US Senate Backs Down, Religious Freedom Watchdog To Stay


The President of the International Committee on Human Dignity, Nirj Deva MEP, has congratulated the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom after the U.S. Senate voted to continue funding the Commission at least until 2018.

“I am delighted with the news that the Commission can carry on its crucial work in advancing religious liberty, and I convey my warmest congratulations to the Commission Chair, Leonard Leo,” said Deva.

“When Leonard came to see us at the European Parliament last month, it quickly became obvious that the Commission’s role in upholding this fundamental aspect of human dignity and being a voice for the voiceless was indisputable. Its closure would have therefore been unthinkable and absurd at a time when persecution of people of faith is on the rise worldwide.”

The U.S. Senate approved reauthorization of the Commission on Dec. 16, just hours before it was scheduled to be shut down. The 13-year-old commission, which monitors abuses of religious freedom across the world, seemed destined for closure after Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., placed a secret hold on a bill that would have reauthorized the organization. But pressure from concerned citizens and U.S. politicians led to a bipartisan agreement, allowing the Commission to continue operating.

However, the bill limits Commissioners to two, each with two-year terms, meaning that seven of the nine current Commissioners must leave the panel in 90 days. In addition, USCIRF’s yearly budget will drop from more than $4 million to $3 million.

Deva acknowledged this was “disappointing”, but he added that the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and its parliamentary working groups would “do all they could to support the Commission in the years ahead.”

Leonard Leo said: “I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Nirj Deva, Lord Alton and everyone at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute for their generous and valuable support toward the Commission during this difficult time.

“Indeed the help we have received has been overwhelming and very much appreciated. We are especially grateful to Senators Mike Lee, Carl Levin and Marco Rubio, and Congressmen Frank Wolf, Howard Berman and Chris Smith for all their efforts to ensure we can continue defending and promoting this fundamental human right around the world.”

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