Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC Note:

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent and bi-partisan panel of religious freedom experts that reports on systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom and makes policy recommendations to the Department of State is under fire. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has proposed legislation that could significantly change how Congress reauthorizes the commission, how the  commission operates, and how the commission interacts with and engages the Department of State.

08/15/2014 United States (Deseret News) – Competing versions of legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom threaten the independent panel’s autonomy and mission, some commission supporters say.

But the lawmaker who advocates change at USCIRF cites duplication of efforts and a lack of cooperation with the State Department as reasons for introducing a Senate bill that would make significant changes to how the commission is authorized and operates.

“I am concerned that the lack of coordination between the State Department and USCIRF may undermine our government’s efforts to promote international religious freedom by sending mixed messages to foreign governments and human-rights activists who are fighting to defend religious freedom in their countries,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who introduced a Senate measure, S2711, on July 30.

However, if legislation is not agreed upon by Sept. 30, the 15-year-old panel could shut down, at least until an authorization is enacted and signed by President Obama.

“Congress needs to act to extend the life of the commission,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, commission chairwoman. She applauded support in the House, where a reauthorization bill preserves the status quo, and added “I look forward to similarly strong and bipartisan support when the Senate addresses reauthorization.”

The commission was established under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, along with the parallel role of a U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in the State Department.

[Full Story]