Last month, Sen. Thom Tillis and three other senators introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for the international right of religious freedom as a foundation of US foreign policy.

SR 569 recognizes “religious freedom as a fundamental right, expressing support for international religious freedom as a cornerstone of United States foreign policy, and expressing concern of increased threats to and attacks on religious freedom around the world.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Tillis and Sens. Chris Coons, D-DE, James Lankford, R-OK, Tim Kaine, D-VA.

“Around the world, thousands of people continue to have their religious freedom violated and the United States must maintain our steadfast commitment to standing up for religious liberty,” said Sen. Tillis in the original press release announcing the resolution. “This resolution expresses our unwavering support for victims of religious persecution and reaffirms our support for safeguarding religious freedom worldwide.”

On April 5, 113 religious organizations, including Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to adopt SR 569.

“S. Res. 569 paints an accurate and disturbing portrayal of the religious freedom situation in too many countries,” according to the letter. “Because of that situation, the resolution’s policy recommendations are vital: promoting religious freedom as an ‘utmost priority’ in U.S. foreign policy, holding violators accountable using all available diplomatic and sanctions tools, working with global partners, and expanding support for leaders and activists working to protect religious freedom worldwide.”

The resolution highlights how religious minorities and people of faith face religious persecution around the world. Specific examples cited in the revolution include violations in Nigeria, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and India, according to a report from ADF International. 

Despite what many might assume, this resolution is not strictly in support of evangelical Christianity or aimed at protecting only the Christian faith. Religious organizations that have signed the letter run the gauntlet from Buddhists to Muslims, to the Southern Baptist Convention, and more.

The Resolution calls out specific examples of religious discrimination and persecution, including “North Korea where any religion contrary to the ruling ideology known as Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism is deemed an existential threat to the state,” according to the Resolution.

Other examples specifically listed in the resolution include Pakistan where minorities are lynched, killed, forced to convert, or face mob or sexual violence. Russia, where laws on terrorism and extremism are weaponized to target Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. In Tajikistan, the government represses any public display of religion of all faiths but has instituted particularly strict restrictions against Muslims, banning beards and hijabs. These are just a few of the specific examples of religious persecution detailed in the resolution.

“International religious freedom remains one of the few areas of strong bipartisan agreement in Congress, and so it is important that Congress continues to make its voice heard strongly that religious freedom is both a fundamental right and should be a priority in U.S. foreign policy,” Sean Nelson, legal counsel for Global Religious Freedom for Alliance Defending Freedom International, told the Carolina Journal in an email. “The threats to religious freedom worldwide have been growing over the past few years, in places like China, Iran, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Pakistan, across all kinds of religious minority groups who simply wish to peacefully and publicly live out their faiths. That includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others, who face authoritarian and totalitarian governments, and violent threats from state and non-state actors. Certainly, we believe the current Biden administration could do much more to prioritize the protection of religious freedom worldwide, but in general, presidents have been hesitant to use the full range of tools that Congress has provided to protect this vital right. S. Res. 569, if passed, would serve as both a strong statement of Congress’s view of deteriorating religious freedom conditions globally, and an important policy position that far more should be done, regardless of who is president, to hold violating countries accountable.”