Religious freedom a fundamental right for all

I believe religious freedom has to be one of the most important and fundamental rights a person should have. No one should be persecuted or discriminated against because of his or her faith. We are fortunate to live in a country that honors freedom of religion as a fundamental right. Sadly, this is not the case in many parts of the world. One of the primary reasons colonists first came to a then-unknown land was to flee religious persecution in Europe.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” There are many across the globe who are not as fortunate and every day face grave danger, persecution and even death for their beliefs.

As I write this, I am reminded of a young man in Iran who faces death by hanging only because he has chosen to be a follower of Jesus. He is just one of many who face death because of their faith.

Since I first was elected to Congress in 1996, I have supported countless initiatives promoting and protecting freedom of religion. Recently, I co-sponsored H.R. 2867, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Reform and Reauthorization Act that passed in the House of Representatives just last week.

Created in 1998 by Congress, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government commission that is charged with monitoring the status of freedom of religion or belief abroad and provides policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress.

Over the years, great strides have been made in protecting religious freedom, many as part of the efforts of the commission. This year, two stunning victories were achieved for the cause.

The first occurred in southern Sudan in January, when the Sudanese voted on a historic referendum regarding independence. The referendum resulted from a peace agreement reached in 2005 that ended the 20-year civil war triggered by a militant regime’s attempts to impose its radical version of Islam on southern Sudanese Christians.

The second triumph occurred when the United Nations Human Rights Council rejected a push to implement an international blasphemy law. Instead, the council adopted a resolution against religious intolerance.

Sadly, there still are too many great atrocities happening across the world in the name of religiously related violence and intolerance.

In Egypt, there continue to be a dramatic surge in attacks against the nation’s largest religious minority, the Coptic Christians. Over the years, these Christians have endured dozens of assaults and this year they began on New Year’s Day with the bombing of a church in Alexandria, Egypt. It was the worst attack against Egypt’s Christians in a decade, leaving 23 dead and countless wounded. Even with the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, government-tolerated, widespread discrimination continues against Egypt’s Copts and other religious minorities.

While we continue to see progress being made to promote religious freedom and tolerance across the world, and this year has brought great triumphs, it is abundantly clear there is much more work to be done. And that’s why legislation like H.R. 2867 is so vital.

The right to worship God and practice one’s faith, free from government persecution, is in my belief the most important human right of all. Here at home, it is easy to take for granted the notion of religious freedom, as it is one of the principles on which our country was founded. Abroad, however, religious freedom and tolerance is a fight many face every day. The continued efforts of USCIRF are a critical component of global efforts to end religious fueled violence intolerance. And I am proud to have supported this bill and to be part of the fight for religious freedom at home and abroad. For those who want to know more about this legislation and things we can do to protect freedom of worship around the world, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Christians across our great nation need to pray for all of those around the world, like the young man in Iran, who don’t enjoy the same freedom to worship God as we do here in the United States.

God Bless America.

Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, represents Alabama’s Fourth District in the U.S. House of

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