Obama Approves Expansion of Frank R. Wolf Religious Freedom Act
President Obama has approved legislation presented and advocated for by religious freedom supporters that should fortify the United State's effort to fight against the global persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
The Frank R. Wolf Religious Freedom Act was introduced in February of 2015 by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, a Republican out of New Jersey, passed the House in May of 2016 and just this month in December, received the President's signature.
The passing of this bill and the signature of President Obama means the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom: (1) shall coordinate international religious freedom policies across all U.S. programs and activities, and (2) is urged to participate in any interagency processes in which the promotion of international religious freedom policy can advance U.S. national security interests.
In summary the bill does a number of important things:
1) "Expresses the sense of Congress that the Department of State should consider elevating the office of International Religious Freedom and the position of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom to the Office of the Secretary."
2) Gives the approval and support of Congress that their should be a special adviser to the President concerning religious freedom issues around the world.
3) Establishes the opportunity to report on and bring to the attention of Congress.
4) Outlines Presidential actions to be taken in the case of religious persecution including the appointment of positions to work toward the goal of religious freedom and safety around the world.
5) (Sec. 401) of the bill says the bill, "Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) the State Department should make specified assistance available to promote international religious freedom, and (2) preference for such assistance should be given to projects targeting religious freedom violations in countries designated as countries of particular concern for religious freedom and in countries on the special watch list."
6) The bill establishes a Designated Persons List where extreme offenders are tracked and sanctioned by the United States government including the denial of visas and financial sanctions on extreme offenders of religious freedom rights.
7) "The bill expresses the sense of Congress that the President's annual national security strategy report should (1) promote international religious freedom as a foreign policy and national security priority; and (2) be a guide for the strategies and activities of relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Defense quadrennial defense review."
Frank Rudolph Wolf the bill's namesake is an American Republican and former legislator who represented Virginia's 10th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1981 until he retired in 2015. Wolf became known as Congress's top religious freedom advocate. His work includes the introduction in 2014 of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4653; 113th Congress), to amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as an independent federal government advisory body.