Legislative Efforts on Religious Freedom Are Rarely Voted Into Law in America

Legislative Efforts on Religious Freedom Are Rarely Voted Into Law in America
Image: Andrew Harnik / Pool / AP. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference to announce the annual International Religious Freedom Report at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf kingdom “remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living [there],” he stated yesterday.

Such high-level criticism of the key US ally is a departure from the foreign policy of the Trump administration, though the State Department has listed the oil-rich nation as a Country of Particular Concern on international religious freedom (IRF) since 2004.

Blinken also highlighted recent violations in Iran, Burma, Russia, Nigeria, and China. Positive developments were noted in Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Our promise to the world is that the Biden-Harris administration will protect and defend religious freedom around the world,” stated Blinken, releasing the 23rd annual International Religious Freedom Report, assessing the records of nearly 200 countries and territories.

“We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on this issue, [and] we’re grateful for our partners.”

He named several entities, but one is glaring in its absence:

The US Congress.

Six years ago, 21Wilberforce, a Christian human rights organization, launched the International Religious Freedom Scorecard to hold America’s lawmakers to account.

“There is much room for improvement,” Lou Ann Sabatier, director of communication, told CT. “It is a long and arduous process for an IRF bill to become a law, and many do not make it out of committee.”

The latest scorecard, released this week and grading the two-year term of the 116th Congress, lists 91 legislative efforts in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Only two became law.

The daughter of one of Congress’s chief IRF champions is not happy.

“As religious freedom abuses have proliferated around the world, America’s efforts to advocate for this bedrock human right have not kept pace,” stated Katrina Lantos Swett, whose late father cofounded the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus in the House.

“This vital tool tells us who in our Congress is leaning forward in defense of the First Freedom, and who is leaning back.”

The scorecard is endorsed by Sam Brownback and Suzan Johnson Cook, former ambassadors at large for IRF under presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, respectively. Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, and Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of Pakistan’s parliament, also support the 21Wilberforce effort.

English author Os Guinness joins them, blunt in his assessment.

“My concern is not only religious freedom around the world,” he stated, “but the lack of leadership on this issue—which has been America’s birthright.”

Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, was 1 of 9 senators to receive an F score. Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat from Hawaii, was 1 of 8 representatives in the lowest tier.

But 62 legislators were recognized as “notable leaders.” Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, ranks first in the House. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, ranks first in the Senate.

Rubio was the primary sponsor of the two bills that became law. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act were both passed unanimously.

“The freedom to practice or live out one’s faith according to one’s conscience is a sacred right that no government has the authority to take away,” Rubio stated.

“Tragically, this fundamental human right remains under constant assault around the world.”

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Source: Christianity Today

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