Florida Republican Marco Rubio brought out a bill to ensure the State Department does more to protect religious liberty across the globe on Thursday.
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." 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.
“Religious freedom has rightly been called America’s first freedom and must be given priority in our foreign policy agenda,” Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Thursday. “This legislation brings the historic International Religious Freedom Act into the 21st century by giving this administration and future administrations the tools needed to defend this most basic human right.”
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 is sponsored by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith who Rubio praised as a “stalwart defender” of religious liberty. 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.