Monday, December 21, 2015

2016 Appropriations Act Includes Focus On International Religious Liberty

The massive Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 signed into law by President Obama last week includes a number of provisions specifically relating to international religious freedom.  These provision in Section 7033 (at pg. 519 of the bill) are of particular interest:
(c) INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING.—Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘‘Broadcasting Board of Governors, International Broadcasting Operations’’ shall be made available for programs related to international religious freedom, including reporting on the condition of vulnerable and persecuted religious groups.
(d) ATROCITIES PREVENTION.—Not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, after consultation with the heads of other United States Government agencies represented on the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) and representatives of human rights organizations, as appropriate, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees an evaluation of the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists and the Muslim Rohingya people in Burma by violent Buddhist extremists, including whether either situation constitutes mass atrocities or genocide (as defined in section 1091 of title 18, United States Code), and a detailed description of any proposed atrocities prevention response recommended by the APB: Provided, That such evaluation and response may include a classified annex, if necessary.
(e) DESIGNATION OF NON-STATE ACTORS.—The President shall, concurrent with the annual foreign country review required by section 402(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)(1)), review and identify any non-state actors in such countries that have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom, and designate, in a manner consistent with such Act, each such group as a non-state actor of particular concern for religious freedom operating in such reviewed country or surrounding region: Provided, That whenever the President designates such a non-state actor under this subsection, the President shall, as soon as practicable after the designation is made, submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees detailing the reasons for such designation.