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Engel Floor Remarks on International Religious Freedom

ENGEL FLOOR REMARKS ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today gave the following remarks on the House floor in support of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, as amended (H.R.1150):

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Let me again thank our Chairman, Ed Royce, for bringing this bill forward.  I also want to thank my friend, Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey, for his leadership in authoring this bill.

“Mr. Speaker, the freedom of religion has been a bedrock principle of open and democratic societies for centuries.  Some of the first immigrants to settle on American shores sailed here because they were fleeing religious persecution at home. 

“This liberty is enshrined in our own founding documents, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the charters of democracies all over the world.  The freedom to worship as a person chooses—or not to worship at all—should be settled business and nobody’s business but the person themselves.

“Yet around the world, religious communities endure discrimination, persecution, and violence.  It’s amazing to me, when we look at the history of strife and war that has swirled around religious persecution, that governments continue to deny this freedom to their own people.  This assault on religious liberty holds societies back and undercuts progress.  It obviously has no place in the 21st century.

“And so for the United States and other countries that cherish freedom, it’s not enough just to guarantee religious liberty to our own people.  We need to speak out and act when we see this right under attack around the world.   For that matter, we have a responsibility to speak out when we see any liberty under attack—whether freedom of the press, the right to organize, or the equality of LGBT persons.

“Mr. Smith’s legislation would help ensure that promoting and supporting religious liberty are an important component of American foreign policy.  It would help ensure that our diplomats around the world understand the importance of this issue, and are working to advance this freedom on the front lines.

“It’s worth noting that we should also continue to fully fund the State Department’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which helps address a range of human-rights abuses around the world, including threats to religious freedom. 

“Together with this legislation, it sends a clear message to the world that protecting human rights is a priority for the United States. 

“So, I support this measure.  I urge my colleagues to do the same. And I again want to congratulate my friend Mr. Smith, who is just so strong on issues like this.  So forceful.  And pushing forward all the way until we finally got this on the floor of the House.  So, I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.”