Additionally, the very fact that the Islamic State is forcing Christians to leave, convert to their Islamist beliefs or pay a jizya tax is proof "that they're focusing on religion," part of the definition of genocide, Destro added.
For the U.S. State Department not to issue a genocide designation for Christians simply because they have an option to pay the jizya tax could give such a practice "legitimacy," warned Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation's DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, at a Dec. 4 panel on ISIS' persecution of religious minorities.
He added that "the point" of the tax "is to force you to convert, one way or another."
"They [ISIS] will just keep taking it [the tax] until you have no money left, and then they'll take your land and they'll take your women," Nadine Maenza, chair of the global freedom advocacy group Hardwired, said at the Heritage panel. "So eventually you will be forced to leave."
There is enough evidence of genocide that the State Department would have access to, Destro added, that they need not rely on such a limited report on the genocide against Yazidis.
The Dec. 4 letter claims evidence of mass murder, torture, sexual slavery, kidnapping, forced conversions, desecration and destruction of churches, monasteries, and sacred sites and artifacts. ISIS has publicly taken credit for mass murder and has stated "its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its 'Islamic State,'" the letter added.
The signers asked Secretary Kerry to meet with a delegation that could provide him ample evidence of genocide against Christians.
Additionally, ISIS is reportedly targeting Christians in refugee camps in the region, which advocates say is a further signal of genocide.
"We have evidence that Christians in the camps are being targeted, that ISIS and other militias are sending assassins into the camps, that there is sex slavery and kidnapping happening within the camps," said Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus, which has given aid to the Middle Eastern Christian communities, at the Heritage panel.
Signatories on the Dec. 4 letter include Thomas Farr, director of Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project; former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, who teaches at Harvard Law School; and former U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf, who is now Distinguished Senior Fellow of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., was among the religious signatories of the letter, along with Chaldean Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo of the Western U.S.A., Archbishop Oshagan of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, and representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical and Greek Orthodox communities.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus also signed the letter, as did Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation.