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Senator Lankford Encourages Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Address Poor Religious Freedom Record

WASHINGTON, DC –As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Washington, DC this week for meetings with President Obama and a speech before Congress, Senator Lankford called on Prime Minister Modi to address continuing violations of religious freedom in India. 

“Through our country’s strong and growing relationship with India, we have an opportunity to encourage the protection of peaceful religious minorities,” said Lankford. “Religious liberty is more than an American right; it is a human right. As a leader for religious liberty, the United States should take every opportunity to encourage the right of every human being to think, believe, and act according to their religious belief, whether they belong to a minority or majority religion.”

Although India protects religious freedom in its constitution, there have been ongoing issues with the oppression of religious minorities. India has been placed on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom’s Tier 2 list (which consists of countries that require close monitoring due to violations of religious freedom) since 2009. Of particular concern are the anti-conversion laws enacted by six of India’s 28 states. Although the laws are intended to protect religious minorities from forced conversion to Hinduism (the majority religion) they tend to be only enforced against those converting from Hinduism to a minority religion, such as Christianity or Islam.

In February, Members of the United States Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Prime Minister Modi to reiterate their support for the relationship between the United States and India but pushed for the protection of persecuted religious minorities. Lankford also sent a letter to President Obama to ask him to reevaluate his decision to open diplomatic trade relations with India because of their poor human rights and religious liberty record. Last May, Lankford introduced a bipartisan religious liberty trade amendment that was signed into law. The legislation requires the President to take into account a country’s religious freedom record when negotiating all future trade agreements.

Prime Minister Modi will address a Joint Meeting of Congress from the House of Representatives at the US Capitol on Wednesday, June 8 at 11am ET.