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Frank Wolf: Legislation named for Wolf, holder of Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor, amends the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998

Dec. 15, 2016

Legislation named for Wolf, holder of Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor, amends the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998Frank Wolf photo red

WACO, Texas (Dec. 15, 2016) – With people of all faiths currently living through a crisis of religious freedom unparalleled in world history, the United States Congress has taken action and passed H.R.1150-Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.

According to the text, the act “will improve the ability of the United States to advance religious freedom globally through enhanced diplomacy, training, counterterrorism, and foreign assistance efforts, and through stronger and more flexible political responses to religious freedom violations and violent extremism worldwide.”

Leaders, such as the act’s namesake, former Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf, holder of The Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University, have played a key role for many years in championing international religious freedom. More recently, Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-New Jersey, has helped to spearhead the new legislation, which passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 13.

According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of the world’s population lives in nations where religion is severely restricted. The worst restrictions occur in regions outside the West, particularly in the Middle East, Africa, Russia, and South and East Asia.

“The crisis affects members of virtually every faith. In fact, more people are persecuted for their faith now than at any other time in history,” said Byron R. Johnson, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. “Currently, numerous individuals and organizations have acknowledged the need to create a movement in the United States for the protection of international and domestic religious freedom. These groups support achieving broad acceptance of religious liberty as a fundamental human right.”

The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act amends the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). Among other things, the bill requires an annual report on international religious freedom which will include information about: 1) severe violations of religious freedom; 2) identification of prisoners in a country; 3) action taken by a government to censor religious content, communications, or worship activities online; 4) persecution of human rights advocates seeking to defend the rights of members of religious groups or highlight religious freedom violations; and 5) country-specific analysis of the impact of U.S. actions on religious freedom.

According to Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project, a joint effort of Georgetown University and Baylor University, “This legislation will be instrumental in ensuring religious freedom becomes a priority for governments, civil society organizations, religious communities, businesses and the general public in the United States and around the world.”