On December 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed HR 1150, the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Among other things, the bill requires the State Department to develop a mandatory curriculum for training all Foreign Service officers in the value of religious freedom.
Sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), HR 1150 passed out of the House of Representatives by voice vote May 16. Now it is up to the Senate to consider and pass the bill so it can be sent to President Obama for his signature.
A multifaith International Religious Freedom Roundtable letter signed by 72 organizations (including the Church of Scientology) and individuals was sent to U.S. Senate leaders in October. The letter read in part:
The passage and implementation of HR 1150 will result in a strengthened International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as well as the integration of this foundational human right into U.S. foreign policy and national security strategies. In so doing, the United States will send a clear and urgent message regarding the inherent dignity of every human being, while advancing global security in the fight against persecution, religious extremism and terrorism. This legislation is consistent with the best of our values, and has the added benefit of practically protecting our national interests as well.
Other provisions of the law would move the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom position (currently held by Rabbi David Saperstein) to report directly to the Secretary of State, and recommends that the International Religious Freedom office be “elevated.”
Passage by the full Senate in the upcoming days before the recess will place this critical legislation in a position to help strengthen international religious freedom.