GOP Lawmaker Introduces Resolution Urging Obama to Act on Religious Persecution

By Lauretta Brown | March 5, 2015 | 4:46pm EST

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. (AP Photo, File)

( – Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced a resolution in the House Wednesday calling “on the governments of the Middle East to uphold the internationally recognized human right to freedom from religious persecution.”

The resolution also urges the Obama administration to appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

“While President Obama quibbles about the most politically correct way to describe our enemies and uses the National Prayer Breakfast to criticize Christianity, religious minorities continue to face extreme persecution in the Middle East and far corners of the world,” Black said in a statement.

“From the kidnapping of Christian schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram, to the unjust imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran, to the savage beheading of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], there is an urgent need for both Congress and this administration to speak out and engage in this fight to protect religious freedom abroad.”

Black’s resolution would “condemn violence against religious minorities in the Middle East and any actions that limit the free expression and practice of faith by these minorities.”

It would also reaffirm “the commitment of the United States to promoting religious freedom and tolerance around the world.”

A key element of the measure is the call for Obama to appoint a special religious freedom envoy focusing on countries in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

Legislation providing for such an appointment, championed by veteran religious freedom advocate Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), now retired, and co-sponsor Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), was signed into law last August.

During its passage through Congress, the State Department voiced opposition to the bill, which it said would duplicate existing efforts by other officials and could even be “counterproductive.”

Proponents countered that the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in the region concerned was so urgent, it was essential to have an envoy dedicated to the problem.

Black’s resolution also cites a Pew Research Center analysis which found that as of 2012 nearly a quarter of the world’s nations and territories have anti-blasphemy laws. The study found that these laws were “most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 14 of the 20 countries (70%) criminalize blasphemy and 12 of the 20 countries (60%) criminalize apostasy.”

The resolution also mentions the targeting and slaughter of religious minorities by ISIS and a 2014 U.N. report which found that the Iranian government “continues to arrest and imprison Christians.”

“We must send a message to those who are attacked for their faith that we stand with them and that we will not remain idle in the face of this injustice,” Black said. “A House resolution alone doesn’t solve this crisis, but we need to start the conversation now and plant a stake in the ground declaring the will of Congress on this critical issue.”

“We need sanctions against nations like Iran that allow this persecution to continue. We need a robust plan to eradicate ISIS and, as Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s bold speech to Congress reminded us yesterday, we need continued support for our allies like Israel that face grave dangers as they seek to live in peace in this unstable part of the world.”

“I am hopeful that this resolution will spur us on towards taking these important next steps,” Black concluded.

The resolution is supported by Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and Coptic Solidarity.

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