Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Congress Passes State Department Authorization Act Including Various Religious Liberty Provisions

Yesterday evening the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1635, the Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 (full text). The bill, which had been passed by the Senate in April, now goes to the President for signature. The 160-page bill includes these provisions relating to religious liberty and religious discrimination:
  • Section 105 calling for a report assessing the U.S.-China Dialogue, including among many other items an assessment the treatment of political dissidents, media representatives, and ethnic and religious minorities;
  • Section 106 calling for a report which "(1) describes in detail all known widespread or systematic civil or political rights violations, including violations that may constitute crimes against humanity against ethnic, racial, or religious minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people; and (2) provides recommendations for holding perpetrators of the violations described in paragraph (1) accountable for their actions."
  • Section 107 appropriating $500,000 "to be used in support of efforts by American and European Jewish and other civil society organizations, focusing on youth, to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of religious, ethnic, or racial intolerance in Europe."
  • Section 122 which expresses the sense of Congress opposing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian Authority.
  • Section 131 authorizing an Interagency Atrocities Prevention Board.
  • Section 133 authorizing a bilateral joint action plan with the European Union to combat prejudice and discrimination.
  • Section 141 sense of Congress calling for additional sanctions against North Korea including "specific designations relating to human rights abuses."
  • Section 215 barring racial, ethnic or religious discrimination in assignments of foreign service personnel to work in particular geographic areas.
  • Section 223: requiring an international religious freedom training program for Foreign Service Officers be developed and implemented.