Locals Push Bill Spreading Religious Freedom

A Santa Ana-based group pushing for religious freedom worldwide has launched a new advocacy campaign aimed at beefing up the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and, with it, U.S. foreign policy.

Turmoil in Nigeria, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Pakistan--including the burning of churches and killing of Christians--proves U.S. House Resolution 1856 is critically needed, according to Open Doors USA.

The bill would reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and allow the IRF office to more effectively endorse religious freedom through advocacy, reporting and programming. The legislation would also add governments threatening religious freedom to the State Department list of "Countries of Particular Concern." All foreign service officers would receive religious freedom training.

Under current law, Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, works under the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner. With HR 1856, Cook would report directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"If this bill passes, it will offer a significant advancement in religious freedom worldwide," says Carl Moeller, Open Doors USA's president and CEO, in a statement from the group. "It is important to urge our U.S. representatives to vote for this bill."

Lindsay Vessey, Moeller's advocacy director, calls HR 1856 "one of the most important bills for the promotion of international religious freedom to be introduced. It is critical that HR 1856 be passed before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's funding expires in September. It is imperative that constituents let their elected officials know that religious freedom is important to them and that they campaign for religious freedom for all people of faith around the world."

Vessey points out that nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion. Stable, democratic governments in these countries are unlikely to ever succeed without religious freedom, Open Doors USA argues.

For more information about the campaign, go here.


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