Rep. Frank Wolf to GOP: Reagan Championed Religious Freedom, Human Rights

By Christopher Goins | January 16, 2012 | 6:03 PM EST

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) (AP photo)

( – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a long-time advocate of international religious freedom, says no one -- not the news media, not the GOP candidates -- is paying heed to religious freedom and human rights as issues in the GOP presidential debates.

“(I’ve) watched all the Republican debates,” Wolf said. “Nobody in the media ever asked about the persecution of the church in China. Nobody in the media ever – they’re not going there either – has ever asked about the genocide in Darfur and the Nuba mountains (of Sudan). Nobody is asking about the eradication of the Assyrian Chaldean Catholic Community in Baghdad and the Nineveh plains. Nobody has raised any of these issues.”

But Wolf especially chastised GOP candidates seeking to wear the current-day mantle of Ronald Reagan -- "Reaganauts," he called them -- for ignoring human rights and religious freedom as topics.

Reagan was very vocal when it came to human rights, Wolf said.

“But I think that if all these candidates who are running as Republicans really want to, as they all seem to, embrace and want to be Reaganauts; want to be like President Reagan; Reagan was the one who articulated it, made our economy improve and also from human rights and religious freedom around the world, made all the difference.”

The Virginia congressman made his remarks at the Heritage Foundation last Thursday.

Key political leaders, members of Congress, religious leaders and business leaders who led the struggle for religious freedom in the past are all gone now, Wolf lamented.

“I think the giants have left the field. I think the giants in Congress have left the field. I think the giants in government have left the field. I think the giants in business have left the field. And I think the giants, and I hate to say it, in the religious community have left the field.”

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Besides Reagan, Wolf named the Rev. Billy Graham, the late Cardinal O’Connor, the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the late Rep. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.), and the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) as being some of those giants who left the field.

“Henry Hyde -- God bless Henry Hyde -- he was a giant,” Wolf said. “Unfortunately, there is less interest in this issue today in the Congress than there’s ever been.”

The absence of a Reagan-like figure who articulated religious freedom, Wolf said, is part of the reason why there has been a waning interest in religious freedom in Congress.

Wolf said that he believes that the eventual GOP nominee will advocate for and talk about international religious freedom -- but added that they have to believe in it, first.

“This is not something you fake,” Wolf said. “But if they really believe it -- I would hope that whoever gets the Republican nomination, to put a little controversy, will take a trip, will go to Sudan, will go to Egypt, will meet with the Coptic Christian leadership so they will come back and understand.”

Wolf was at The Heritage Foundation to discuss his new book, “Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights.”