President Barack Obama signed a bill that would promote international religious freedom, and help stop the persecution of Christians and religious minorities around the world.
The House and Senate had passed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) without any opposition.
The new law is an improvement of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which intensifies advocacy of religious freedom in the US foreign policy. The legislation was endorsed from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle.
Former congressman Frank R. Wolf from Virginia, after whom the bill is named, is known to be a committed Presbyterian, who had spent years defending human rights and religious freedom in different parts of the world. He retired last year, and was the sponsor the original 1998 IRFA as well.
"Eighteen years ago, he [Wolf] had the foresight to make advancing the right to religious freedom a high U.S. foreign policy priority. It is largely because of his efforts that religious freedom is taken seriously as a foreign policy issue. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of working with him for over thirty years. This bill is a fitting tribute to his work and service to our great nation," said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
Smith, Chair of the Global Human Rights Subcommittee, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said that the legislation will give the State Department new resources to tackle extremism and global persecution of religious minorities.
"The freedom to practice a religion without persecution is a precious right for everyone, of whatever race, sex, or location on earth," said Smith. "This human right is enshrined in our own founding documents, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been a bedrock principle of open and democratic societies for centuries."
President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, said that the legislation would help protect freedom for people who are oppressed for their faith.
"Millions, including many of our Christian brothers and sisters, have experienced the most brutal forms of persecution, and entire cultures are now on the brink of extinction," Moore told the Baptist Press. "This is an urgent human rights crisis, and global religious liberty is too important to become a partisan wedge issue."