From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Senate passes religious persecution bill

From John Rollins <>
Date 09 Oct 1998 19:12:19

October 9, 1998

Senate passes religious persecution bill

     (ENS) By a 98-0 vote, the U.S. Senate today approved
a bill that would allow the United States to respond when
persons in other countries are persecuted for their
religious beliefs.  The legislation, which now must be
approved by the House, is the product of a bipartisan
effort spurred by the Episcopal Church. Both sponsors of
the bill, Sen. Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) and Sen. Joseph
Lieberman (D-Connecticut), praised the church for its
work in winning support.

     "The Episcopal Church brings tremendous credibility
and commitment to the issue of religious persecution
abroad," Nickles said in a statement. "I am grateful for
the Episcopal Church's key leadership, building the
bipartisan momentum needed to pass this bill."

     The senators heard extensive testimony on and about
the victims of religious persecution. In recent months
bishops from Pakistan and Sudan have described how
Anglicans in those countries have been tortured and
beaten. The bill requires the president to take one of a
broad range of options currently available under U.S.
law--from private diplomatic protest to certain economic
sanction--to respond to countries engaging in religious
persecution. It requires consultation with religious
communities, here and abroad, prior to undertaking action
to ensure that any U.S. response will help, not harm, the
religious minority on the ground.

     It also calls for training U.S. Foreign Service
officers and immigration officials to increase awareness
of religious persecution. Conservative Christian groups
pushed for a more stringent bill in the House, but their
efforts met tough resistance in the Senate.

     The Episcopal Church built a broad coalition of
support that included not only Episcopalians and the
Christian Coalition, but also Catholics, Southern
Baptists, Reform and Orthodox Jewish groups, Lutherans
and many others for the more moderate bill crafted by
Nickles and Lieberman.

     The bill now goes to the House for a final vote,
then to President Clinton, who is expected to sign it.

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