Magazine article The Christian Century

Bill on Persecution Contested in Congress

Magazine article The Christian Century

Bill on Persecution Contested in Congress

Article excerpt

The Clinton administration has signaled its opposition to proposed legislation that would trigger automatic sanctions against nations found to be persecuting Christians and others on the basis of religion. During the first of two days of hearing on the proposed bill, Assistant Secretary of State of Human Rights John Shattuck said the measure could "seriously harm the very people it seeks to help" by prompting reprisals.

Shattuck, speaking September 9 before the House International Relations Committee, said the proposed Freedom from Religious Persecution Act of 1997 could also hinder dialogue with nations deemed to be religious persecutors and harm relations with key allies who might also fail into that category.

The contested bill, which supporters reportedly are trying to rush through the House and Senate by the end of the current congressional session in November, would establish a White House office to monitor religious persecution abroad. Nations found engaging in religious persecution could be lose all U.S. economic aid and trade privileges. The measure, introduced in the House of Representative Frank Wolf (R., Va.) and the Senate by Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), would also ease the way for asylum seekers claiming religious persecution.

Prior to Shattuck's comments, Wolf told the hearing he hoped the proposed law would lead to a "fundamental departure from `business-as-usual' human rights policy." The bill has wide support within the religious community, particularly among conservative Christian groups claiming that Christians living as minorities abroad are the most persecuted religious believers in the world. …

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