Which Congressmen Received A+ for International Religious Freedom?

A Utah-based nonprofit dedicated to monitoring religious freedom recently published an International Religious Freedom Scorecard, which uses a grading system to indicate each U.S. federal legislator's dedication to international religious freedom during the 112th Congress of 2011-2012.

The grading system uses tallied numerical points which indicate the level of a legislator's prioritization of bills, resolutions, and letters relating to international religious freedom.

"Religious Freedom is core to the very essence of being human," Lindsay Vessey, executive director of the newly-founded Venn Institute and former founder of Open Doors USA's advocacy program, said in a statement.

Vessey created the scorecard during her tenure at Open Doors USA, and was granted rights to publish the scorecard under the Venn Institute.

"Federal legislators have the ability to help America lead in the protection and promotion of religious freedom worldwide through making public statements on various issues and cases, by passing bills in support of this freedom, and by exerting pressure in support of religious freedom in specific cases," Vessey continued.

"Freedom of conscience and belief is of utmost importance to religious believers of all faiths, as well as to those of no faith. It should not be partisan, but something that all legislators strive to protect and promote."

The scorecard used several House and Senate resolutions and letters to determine the priorities of each legislator regarding religious freedom. House Resolution 134, which called for the U.S. to condemn the government of Iran for its persecution of the Baha'i minority, as well as the Vietnamese Human Rights Sanctions Act, were just two of the resolutions from the 112th Congressional session that Venn used to gauge each legislator's dedication to religious freedom.

Final scores found that six U.S. Representatives received an A+ for their dedication to international religious freedom, including Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), John Carter (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

One notable highlight of the 112th Congressional session, according to the Venn Institute, is the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The commission faced expiration in late 2011, but was ultimately reauthorized with a smaller budget on Dec. 16, 2011.

Another achievement for international religious freedom includes a bi-partisan increase in attendance in the International Religious Freedom caucus, which seeks to raise Congressional awareness for religious persecution around the world.

In a letter accompanying the scorecard, Vessey maintained an optimistic attitude towards the 112th Congressional Session's advancement in the protection of international religious freedom.

"I am encouraged by the increasing number of legislators who recognize the importance of supporting IRF and thank those members and their staff who have worked so hard to defend the freedoms of the defenseless throughout the world," Vessey said.

Ken Klukowski, an expert on religious freedom and director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, previously told The Christian Post that he believes U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has been "the most hostile" towards religious freedom.

"I think the record is clear that this president and this administration are the most hostile towards religious liberty in all of American history," Klukowski told CP at a Family Research Council event.