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VIDEO: Lankford Makes The Case For Adding Religious Freedom Amendment to Trade Promotion Authority

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made remarks on the Senate floor on his Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) amendment (#1237) that promotes international religious freedom among potential trading partners of the United States. Specifically, the amendment would add a provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in TPA, requiring the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements. Later this evening, the Senate will vote on the amendment, which is subject to a 60 vote threshold. 

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“Madam President, a trade agreement is about a set of values and beliefs. Do we believe that the American worker and the American products can compete with the rest of the world and provide answers and products the world needs? It’s an overwhelming necessity. We exchange ideas and values. Our greatest export is our American value. The dignity of each person, hard work, innovation, and liberty. That’s what we send around the world. It has the greatest impact.

“What we wrote into our Declaration of Independence was not just an American value statement, we believe it’s a statement about every person, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men, not just men and women within the United States, that all people worldwide are created equal and they’re endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Governments were created to protect these rights given to us by God. We believe every person should have protection of the government to live their faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether. It’s one of the reasons that Americans are disturbed by the trend in our courts and military and public conversation.

“It’s not the task of government to purge religious conversation from public life. It is the task of government to protect the rights of every person to live their faith and to guard those who choose not to have any faith at all. Thomas Jefferson, in one of the pinnacle works of his life, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, states almighty God hath created the mind free and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens or by civil incapacity the nations to only beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.

“With that backdrop… I’ve worked for two years with my colleagues to place language in the negotiating language of this trade bill to push our negotiators to consider religious liberty in their negotiations. I’ve been told over and over again ‘we don’t talk about religious freedom in our trade negotiations.’ I’ve just asked why not? We should encourage trade with another country when that country acknowledges our basic value of the dignity of every person to live their own faith. Our nation is not just an economy. Our nation is a set of ideas and values. We believe each person has value and worth that benefits every person from each nation in the trade agreement, if we lead with our values and not sell out for a dollar the people who have been in bondage as a prisoner of conscience for years.

“The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended recently that the United States should — and I quote — “Ensure that human rights and religious freedom are pursued consistently and publicly at every level in the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, including in the context of discussions related to military, trade, or economic and security assistance such as Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and in programs that address internet freedom and civil society development among others” — end quote.

“When people have freedom of conscience and faith, they’re also better trading partners. Their country is stable, their families are stable, and their economy will grow. With that I encourage this body to do something new. Let’s start exporting the values that we hold dear, not to compel nations to have our faith but to have other nations recognize the power of freedom of religion within their own border.

“I have a simple amendment to the trade promotion authority, asking the trade negotiators to take into account conditions relating to religious freedom of any party to negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States. It’s not complicated. It’s a simple encouragement and it’s a step towards us exporting our value. I ask for the support of this body as we consider our greatest export, freedom. With that I yield back.”