Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday in calling on Democrat President Biden to take a more active role in protecting religious freedom around the world. It also called on him to fill the post of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, something the president has yet to do after more than 100 days in office.
On his Twitter account, Rubio wrote Wednesday:
“Sen.Rubio joined @SenatorLankford & @RepFrenchHill, as well as a bicameral & bipartisan group of legislators, in sending a letter to @POTUS on the pressing need for a nominee to the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.” Rubio tweeted.
Sen.Rubio joined @SenatorLankford & @RepFrenchHill, as well as a bicameral & bipartisan group of legislators, in sending a letter to @POTUS on the pressing need for a nominee to the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. https://t.co/T1Ow8bvh8G
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) May 5, 2021
Since January 20, when President Joe Biden was inaugurated as President, the vital post demanded by conservative congressmen has been vacant. It was previously held by former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican former President Donald Trump appointed.
With more than 100 days in office, the Biden administration seems not to give importance to these issues, and the position remains vacant. The letter signed by the congressmen urges Biden to fill the vacant post as a matter of urgency.
“Religious freedom, one of the most basic human rights for all people, has historically been an area of sincere bipartisan support and agreement in American foreign policy,” the lawmakers wrote.
They added: “The current state of international religious freedom is one of deepening crisis with government restrictions on religion rising to a record high.”
The lawmakers cited the Pew Research Center’s 11th annual study on restrictions on religion, released in November 2020, which shows that government restrictions on religion have reached the highest level globally in more than a decade.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) being one of the most controversial. The highest score on the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) of the 198 countries and territories in the study. China has been near the top of the list of most restrictive governments every year since the study’s inception, and in 2018 reached a new peak in its score (9.3 out of 10).
The CCP restricts religion in various ways, including banning entire religious groups, such as the brutal persecution of the Falun Gong movement, different Christian groups, and the genocide on the Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region. The prohibition of certain religious practices includes the constant raiding of places of worship, the detention and torture of people who often end up for years working in clandestine production centers, or killed and disappeared.
In parallel, a report from the Trump-era State Department’s 2020 State Department report on human rights practices in China found that using a “broad definition of extremism,” Chinese authorities have, since 2017, detained “more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims through education or detention centers designed to instill patriotism and erase their religious and ethnic identities.”
“In 2020, religious freedom conditions in China deteriorated,” the commission wrote in the report, adding that the regime “intensified its ‘sinicization of religion’ policy,” which is a push to aggressively consolidate CCP dominance over faith groups and meld them into the CCP.
The Biden administration has come under heavy criticism, particularly from conservative quarters, for failing to promote religious freedom abroad, following significant gains made during the Trump presidency.
In March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded an executive order signed under the Trump administration that required federal agencies to “prioritize international religious freedom in the planning and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.”