ICC has recently learned that Congress is planning to end a 20 year humanitarian program that has allowed persecuted Christians and other access to an American Embassy so that they can apply for refugee status and protection.
Without the program, persecuted Iranian Christians who are unable to flee the country will likely face imprisonment or execution. If the program is not renewed, 688 persecuted Iranian minorities who have already begun the refugee application process will be trapped in and may be arrested along with the 254 Christians who have been arrested since June 2010. One of the imprisoned, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, was issued the death sentence for apostasy in September.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the , is calling for oversight of this amendment and all immigration policy, which could lead to the end of the program in Iran.
You can make a difference.
Call Congressman Smith and the other members of the House Judiciary Committee (find their numbers at right) and ask them to permanently instate the Lautenberg Amendment.
Not sure what to say? Try these talking points:
- I understand that Chairman Smith and the judiciary committee is withholding the Lautenberg Amendment from the budget until it can be further investigated.
- I am calling to voice my concern over this move and ask that the committee support this important program in the budget as soon as possible to ensure that it is not ended, and that if it is stopped during the investigation, the committee will instate provisions for the immediate safety of Iranian religious minorities.
- I am concerned over the severe persecution that Baha'i, Christians and Jews face in Iran, and believe that if we cut this program it will send the wrong message to Iran about our support for the religious communities increasingly being targeted by the government.
- I hope you will allow this program to go forward on the budget so that it does not have to be moved in a stand-alone bill which would draw more dangerous attention to the religious communities already suffering in Iran.
"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9
June 16th, 2011
"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" Psalm 56:4
One of the most important initiatives to promote worldwide religious freedom that we have seen was recently introduced in Congress and we need your help to get it passed! HR 1856 does two main things:
Firstly, this bill reauthorizes the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for seven more years. Why is the USCIRF important? The USCIRF monitors the state of religious freedom worldwide and makes independent policy recommendations about the worst violators to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress. The only such government commission of its kind in the world, it publishes valuable annual reports and provides accountability to the State Department to ensure it is accurately reporting on religious freedom violations and using all the tools at the disposal of the United States government to promote religious freedom.
Secondly, HR 1856 amends the 1998 Intl. Religious Freedom Act which made IRF an official part of US foreign policy. There are a number of problems with the way the original 1998 IRFA was implemented, and this new bill addresses some of those key weaknesses. For example, IRF Ambassador Dr. Johnson Cook currently works under the Assistant Secretary for Democracy Human Rights and Labor in the State Department, and HR 1856 would change that so that the IRF Ambassador would report directly to the Secretary of State like other Ambassadors do. This is just one example of how HR 1856 would help to make religious freedom a priority within the State Department. View summary description of all these key changes>>
of these changes are critical to improving the way the US government
promotes international religious freedom and helps us achieve our goal
of serving persecuted Christians. Please take a moment to
send a message to your U.S. Representative asking him/her to co-sponsor HR 1856 and to vote for its passage when the time comes.
Advocating with you,
The HR440 bill requested the creation of a Special Envoy to promote religious freedom in the Near East and in South . Many of the countries in these regions are on the World Watch List. Because of the combined efforts by individuals and groups who lobbied offices on , and over 2,000 Open Doors supporters who emailed their U.S. Rep's asking them to support the bill, HR440 passed last week with 402 "yes" votes! As we celebrate this success in the House, we ask that you continue to pray for this bill. Recently a companion bill was introduced in the Senate which still has to be voted on, and pass, before President Obama can sign it into law.
The upcoming Primaries for the Presidential election provide us with an incredible opportunity to advocate for persecuted Christians worldwide. Open Doorshas partnered with Professor Tom Farr of , an esteemed International Religious Freedom expert, to produce and promote the Presidential Pledge for Religious Freedom.
We will present this pledge to all of the primary presidential candidates and ask each of them to sign it. A candidate's signature indicates that he or she commits to upholding religious freedom for people of all faiths in America, nominating U.S. federal judges who are committed to upholding religious freedom as defined in the pledge, and prioritizing religious freedom concerns in U.S. foreign policy. Read pledge here>>
You can help us by signing a petition that urges presidential candidates to sign our pledge. Please take a moment to sign this important petition now! We will inform candidates of the number of American signatures on this petition to help them understand that we all care about religious freedom and want our President to protect and promote it.
It will also help you, American voters, to know which candidates truly care about religious freedom. It is easy for them to say they care about an issue, but words mean little without action. We hope that this pledge will demonstrate which candidates are serious about protecting religious freedom at home and abroad.
Lastly, it will help provide accountability for signers of the pledge. If one of the signers wins the presidential election, we will have a public agreement from the President of the United States to protect and promote religious freedom. This is incredibly important as politicians often make promises that they fail to keep.
Please sign our petition today, and be sure to forward this campaign to as many of your friends and family members as possible. Together, we can bring religious freedom into the national spotlight!
Open Doors USA
Congressman Frank Wolf Adds Voice of Urgency to Senate Special Envoy Bill: In a series of recent press releases and letters, Congressman Frank Wolf (VA) urges Senator Jim Webb (VA) to lift his hold on an important religious freedom bill, S.1245. To learn more about Rep. Wolfs efforts go to: Special Envoy Bill. Open Doors current advocacy campaign asks supporters to contact their Senators and request that they cosponsor S. 1245 in order to help move it to a vote. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (MO), asks the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Religious Freedom in South Central Asia. Countries covered in this bill include some of the most oppressive places for Christians and other religious minorities. Over 2,300 Open Doors supporters have already contacted their senators about this bill. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to Contact Your Senators Today