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PASSED: Senate Reauthorizes the US Commission on International Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate passed the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2022. The bill, introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Chris Coons (D-DE), would reauthorize USCIRF through fiscal year 2024. The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, is a commission that monitors religious freedom internationally. The commission’s authorization is currently set to expire September 30, 2022. 

“I applaud the Senate’s action to reauthorize the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is a vital part of our nation’s work to share our core value of religious freedom across the world. The Commission conducts crucial research and provides vital information on the status of religious liberty worldwide so we can ensure that religious freedom is protected and promoted for people of faith around the world. The right to choose your faith, practice your faith, change your faith, or have no faith at all is a fundamental human right of all people everywhere. We must continue to shine a light on those who do not protect the unalienable human right of religious freedom for all people. I encourage the House to swiftly take up this reauthorization to ensure that USCIRF is able to continue its invaluable work,” said Lankford.

“Religious freedom is a sacred right afforded to all men and women, and the United States has a duty to defend it. USCIRF plays a vital role in our nation’s efforts to stand up for those seeking to peacefully and freely worship, and we must ensure their work continues. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to move quickly to pass this important legislation and send the bill to President Biden without delay,” said Rubio. 

“The human right to freedom of religion or belief is fundamental and reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez. “I’m proud to see the Senate speak with one voice in reaffirming our belief in the importance of this human right. In the coming years, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom must demonstrate a heightened level of objectivity in its approach to human rights violations. To that end, I urge  the Commission to strengthen its efforts in protecting that right by objectively monitoring the exercise of freedom of religion or belief globally with respect to all faiths, and with respect to LGBTQI+ persons, and other members of vulnerable communities. This reauthorization will go a long way in providing USCIRF the resources needed to protect a critical human right that’s the bedrock of democratic, pluralistic, and open societies,” said Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Every individual around the globe deserves the right to practice their own religion without fear. Unfortunately, religious freedom is under attack in all corners of the globe, including the genocide of Uyghurs in China, attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, and the persecution of Yazidis, Baha’is, Christians, and others in the Middle East. The Senate passage of our USCIRF reauthorization will ensure the United States utilizes every resource available to continue promoting religious freedom and investigate violations for all,” said Risch, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Religious freedom – whether it is practicing your own faith or no faith at all – ought to be protected in every corner of the globe. I am glad to see the Senate reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and help safeguard the ability of people around the world to worship safely and freely,” said Coons. 

Lankford has been a leader in advancing religious liberty around the world. Lankford recently received the Hero on the Hill award from Jeff King, President of the International Christian Concern (ICC), for his work to bring to light the persecution of people of faith around the world and his work to advance religious freedom. This summer, Lankford received the inaugural International Religious Freedom (IRF) Champion Award, presented by Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback under the Trump Administration. Lankford introduced a resolution to call for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws around the world, which passed the Senate unanimously.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) created USCIRF, an independent commission that monitors the right to freedom of religion internationally. The Commissioners of USCIRF are appointed by Congress and the President. USCIRF issues an annual report that assesses the US government’s implementation of IRFA, highlights “Countries of Particular Concern” engaging in severe religious freedom violations, documents the conditions of religious freedom in many countries, and provides policy recommendations. 

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