't trust the state department in any religion. It isn't the duty of one country's state department to be the world police on faith.
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    Efforts to promote international religious freedom need to be led by people who live in countries where it’s lacking, as there is little the U.S. can do to change sentiment in those places.
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    Yes we need more Religious freedom all over the world !
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    An update needs to be made that specifically states "Any Religion that promotes activities contrary to our Constitution should be outlawed" example: Sharia Law
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    Everyone should be able to practice their religion so long as it doesnt bring harm to others
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    If we can't ensure that Muslims and Sikhs are protected in America who are to call out the kettle.
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    Religious freedom is a basic right of all humans. America can and should promote this right through peaceful means, without overstepping boundaries in foreign affairs.
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    Attention representatives of US citizens: How about protecting American Christians in lieu of building foot baths at colleges and airports for a minority religion to be politically correct.
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    Freedom of belief is a human right.
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    Yes, but we must draw a clean line between religious freedom and American values, rights, and democracy. This is a human rights issue and must be treated as such. I can only support this if it can be guaranteed that Americans do not LEAD the charge, but only guide the country's nationals.
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    Another meaningless gesture. If they were truly dedicated to international religious freedom maybe they should first actually do something about all the CHRISTIAN BEHEADINGS in the Middle East. (Google it). There are too many to count, including children and infants. But Christianity isn't afforded the same protection as Islam and others. Obviously they have all the freedom they need when they freely do it with no one caring.
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    We need to clean up our own religious act before we tell other countries how to act. There are too much things that we don't understand how the religions interact in other countries for us to tell countries how to act on religion.
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    When Christians oppress others they call it "religious freedom" but when the people being oppressed try to defend themselves Christians call that "persecution".
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