From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this week U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., praised the U.S. State Department’s latest efforts on advancing religious freedom across the globe.
The State Department released its latest International Religious Freedom Report which it has been producing for almost two decades.
Rubio weighed in on the report on Wednesday, giving State Department high marks.
“I commend Secretary of State Tillerson for personally releasing the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report and helping to underscore how seriously the United States takes this fundamental human right,” Rubio said. “I welcome the secretary’s unequivocal characterization of the Islamic State’s atrocities against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities as genocide, and his recognition that the promotion of religious freedom globally is both a strategic and moral imperative.
“The report powerfully documents the assaults on religious freedom that occur around the world every day,” Rubio continued. “Government authorities arrest and unjustly imprison religious leaders and people of faith, bulldoze worship buildings and deny building permits, institute blasphemy and apostasy laws that silence dissent and carry the death penalty, and tacitly support others’ attacks on religious minorities. These violations are a clear threat to the ability of people to peacefully live out their faith according to their conscience, and the need for principled and steadfast American leadership in this area has never been greater. Robust implementation of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act must be a priority in the days ahead.”
Rubio was instrumental in the law that Tillerson mentioned.
Back in April 2016, Rubio teamed up with fellow Senate Republicans Roy Blount of Missouri and John Cornyn of Texas to introduce the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act which altered the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 by giving the International Religious Freedom Office in the State Department more authority and the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom more power, including reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
The bill from Rubio, Blount and Cornyn also created a watch list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) while labeling non-state bodies “Entities of Particular Concern” when it comes to actions against religious freedom.
The proposal also gave the White House the ability to sanction “individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions” and increases reporting on genocides directed at particular religions. Back in December, Congress sent the bill to then President Barack Obama.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump nominating then Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Rubio is a strong supporter of the nomination.