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This didn’t receive much fanfare, but attention should be paid.
From The Christian Post:
President Obama signed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which further strengthens the United States’ effort to combat persecution of religious minorities around the world as part of the country’s foreign policy. “As a world leader for freedom and the protection of basic human rights, the United States should take every opportunity to advocate for people to think, believe, and act according to their religious belief, whether they belong to a minority or majority religion,” Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, who co-sponsored the bill said in a statement. The bill, HR 1150, is named after a recently retired Congressman who is a fervent advocate for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world. Wolf, who represented Virginia’s 10th Congressional district since 1981 and is a devout Presbyterian, retired last year. The bill updates the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, signed by then President Bill Clinton to establish within the U.S. Department of State an office designed specifically to address religious freedom concerns around the world. The upgraded legislation includes provisions aimed at strengthening key positions within the federal government to make religious freedom a top priority. The bill ensures that the Ambassador-at-Large reports directly to the Secretary of State and not a lower-ranking official. Also guaranteed are a minimum number of employees to staff the IRFO office such that the issue will not “become politically irrelevant according to the whims or indifference of an administration,” as noted by Matthew Hawkins of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Training that is currently optional regarding the “strategic value of international religious freedom” will now be mandatory for all Foreign Service Officers. The bill also more accurately categorizes degrees and types of religious persecution.
The bill had more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors. The Knights of Columbus is one of several religious organizations that has backed the measure, along with representatives of ethnic minority groups and nongovernmental organisations. “From the founding of our nation, religious freedom has been a pillar of our democracy and it remains one of the most cherished values of our country,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, said. “This bill will improve US efforts to promote religious freedom globally; better train and equip diplomats to counter extremism; address persecution; mitigate conflict and help the ambassador-at-large for religious freedom to coordinate religious freedom efforts.”