CFI Urges Senators to Ensure Secularists Protected by International Religious Freedom Envoy Bill

December 18, 2013

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) on Wednesday, December 17, 2013 urged leaders of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to ensure an international religious freedom bill before the Committee protects secularists and dissidents, including the non-religious. 

This afternoon the Committee is expected to consider Senate Bill 653, otherwise known as the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013. This bill would create a special envoy within the State Department to promote the religious freedom of minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, including countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The House of Representatives approved the measure in September.  

While CFI takes no official position on this bill, and we applaud Congress for taking seriously the issue of international religious freedom, we do have concerns over the narrow scope of the envoy’s proposed work.

Our letter, submitted to chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and ranking member Bob Corker (R-TN), states in part: 

“We urge you to reiterate to your colleagues on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that any and all international religious freedom work performed by the United States government should include protecting the rights of all persons – religious and non-religious alike. As understood in both American and international law, the term “religious minorities” is not limited to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, but persons of all faith traditions, as well as persons of no faith. Creating a governmental position that monitors only certain religious groups not only violates the spirit, if not the letter of the Establishment Clause, but unfairly leaves out other persecuted groups that equally deserve our help.”

You can read the full letter here.