Washington D.C., May 16, 2016 / 16:08 pm
A significant upgrade to a landmark religious freedom law passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday afternoon.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill's author, outlined what is at stake abroad for religious freedom in a statement: "The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the US interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere."
The 2015 Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed the House May 16 by unanimous voice vote. It had strong bipartisan support – 116 co-sponsors, including 20 Democrats. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) was the lead co-sponsor.
The bill makes the first big upgrades to the original International Religious Freedom Act passed in 1998, a landmark piece of religious freedom legislation. The 1998 act had created the International Religious Freedom office in the U.S. State Department and also the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan commission that advises the State Department.