WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and several Congressional colleagues, introduced legislation to reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). USCIRF was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and is a bipartisan commission that monitors and reports on international religious freedom. The commission’s authorization is currently set to expire September 30, 2024.
“Since its establishment 25 years ago, the Commission on International Religious Freedom has championed the ability to exercise the right to religious freedom and belief,” said Chair Cardin. “I was proud to vote for the legislation which created the Commission, and I will continue to support its efforts to draw attention to the worst violators of this fundamental human right. I urge the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom to strengthen its efforts in protecting that right by objectively monitoring the exercise of freedom of religion or belief globally with respect to all faiths, and with respect to LGBTQIA+ persons, and other members of vulnerable communities. This includes analyzing all instances in which a religion or belief is used to justify anti-LGBTQIA+ bigotry and human rights abuses. Ensuring that the religion-based beliefs of some are not used to rationalize or justify discrimination, or to violate the freedom of religion or belief by others, including LGBTQIA+ individuals, must be a critical part of USCIRF’s mission. This reauthorization will provide USCIRF the resources needed to protect a critical human right that is essential to democratic and free societies.”
In addition to Cardin, the legislation was introduced in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and is cosponsored by Chris Coons (D-Conn.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Companion legislation was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).