21Wilberforce ranks members of 116th Congress on support for international religious freedom
Washington, May 14, 2021
By: Mark Wingfield (Baptist News Global)
A nonpartisan group has released its annual rankings of Congressional action relating to international freedom of belief, conscience and religion during the 116th Congress, finding “strong bipartisan support” continues.
The IRF Congressional Scorecard, a project of 21Wilberforce, commends 63 members of Congress as “Notable Leaders” for advancing international religious freedom legislation during the 116th Congress. The commended group includes both Republicans and Democrats.
21Wilberforce is a Christian human rights organization dedicated to defending the universal rights of religion, belief and conscience for all people. Its name derives from the 19th century British parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who identified the slave trade as the single greatest violation of human rights. The group was founded by Randel Everett, a longtime Baptist pastor and denominational leader who also serves in leadership with the Baptist World Alliance.
The 116th Congress, which ended in January 2021, introduced 91 items (37 in the Senate and 54 in the House) relating to international freedom of belief, freedom of conscience or freedom of religion. That’s about one-fifth fewer pieces of legislation introduced in the previous Congress.
Out of the 91 items scored, only two were passed into law. Both those new laws were sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and passed with an overwhelming majority of bipartisan support. They are the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020.
On the Senate side, many of the other bills tracked died in the Foreign Relations Committee. On the House side, more bills were passed and sent to the Senate where most languished, and others died in various House committees.
Sen. Rubio and Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) emerged with top scores on the analysis.
Among the issues and bills tracked by 21Wilberforce, more than half related to Asia. The single issue with the most bills introduced was human rights for the Uyghurs, a severely persecuted people group in China. Another key issue for the session was human rights for residents of Hong Kong, also now subjects of China.
Other countries targeted by bills during the session included Iran, where the Baha’i minority is persecuted, and Burma, where genocide has been carried out against the Rohingya people.
“International religious freedom issues are growing worldwide in urgency and importance,” 21Wilberforce says on its website.
The “Notable Leaders” in the Senate cited by this year’s report are Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Christopher Coons, (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
House member similarly cited are Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.), David Trone (D-Md.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Ron Wright (R-Texas), and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.).