- (Photo: REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque)
Americans should know how elected officials rank when it comes to their votes on religious freedom issues, said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).
Wolf's statement comes as the Christian and faith persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA released on Monday its midterm Congressional Scorecard for International Religious Freedom of the 112th session of Congress to evaluate each senator's and representative's record on religious freedom issues.
Wolf is ranked with a score of more than 100 percent because his dedication to promote religious freedom, including the sponsorship of related bills, was factored into his rating when scored by Open Doors. Although the scoring was only done on legislation that had to do with issues outside the U.S., Open Doors and Wolf believe religious freedom in this country is also at stake.
"Religious freedom is often called America's 'first freedom' – it is in fact at the heart of the American 'experiment.' I firmly believe that Congress has a unique role to play in being a voice for the voiceless, wherever they may be," said Wolf. "It is my hope that the work of Open Doors and other like-minded organizations will raise awareness, heighten consciousness and compel action in the halls of Congress and the administration."
Open Doors USA Director of Advocacy Lindsay Vessey told The Christian Post that although the organization, which has been doing the rankings for two years, has not rated congressmen on how they voted on bills related to religious freedom within the U.S., they are keeping a close eye on the issue.
"Open Doors is monitoring how we may possibly need to become more and more focused on domestic religious freedom as an effort to share the connection, because if we lose religious freedom here in the United States then that decreases our ability to support those that are persecuted for their faith in Christ overseas," Vessey explained.
U.S. senators on average scored much lower than their House counterparts, according to the scorecard. The top scoring senators were Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). All received a score of 75 percent. No U.S. senator received a 100 percent rating.
Members of the House, on the other hand, had 10 members with a perfect score. The representatives include Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), John Carter (R-Texas), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
Open Doors USA President Carl A. Moeller, whose organization provides support to persecuted Christians in 60 countries, commented, "The scorecard is one of the most simple and effective ways that Christians in America can help promote religious freedom. If your representative or senator has scored well, please thank them. If they have scored poorly, please encourage them to vote on these pertinent issues and to make religious freedom a top priority."
The scorecard has helped to increase the number of Congressional offices who are making international religious freedom a higher priority, according to Vessey. "We do this by regularly communicating with nearly all Congressional offices, alerting them to opportunities to engage on international religious freedom issues, as well as informing them of which items will be included in the scorecard."
As attacks on religious freedom in the U.S. and persecution of believers in the rest of the world increase, Moeller has stated that it's also important to know where the nation's presidential candidates stand on basic human rights.
Moeller co-authored a Presidential Pledge for Religious Freedom that asks candidates to sign as indication of their commitment to the issue.
The scorecard is available at: http://advocacy.opendoorsusa.org/be-a-voice/congressional-scorecard/.
After viewing legislators' scores, visitors to the site can send them a message thanking them for their support or asking for increased support. A letter is provided and personal comments often make the messages more effective, Open Doors states.