From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious persecution bill awaits president's signature

From John Rollins <>
Date 26 Oct 1998 20:27:18

Religious persecution bill awaits president's signature

  (ENS) By unanimous votes, Congress has approved a bill that
would allow the United States to respond when persons in other countries

are persecuted for their religious beliefs. To become law, the
document now needs only the signature of President Bill Clinton,
who has declared he would sign it.

  The legislation 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), have praised the church for its work in winning

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

  Representatives and 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

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.

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