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Good News: U.S. Senate Action Averts Shutdown of U.S. Religious Freedom Commission

"With this bipartisan reauthorization, the commission can continue to press for religious freedom around the world." -- Faith J.H. McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Program Director

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Religious liberty advocates are expressing relief following U.S. Senate approval of legislation reauthorizing a key watchdog body.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, threatened with shuttering, will continue functioning pending expected approval of the Senate-modified bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. House passed its own reauthorization in September.

The independent U.S. government commission was created by the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. Threatened when a U.S. senator placed an anonymous hold on legislation reauthorizing the USCIRF, it was set to expire this week.

USCIRF provides a counterpoint to the Religious Freedom Office at the U.S. Department of State. As an independent commission, USCIRF often makes stronger statements to violators of religious persecution around the world.

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:

    "With this bipartisan reauthorization, the commission can continue to press for religious freedom around the world.

    "We urge Americans who care about the persecuted church and other religious believers around the world to never take for granted this important commission.

    "All members of Congress must be told how important this commission and the issue of religious freedom are to Americans so we never again face the threat of seeing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 'sunset' due to lack of interest or to competing interests.

    "Once again, the voice of people who care about religious freedom has resulted in a good outcome. Pressure from concerned citizens stopped the anonymous hold and produced cooperation in acknowledging the importance of the greater good of millions of vulnerable believers around the world."