Congress urged to take action on global crisis in religious persecution

A bipartisan group of national thought leaders, including Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr, has called upon Congress to take action now to develop a national strategy addressing the tragic global crisis in religious freedom. With the current catastrophic state of international religious persecution, violence and terrorism, a deficient foreign policy will have dire consequences for religious minorities worldwide as well as for U.S. national security.

A letter was hand delivered July 16 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Representing people of all faiths, the signatories include a broad and bipartisan cross section of religious leaders, public intellectuals and scholars from universities, policy organizations, national commissions and churches.

They include Starr; Former Sen. Joe Lieberman; William Galston, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; Imam Talal Eid, Islamic Insitute of Boston and former Commissioner, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Leonard Leo, former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Dr. Douglas Johnston, president of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy; His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Community Church; Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University; and Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Emeritus and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, Harvard Law School.

The group has urged Congress to support H.R. 1150 (introduced by Rep. Chris Smith along with Rep. Anna Eshoo), which would amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

This action would give the Ambassador-at-Large for international religious freedom the authority and resources to develop a national strategy to protect global religious freedom and advance the cause of religious liberty in American foreign policy. This would include mandatory training for all foreign service officers, deputy chiefs of mission and country ambassadors.

"The freedom to practice one's religion without fear is the precious birthright of every human being, of whatever class, status, or location on the earth," the letter states. "It is also the providence of persons of faith, everywhere. Of all people, we Americans should be united in defending this human right -- on behalf of those who suffer grievously for its absence, and for the noble and essential cause of protecting our own beloved country."