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Bill Would Strengthen Role of Religious Freedom Envoy

By DANIEL BURKE
c. 2011 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) New legislation proposed by a leading congressional watchdog would push the State Department to make international religious freedom a greater priority.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., introduced a bill on Wednesday (May 11) that would boost the profile of the ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, require religious training for foreign service officers, and reauthorize an independent panel that monitors restrictions placed on beliefs and practices abroad.

The bill would also require the State Department report to Congress about concrete measures it has taken toward countries that violate religious rights.

“Religious freedom, often referred to as the first freedom, is of central import to the American experiment,” Wolf said on Wednesday. “As such it should feature prominently in U.S. foreign policy.”

Wolf authored the 1998 bill that established the State Department’s international religious freedom office, created an ambassador-at-large for the issue and founded a bipartisan commission to monitor foreign governments.

President Obama’s new religious freedom envoy, the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, was confirmed by the Senate last month. Wolf’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., would give Cook and future envoys a direct line to the secretary of state.

It would also require the secretary of state, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to issue a report to Congress on the best ways to use U.S. aid to promote religious freedom.

In addition, Wolf’s bill would reauthorize the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose nine members are appointed by the White House and Congress.

The commission, due to expire Sept. 30, issues annual reports that flag religious freedom concerns and offers recommendations to the president, State Department and Congress. Critics say the bipartisan commission lacks the teeth to execute its policy recommendations.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dennis Frado

    According to Rep. Wolf’s website, the bill provides for “religious freedom training” for Foreign Service Officers, something different from “religious training”.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Bo

    Oh great, another reason to go to war now. Not that competing religions or religious ideas have ever caused war (cough, cough)- seriously, we’re opening a Pandora’s box of trouble with this.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Clearly the most useful religious training for foreign service officers would involve Islam. Then maybe Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism. I wonder if that’s what he’s got in mind.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Pandora’s box was already opened in the 9-11 attack. It sounds as though they see the need to understand all religious beliefs and ideas, so fanatisism doesn’t hurt unaware people.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Typo, fanaticism.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Let’s think about this. We’re cutting off aid to the unemployed, cutting money for education, medical care, you name it. And this guy wants to recall all out diplomats and have them sit through classes, like as not put on by his cronies for big bucks. And in the middle of a struggle against terror he wants to burden the State Department, Treasury Department and AID with writing reports.

    Let’s do us all a favor and fail this bill.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment interpreter

    Looks like a good bill to me. Christians in many Muslim nations are being persecuted, and dying, and something must be done about it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    What about the Muslims being persecuted and dying? What about Hindus? Did someone think this is only about Christians?

    And we’re in pretty sad shape after Bush’s buddies and their unfunded wars and all. Why should we be the ones running around the world protecting certain people and not others?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Hoping for the best

    Fundametalist religious especially the un-credentialed, and half-educated can be just as destructive as radical religious movements. Sadly the laws protecting religious freedom has become an enabler for those who abuse those freedoms. Only good can come from some regulation that prioritizes humman rights and freedoms that any relgion can “legally” trample on in the name of their so called “ilumanati” position with God…just look at the Watchtower Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are the most ignorant christian relgious group, yet their uneducated leaders in Brooklyn teach that they hold the power of life and death both spiritually and physically over their members most do not know how far reaching the impact on their lives untill they are indoctrinated with only the ‘fluff stuff’ with devestating results for millions. I wish the same theologians that the Watchtower leaders qoute to prop up their quasi-biblical interpretations, mistinterpretations, and confusion they pass off as coming straight from God, would do a anaylitical work on Jehovah’s Witnesses theology, systematically, methodically to show exactly how they have arrived at their unique some of which are ‘radical’ teachings such as:

    http://community.beliefnet.com/go/thread/view/43851/25689281/Why_would_WTS_choose_channel_a_known_spiritistic_practice_to_describe_their_uninspiredactivity&post_num=43#495296513

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Hoping for the best

    This is a continuation of the previous comment where Watchtower’s “illuminati” declare their “life giving” provisions to mankind…who says you can’t make this stuff up…they clearly do!

    Research highlight from watchtower 1960 7/15
    (…) Staying Awake with the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”

    (…)The facts show that during this time and up to the present hour the “slave” class has served as God’s sole collective channel for the flow of Biblical truth to men on earth.

    Just as the early Christian congregation collectively served as the channel of communication from heaven to earth, so in our time. (Eph. 3:10)

    Abundant spiritual food and amazing details as to the doing of God’s will have been flowing through this unique channel actually as a miraculous evidence of the operation of holy spirit. The present stature of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, numbering nearly a million ministers in 175 lands, gives eloquent testimony that it is not the product of human ingenuity. Rather, it is the product of holy spirit operating theocratically through a tested channel, influencing the lives of dedicated men and women in all walks of life.—Zech. 4:6.

    (…)
    Thus organizationally the “discreet slave” class since 1919 has been channeling an ever-increasing flow of Biblical publications by the millions that contain the “waters of life” featuring Jehovah’s will as emanating from God’s throne in heaven. Note there are “trees of life” on each side of this “river of life.” These are the “domestics,” the anointed remnant as individuals, who draw first from these waters of truth. Being thus filled with truth, the individual anointed ones produce Kingdom fruitage and the fruitage of the spirit continually, during all seasons, to feed spiritually and help their many new associates of the “nations.”—Gal. 5:22-24.

    (…)

    end of highlight

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    On reading this over, I overlooked Wolf’s part in the Independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, about to expire in Sept. of this year. Wolf authored it in 1998. President Obama has put Rev. Susan Cook as envoy for Freedom of Religion, internationally. She is well-versed in all religions and will be able to talk to anyone in government without the help of the one about to expire. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom didn’t alert the U.S. on what the radical beliefs of the Muslims were to help off-set an attack on 9-ll. Doesn’t Freedom of Religion, Intl. fall under what is going on in the minds of the religious world-wide? If it wasn’t it should have been and should be now. It seems that all religions have extremists all over the world, these groups need to be watched.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    What about religious freedom in Israel, where if you are not a Jew you are a second class citizen. And if you’re a Muslim it’s worse. Why hasn’t this committee been blowing the whistle on Israel?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    hope I wonder what you would have thought of Jesus uneducated and unschooled as He was.

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