November 21, 2011
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 70-30 Thursday night to keep the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) alive until Dec. 16, the Christian Post reports. Since its inception in 1998, USCIRF has become the American government's most prominent agency concerning religious freedom around the world, advising the president, Congress and the State Department on how they should stop religious persecution. Thursday's vote is the third time this fall Congress has approved a measure to keep USCIRF operating temporarily. The organization's governing mandate originally expired in September but was renewed as part of an omnibus Senate bill on 2012 budget appropriations. One senator stalled a vote on the bill for unrelated reasons, and USCIRF would have expired Friday if not for the Thursday vote. "At a time when reports of violent attacks against religious minorities occur almost daily, the United States can ill afford to silence one of the greatest voices speaking against such intolerance," said Isaac Six of International Christian Concern. Religious leaders urge Congress to reauthorize USCIRF for good: "Barely keeping an agency running is no way to demonstrate that religious freedom is an important national priority," said Lindsay Vessey of Open Doors USA.