As expected, a bill authorizing funding for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) overwhelmingly passed the House on Monday but it was the four GOP lawmakers including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who voted against it that are getting the most attention.
The Georgia Republican along with her fellow representatives Thomas Massie of Kentucky as well as Chip Roy and Louie Gohmert of Texas declined to support the appropriations for the bill which is titled the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act and which passed by a vote of 402-4.
In July, the legislation which was introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida passed the Senate by unanimous consent and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature to fund the commission through the 2024 fiscal year. Funding was set to expire at the end of September for the body which monitors threats to religion on an international level and makes policy recommendations to the president, Congress, and the secretary of state.
402-4: House voted tonight to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom through 2024. Four Republicans voted No: Gohmert, Greene (GA), Massie and Roy. Senate passed the bill in July by voice vote and now heads to President Biden. https://t.co/ntMSUXi3MI pic.twitter.com/Kb3JrGRhMo
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) September 20, 2022
It is unclear what the rationale was behind the quartet of conservative lawmakers’ opposition to the USCIRF funding but a spokesperson for Massie told The Hill that he voted no “because he doesn’t want the government involved in religion; he would prefer the government leave religion alone.”
“In addition, the Commission frequently recommends the imposition of sanctions on foreign countries, and sanctions generally do not hurt the repressive governments they target. Instead, the burdens of sanctions disproportionately fall on innocent people already suffering under those regimes,” Massie’s spokesperson added.
Greene, Roy and Gohmert have yet to provide details on why they voted no. There were 26 House members who did not vote, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) who co-sponsored the bill hailed its passage.
“@USCIRF does important work to help us protect and promote the human right of religious freedom for all people of every faith around the world. The House is finally passing my bill to reauthorize this commission,” he wrote on Twitter.
.@USCIRF does important work to help us protect and promote the human right of religious freedom for all people of every faith around the world. The House is finally passing my bill to reauthorize this commission.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) September 20, 2022
The bipartisan commission was created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, its members are chosen by the president and the leadership of both houses of Congress who are appointed for two-year terms and are eligible for reappointment. Commissioners are “selected among distinguished individuals noted for their knowledge and experience in fields relevant to the issue of international religious freedom, including foreign affairs, direct experience abroad, human rights, and international law,” according to the commission’s website.
“Inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear. Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. While religious freedom is America’s first freedom, it also is a core human right international law and treaty recognize; a necessary component of U.S. foreign policy and America’s commitment to defending democracy and freedom globally; and a vital element of national security, critical to ensuring a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world,” the USCIRF website states.
Twitter trolls and leftist media outlets are working to depict the four GOP lawmakers who voted no in a negative light but they have previously gone against the majority with their non-support of a number of other controversial bills, including opposition to the continued shoveling of taxpayer money into Ukraine.
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