WASHINGTON (May 12, 1998) -- Foreign aid should be linked to a country's record on religious liberty, according to the chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee, who has again urged support for legislation scheduled for a vote this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The "Freedom from Religious Persecution Act," which earlier passed the House Foreign Relations Committee on a 35-1 vote, is expected to come before the full House on Thursday for a vote. In calling for its passage, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ) said the measure is a "modest but valuable step toward relieving the plight of those who suffer solely for their faith."
"This bill represents a modest step that reflects growing awareness that this vital human rights issue has too often been overlooked, and a growing conviction that core American values -- including respect for religious liberty -- must play proper roles in shaping the U.S. foreign policy agenda," Archbishop McCarrick said in a letter Monday to all members of the House.
He noted that the legislation is carefully crafted to respond to the most egregious forms of religious persecution against believers of all faiths. It ends military aid and most other forms of U.S. assistance, except for humanitarian and development aid which assist civilians.
"It does not impose embargoes, but rather imposes modest, highly targeted sanctions against specific governmental entities directly involved in egregious persecution," Archbishop McCarrick said.
It also provides the president with "ample" waivers for national security purposes, as well as improved training for asylum and foreign service officers.