Is Religious Freedom the First Freedom?


by Lydia Goodman

“Religious freedom is right. Religious freedom works. But promoting it remains marginal to U.S. foreign policy. Not good; not smart, either.”-Thomas Farr

H.R. 301, introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf,( R-VA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo, (D-CA), is a bill that would create a special envoy via the State Department focusing exclusively on the plight of religious minorities in South Central Asia and the Middle East. It was overwhelmingly passed in a show of bi-partisan support on Wednesday, September 18th. At the end of the day, the vote count was 402-22. The same bill had been brought to the floor before, and again, received almost unanimous support. Voting against it were 21 Republicans and one lone Democrat. In a press release dated September 18, Rep. Wolf applauded the passage of the bill: “…I was convinced then and remain convinced today that religious minorities in the Middle East and in key countries in South Central Asia, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, need someone who can be their voice both within the halls of Foggy Bottom and abroad with foreign governments…”

Rep. Wolf’s office issued a statement exclusively for “This is an issue Mr. Wolf has been passionate about for years, and he was very pleased to see it pass so strongly in the House this week. He urges the Senate to act on it, as well.”

What would propel Rep. Wolf and Rep. Ashoo to re-introduce a bill that never made it to the Senate floor the first time and is vehemently opposed by the State Department?

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