A divisive political climate has many Americans wondering if Republicans and Democrats can ever move past the current “us vs. them” attitude on Capitol Hill. Well, here is some good news: one issue is bringing legislators together in a meaningful way. That issue is international religious freedom (IRF). With the release of its 115th Congress Interim IRF Congressional Scorecard, 21Wilberforce provides a quantitative measure of the IRF issues that have captured the attention and action of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
We know that people are moved to action most often by personal stories — the tragic human face of religious persecution. At 21Wilberforce we are also compelled to tell the meaningful stories of what members of Congress are doing when it comes to international religious freedom, to share the evidence that some lawmakers are working diligently to advance international religious freedom.
The Scorecard recognizes and thanks members of Congress who have championed international religious freedom in tangible ways. For 2017, 28 Democrats and 20 Republications in the Senate and the House made the Notable Leaders list, with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) earning top scores.
This is an encouraging trend, particularly when viewed in context of the typical legislative load. Each year, about 5,000 pieces of legislation are introduced in Congress, with only a few hundred coming to a floor vote and only about half of those signed into law. According to Scorecard tracking, legislators introduced some 49 bills, resolutions, and amendments relating to international religious freedom in 2017.
Sen. Rubio and Rep. Eliot Engel earn top scores as champions of international religious freedom
Contained in the current Scorecard measurement are a wide range of human rights/IRF issues including cyber security; global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws; combating anti-Semitism; accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq and Syria; and various human rights acts with Egypt, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Burma, Iran, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, China, and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
“The IRF Congressional Scorecard has an incredibly important story to tell. As religious freedom abuses have proliferated around the world, America’s efforts to advocate for this bedrock human right have not kept pace,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice. “This vital tool tells us who in our Congress is leaning forward in defense of the First Freedom and who is leaning back. This is information we need to know so that all of us can better protect the conscience rights of people across the globe.”
In addition to recognizing Notable Leaders, it is equally important to note that the Scorecard encourages legislators to take even bolder actions to further advance U.S. advocacy on behalf of individuals persecuted in foreign countries for their religious beliefs.
“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, it is fitting that this year’s Scorecard demonstrates a renewed commitment among many congressional leaders to place religious freedom at the center of U.S. foreign policy,” said 21Wilberforce President Randel Everett. “We are thankful for the promise of these efforts yet mindful of the work that remains.”
Each bill, resolution, and amendment tracked represents countless stories of religious discrimination and persecution around the world. These efforts also point to the power and possibilities of a U.S. Congress that works together.
- Access the Interim IRF Congressional Scorecard here.
- Pray for your Senators and Representatives to engage on IRF issues.
- Equip yourself to join the IRF conversation at the Freedom of Religion or Belief Learning Platform.