U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., scored a win this week as Congress sent his bill to ensure the State Department does more to protect religious liberty across the globe to President Barack Obama.
Rubio teamed up with fellow Senate Republicans Roy Blount of Missouri and John Cornyn of Texas to introduce the “Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act" back in April. The bill alters the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 by giving the International Religious Freedom Office in the State Department more authority and the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom more power, including reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
The bill also creates a watch list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) while labeling non-state bodies “Entities of Particular Concern” when it comes to actions against religious freedom. Rubio’s proposal would also give the White House the ability to sanction “individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions” and increases reporting on genocides directed at particular religions.
The House backed the bill on Tuesday while the Senate passed it earlier in the month.
“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,” Rubio said on Tuesday after the House sent the bill to Obama. “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.”
When he brought it out in April, Rubio noted his bill did more against non-state actors including Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism.
“People of faith around the world routinely find themselves in the crosshairs, not only of repressive and authoritarian states, but also of non-state actors like ISIL and Boko Haram. Wherever assaults on religious freedom occur, America has a moral responsibility to speak up and to act,” Rubio said.
The House bill was sponsored by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith who Rubio praised as a “stalwart defender” of religious liberty when they brought the legislation out. More than 100 members of Congress are co-sponsoring Smith’s bill in the House including Florida Republicans Gus Bilirakis, John Mica, Rich Nugent, Bill Posey, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho.