U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., has moved up from the vice chairman to the cochairman of the Congressional International Religious Freedom (IRF) Caucus.
The Florida Republican showcased his new assignment on Tuesday. Bilirakis will cochair the group with U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif.
“The IRF Caucus seeks to keep members of Congress informed about religious freedom issues and in contact with Non-Governmental Organizations working in the field,” Bilirakis’ office noted. “The Caucus hosts bipartisan monthly briefings to ensure members of Congress, their staff and other stakeholders are kept abreast of developments that are occurring throughout the world as it relates to the protection of religious freedom.”
The caucus was launched in 2006 by then U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., then U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. Last month, Franks resigned from Congress after the U.S. House Ethics Committee launched an investigation of sexual harassment accusations made against the Arizona Republican including charges that he asked staffers to bear his children as surrogate mothers.
Bilirakis weighed in on his new assignment on Tuesday.
“Freedom of religion is one of the most basic human rights and it is regularly denied to millions of people around the globe, sometimes in the most horrific and violent manner possible-even by those who claim to be our allies,” Bilirakis said. “We cannot, in good conscience, sit by silently and allow these atrocities to occur. This caucus does important work to educate our country’s leaders about the oppression that occurs and to unite efforts to combat those injustices. I am proud to be named co-chair, and look forward to continuing to lead the charge against religious persecution.”
Bilirakis will start his new task later this week as the caucus is scheduled to tackle “Imprisoning the Minds: How the Lack of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion and Belief Keeps North Koreans Living in the Dark” on Thursday.
After eight years in the Florida House, Bilirakis was elected to Congress for the first time in 2006 replacing his father U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla. Bilirakis currently serves as vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and is the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee Veterans' Affairs Task Force. Bilirakis is also part of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and cochairs the Hellenic-Israel Alliance and the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.