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Lankford, Coons Announce Over 100 Advocates Urge Senate Leadership to Move Resolution Protecting Religious Freedom

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — A group of 113 religious and secular leaders, human rights advocates, scholars, and practitioners wrote an open letter of support for a bipartisan resolution, introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE), that recognizes religious freedom as a fundamental right.

The resolution urges the US State Department to widen its support for religious freedom globally by implementing all diplomatic and sanctions tools available to hold violators of religious freedom accountable. It also encourages the State Department to promote religious freedom as a cornerstone of US foreign policy. 

“The fundamental right of every person to have a faith, live your faith, change your faith, or have no faith at all must be recognized throughout the world,” said Lankford. “Countries like China, Russia, and Iran continue to target and persecute citizens for living this most basic freedom. I am grateful that so many continue to recognize the importance of protecting religious freedom for all people.”

“I’m grateful for the hundreds of advocates who have joined our efforts to recognize religious freedom as a fundamental right necessary for protecting democracy and peace,” said Coons. “I hope this letter encourages my colleagues to promptly move this resolution forward and show the Senate’s strong condemnation of any efforts to suppress religious freedom for believers and non-believers alike.”

“We have seen firsthand the increasing threats to religious freedom around the world described in the resolution,” the advocates wrote in their letter. “From ongoing genocides and mass atrocities perpetrated against religious minority groups, to individuals imprisoned and exiled for their faith and beliefs, from unjust restrictions on religious gatherings and practices, to the destruction of religious sites, these threats against both people of faith and no faith are not only grave violations of fundamental human rights, but also lead to instability, insecurity, and a lack of economic development.”

“S. Res. 569 paints an accurate and disturbing portrayal of the religious freedom situation in too many countries,” the advocates continued. “Because of that situation, the resolution’s policy recommendations are vital: promoting religious freedom as an ‘utmost priority’ in US foreign policy, holding violators accountable using all available diplomatic and sanctions tools, working with global partners, and expanding support for leaders and activists working to protect religious freedom worldwide. These recommendations, if followed, would continue and extend the US’s leading role in promoting international religious freedom, expand the coalition of partners so that better outcomes can be achieved, and create a greater space for religious freedom to thrive and grow on the ground where severe violations are currently happening.”

In addition to Lankford and Coons, the resolution is co-sponsored by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) and supported by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The letter can be read in full here.

The text of the resolution is available here.