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Promoting Religious Freedom Abroad

Congressional Action
112th Congress (2011-2012)

More than a decade ago, Congress enacted legislation that established much of the governmental architecture through which the United States promotes religious freedom abroad.  The 112th Congress has been deeply involved in the activities of the institutions created by this legislation.

In 1998, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed, both by unanimous vote, the International Religious Freedom Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law.  This law required the State Department to create an Office of International Religious Freedom and to issue an annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world.  The Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who heads the office, also serves as principal advisor to the President and the Secretary of State on issues of international religious freedom.

The International Religious Freedom Act also created the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.  The Commission acts as an independent agency, outside of government, that monitors violations of religious freedom around the world and makes policy recommendations to the President and Congress.

In 2004, Congress passed the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law.  This law created within the State Department the new post of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Hearings in the 112th Congress:

Legislation in the House of Representatives:

  • H.RES.506: An Act to urge the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki
    Sponsor: Representative Gus Bilirakis
    Introduced on December 20, 2011
  • H.R.3557: Religious Worker Visa Reciprocity Act of 2011
    Sponsor: Representative Steve King
    Introduced on December 2, 2011
  • H.RES.459: An Act to encourage any new government convened in Egypt to fully allow for the freedom of religion
    Sponsor: Representative Robert Aderholt
    Introduced on November 4, 2011
  • H.RES.387: An Act to condemn the extremist violence, lack of religious freedom, and human rights violations committed against Kashmiri Pandits since 1989
    Sponsor: Representative Frank Pallone, Jr.
    Introduced on August 1, 2011
  • H.RES.306: Urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties
    Sponsor: Representative Edward Royce
    Introduced on June 15, 2011
    Passed the House by voice vote on December 12, 2011
  • H.R.1856: International Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 2011
    Sponsor: Representative Frank Wolf
    Introduced on May 11, 2011
  • H.RES.180: An Act to urge Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
    Sponsor: Representative Carolyn Maloney
    Introduced on March 17, 2011
  • H.RES.134: An Act to condemn the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights
    Sponsor: Representative Robert Dold
    Introduced on March 1, 2011
  • H.R.554: Freedom Trade Act
    Sponsor: Representative Thaddeus McCotter
    Introduced on February 8, 2011
    [Religious provisions of the bill: Impose restrictions on imports from any foreign country that violates the rights of its citizens to freedom of religion]
  • H.R.440: An Act to create a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia
    Sponsor: Representative Frank Wolf
    Introduced on January 25, 2011
  • H.RES.16: An Act to designate the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern" with respect to religious freedom
    Sponsor: Representative Edward Royce
    Introduced on January 5, 2011

Legislation in the Senate:

  • S.RES.392: A resolution urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties
    Sponsor: Senator Scott Brown
    Introduced on March 8, 2012
  • S.RES.385: A resolution condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy
    Sponsor: Senator David Vitter
    Introduced on March 1, 2012
  • S.RES.232: A resolution recognizing the continued persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China
    Sponsor: Senator Robert Menendez
    Introduced on July 13, 2011
  • S.1245: Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2011
    Sponsor: Senator Roy Blunt
    Introduced on June 22, 2011
  • S.RES.196: A resolution calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki
    Sponsor: Senator Benjamin Cardin
    Introduced on May 24, 2011
  • S.RES.150: A resolution calling for the protection of religious minority rights and freedoms in the Arab world
    Sponsor: Senator James Inhofe
    Introduced on April 14, 2011
  • S.RES.80: A resolution condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority
    Sponsor: Senator Mark Steven Kirk
    Introduced on March 1, 2011

Information on proposed legislation can be found on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php