Senate Unanimously Approves Religious Freedom Amendment in Trade Bill

Capitol Dome Credit DliffWASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved an amendment to a trade bill this past week that requires the president to take religious freedom into consideration when making international trade agreements.

U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) proposed Amendment 1237 to the “Trade Promotion Authority Bill” to require the executive branch of government—which includes the president, vice president and the presidential cabinet—to “take into account conditions relating to religious freedom of any party to negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States.”

He spoke on the Senate floor on Monday about the reason why he presented the amendment.

“When we trade, we not only exchange goods, we exchange ideas and values,” Lankford said. “I have been told over and over again that we don’t talk about religious freedom in our trade negotiations. I have just asked, why not? We should encourage trade with another country when that country acknowledges our basic value of the dignity of every person to live their own faith.”

He said that it is the duty of government to uphold God-given inalienable rights.

“Governments were created to protect the rights given to us by God,” Lankford stated. “We believe every person should have the protection of government to live their faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether.”

“That is one of the reasons Americans are disturbed by the trend in our courts, our military, and our public conversation,” he continued. “It is not the task of government to purge religious conversation from public life; it is the task of government to protect the rights of every person to live their faith and to guard those who choose not to have any faith at all.”

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The amendment was approved as an addition to the bill 92-0.

As previously reported, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its annual religious freedom report last month, finding an “alarming” increase in global persecution over the past year.

“Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries in the year since the release of [USCIRF’s] prior annual report last May,” the commission wrote. “The horrors of the past year speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter.”

While the report focused mainly on the persecution of Christians and other religious groups at the hand of ISIS and Boko Haram, it also recommended that the State Department add eight nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” including the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The commission additionally urged the Obama administration to work toward promoting religious freedom in countries such as China, Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, and added Cuba, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Russia to its watch list.

“All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett in a statement. “In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.”

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  • Peter Leh

    have a friend in Zambia who is a missionary. Pretty wild stories about the witches over there.

  • BarkingDawg

    “She turned me into a newt!”

    (I got better)

  • Angel Jabbins

    Sorry, but one day you will.

    • tyler

      Sorry, but I don’t. You can’t prove with a shred of evidence that that will actually happen.
      If a muslim, jew, hindu, scientologist, mormon, jehovah’s witness, or buddhist said anything similar like this to you, I don’t think you’d worry for a minute that they are right. I feel the same way about your religion.
      And you should be ok with that. We have different beliefs.

      • Angel Jabbins

        That day will come…judgement day… and you WILL confess it. ‘Every knee will bow and declare Jesus is Lord.’ You may not believe that now, but you will be a believer one second after death, only then it will be too late to get right with God.

        • tyler

          I don’t believe that.
          Just the same as you don’t believe any claims about any other religion.
          I’m happy for you that you believe in Jesus being God. I do not.
          And you don’t have to keep threatening me with it. You’re supposed to be able to accept people with different beliefs – that’s what’s great about this country. We are not a christian nation.

          • Angel Jabbins

            I certainly do accept that people have differing beliefs and everyone is free to believe anything they want…even if it is untrue. But there can only be one true religion…all the others are false. How was I threatening you? You are threatened by the fact that there is only one truth. That sounds unloving, judgmental, and unkind to you. Certainly it is not politically correct. But what is truth? Who decides? Men or God? Who is the true God? Which is the true religion? Investigate. Study the various religions, compare them one to another…because only one is true.

            Many different religions, yes, but only one way to God, one path of truth. No threat was ever intended, but a warning was, because I care about your immortal soul. Make sure you are on the right path because there will be consequences after you die. If Christianity is true and you reject it and reject Jesus Christ who came to die for your sins, you are in trouble. Search and find the truth while there is still time to find it. Not all roads lead to heaven….only one. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.”

            Don’t just reject it because it offends you. Check it out. Study for yourself and stop drinking the Koolaide that you were brought up on in public school.

          • tyler

            So how about we agree to disagree? You’re set on your beliefs that christianity and jesus is the only way. I don’t believe that.
            Unfortunately, you would like to believe that there is only one truth. I don’t believe what you believe is the ‘truth’. Unfortunately there is not one shred of evidence that your ‘truth’ is correct.
            I don’t think there’s truth to any extraordinary claims of any religion. Just the exact same as you do not believe the extraordinary claims of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism, etc….

          • Angel Jabbins

            This is not the full article and I wish I could post the link so you could read it in its entirety. This comment will go to moderation and never get posted if I do that. It came from got questions.

            A Proposed Definition of Truth

            In defining truth, it is first helpful to note what truth is not:

            • Truth is no tsimply whatever works. This is the philosophy of pragmatism – an ends-vs.-means-type approach. In reality, lies can appear to “work,” but they are still lies and not the truth.
            • Truth is not simply what is coherent or understandable. A group of people can get together and form a conspiracy based on a set of falsehoods where they all agree to tell the same false story, but it does not make their presentation true.
            • Truth is not what makes people feel good. Unfortunately, bad news can be true.
            • Truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty-one percent of a group can reach a wrong conclusion.
            • Truth is no twhat is comprehensive. A lengthy, detailed presentation can still result in a false conclusion.
            • Truth is notdefined by what is intended. Good intentions can still be wrong.
            • Truth is not how we know; truth is what we know.
            • Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie.
            • Truth is not what is publicly proved. A truth can be privately known (for example, the location of buried treasure).

            The Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing.” It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for “truth” is emeth, which means “firmness,” “constancy” and “duration.” Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

            From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:

            1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
            2. Truth is that which matches its object.
            3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.

            In short, truth is simply telling it like it is; it is the way things really are, and any other viewpoint is wrong. A foundational principle of philosophy is being able to discern between truth and error, or as Thomas Aquinas observed, “It is the task of the philosopher to make distinctions.”

            he Offensive Nature of Truth

            When the concept of truth is maligned, it usually for one or more of the following reasons:

            One common complaint against anyone claiming to have absolute truth in matters of faith and religion is that such a stance is “narrow-minded.” However, the critic fails to understand that, by nature, truth is narrow. Is a math teacher narrow-minded for holding to the belief that 2 + 2 only equals 4?

            Another objection to truth is that it is arrogant to claim that someone is right and another person is wrong. However, returning to the above example with mathematics, is it arrogant for a math teacher to insist on only one right answer to an arithmetic problem? Or is it arrogant for a locksmith to state that only one key will open a locked door?

            A third charge against those holding to absolute truth in matters of faith and religion is that such a position excludes people, rather than being inclusive. But such a complaint fails to understand that truth, by nature, excludes its opposite. All answers other than 4 are excluded from the reality of what 2 + 2 truly equals.

            Yet another protest against truth is that it is offensive and divisive to claim one has the truth. Instead, the critic argues, all that matters is sincerity. The problem with this position is that truth is immune to sincerity, belief, and desire. It doesn’t matter how much one sincerely believes a wrong key will fit a door; the key still won’t go in and the lock won’t be opened. Truth is also unaffected by sincerity. Someone who picks up a bottle of poison and sincerely believes it is lemonade will still suffer the unfortunate effects of the poison. Finally, truth is impervious to desire. A person may strongly desire that their car has not run out of gas, but if the gauge says the tank is empty and the car will not run any farther, then no desire in the world will miraculously cause the car to keep going.

            Some will admit that absolute truth exists, but then claim such a stance is only valid in the area of science and not in matters of faith and religion. This is a philosophy called logical positivism, which was popularized by philosophers such as David Hume and A. J. Ayer. In essence, such people state that truth claims must either be (1) tautologies (for example, all bachelors are unmarried men) or empirically verifiable (that is, testable via science). To the logical positivist, all talk about God is nonsense.

            Those who hold to the notion that only science can make truth claims fail to recognize is that there are many realms of truth where science is impotent. For example:

            • Science cannot prove the disciplines of mathematics and logic because it presupposes them.
            • Science cannot prove metaphysical truths such as, minds other than my own do exist.
            • Science is unable to provide truth in the areas of morals and ethics. You cannot use science, for example, to prove the Nazis were evil.
            • Science is incapable of stating truths about aesthetic positions such as the beauty of a sunrise.
            • Lastly, when anyone makes the statement “science is the only source of objective truth,” they have just made a philosophical claim—which cannot be tested by science.

            And there are those who say that absolute truth does not apply in the area of morality. Yet the response to the question, “Is is moral to torture and murder an innocent child?” is absolute and universal: No. Or, to make it more personal, those who espouse relative truth concerning morals always seem to want their spouse to be absolutely faithful to them.

            Why Truth is Important

            Why is it so important to understand and embrace the concept of absolute truth in all areas of life (including faith and religion)? Simply because life has consequences for being wrong. Giving someone the wrong amount of a medication can kill them; having an investment manager make the wrong monetary decisions can impoverish a family; boarding the wrong plane will take you where you do not wish to go; and dealing with an unfaithful marriage partner can result in the destruction of a family and, potentially, disease.

            As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.” And nowhere is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

            Tyler, you need to start investigating things for yourself. You have been taught what to think not how to think. I mean no offense to you personally. You are just too young to close your mind.

          • getstryker

            Angel – you make excellent points in your comments. I have enjoyed reading them. May God bless you and yours.

      • getstryker

        Time will tell Tyler, time WILL tell.

        • tyler

          Yes, time will tell. Time hasn’t told anything yet, and j don’t think it will ever reveal what you were hoping for.

          • getstryker

            Tyler – You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I would point out that while you live, you can believe or not believe as you choose. The Bible shows that the ‘proof’ you seek comes at the moment of death. And, well . . . there’s your problem . . . you’re still breathing 😉
            You want ‘proof’ – one way is accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, which will absolutely prove His existence. The only other way to gain the ‘proof’ you demand is to stop breathing – permanently.

            Your ‘proof’ has a biblical answer: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” – Hebrews 9:27 (KJV) God gives you an entire lifetime (however long that may be) to decide – accept or reject – it’s still YOUR choice. Choose wisely!

            In the meantime, lets consider the possible options:

            First, can we agree that there are only three (3) options that are possible: Heaven, Nothingness or Hell?

            Option#1 – If I am correct and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior assures someone of Heaven, then, I go to Heaven. Yea me! (BTW – you and everyone else can choose this option too)

            Option#2 – BUT, if you are correct and when we both stop breathing, we just ‘die’ and there is only ‘Nothingness’ – we both end up ‘no place’ and we just don’t exist or care. We’re just dead and that’s what everyone gets so I’m stuck with it too. HOWEVER . . .

            Option#3 – is a real bummer. If the ‘Nothingness’ option is gone, then ‘Heaven and Hell’ are still in play. If Jesus and Heaven is real and you don’t become ‘born-again’ as He says you must to go to Heaven – then the only option left is going to Hell – My Bible assures me that nobody is going to like that option. There are only three (3) options – Option#2 we can’t do anything about – Option#1 and #3 are left – It’s your choice. Choose wisely!

          • tyler

            You said “we can agree that there are only three options that are possible – heaven, nothingness, or hell”.
            You can leave me out of the ‘we’ part – I don’t believe in heaven or hell.
            There could be 5 million other possibilities – and not one of us can be sure of any of them.

            I’ve heard pascal’s wager before, which is basically what you’re describing here, and I think it is crap. I am being honest with my beliefs, and what I do and do not believe. How is it that I can ‘pretend’ to be afraid of hell or afraid of not going to heaven, and basically be tricked or scared into accepting jesus as my personal savior — without actually believing? and just as a back up plan in case there’s more to the afterlife?

            You started your comment by saying that of course we can believe different things, then you went ahead and said that there’s only one thing you can do (accept jesus), and that the only other option is hell or nothingness, and gave me a thinly-veiled warning that i will rot in hell, for eternity, if i don’t do and accept and believe exactly what you do. You think you have it all figured out.
            What if another (of the thousands) religions is right, and not yours? what if none of them are right? If you were born in saudi arabia, do you think you’d be a born again christian?
            well at least you’d be believing in a religion that comes from the exact same people that your religion does – the god of the bible (Yahweh) is the same one in Judaism, Islam, and christianity.

          • getstryker

            The agreement I referred to was Heaven, Nothingness or Hell. If there is another ultimate option, please – enlighten me.

            I am not forcing you to believe or not believe anything . . . as I said: It’s your choice. I merely present the possibilities AFTER we die. There are 3, not 5 million – perhaps you refer to the ‘variations’ of those possibilities? My warning was hardly ‘thinly veiled’ – it was quite direct. I would point out that I only repeat the warning given by Jesus himself . . . “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6. Eternity is an awfully long time to have made the wrong choice. However, again – that choice is yours – I merely cautioned that you ‘choose wisely’. It makes no difference where I may have been born or what religion I may have been raised up in. The truth is that there have been converts from other religions to Evangelical Christianity all around the world in very large numbers. The reports are available – verify them for yourself. that conversion process could happen to me or anyone else, including you. You allude to the erroneous conclusion that the ‘god of the bible (Yahweh) is the same one in Judaism, Islam and Christianity . . . actually, you are in error. Judaism claims that Jesus Christ is NOT the messiah and in Islam, the Quran states that Allah had no son.
            Tyler, I have no illusions that our discussion will change your mind . . . as I have said – to believe or not is your choice. Time will give you the proof you seek.

          • tyler

            Sorry, but our conversation here will not change my mind in any way. You sound like a nice person, and good for you for being a believer.
            In my opinion – nobody knows anything at all about what happens after you die. Likely, nothing at all happens. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re surrounded by ‘nothingness’, it means you cease to exist – just as you and I ceased to exist for billions of years before we were born – and similar to how your consciousness shuts off each night when you sleep.

            Unfortunately I don’t believe any of the magical or holy claims from the bible. When someone quotes something from John in the gospels, I don’t immediately belief it or take it as any kind of truth.
            The names of the people who wrote the gospels is unknown – the names were tacked on to the gospel books later on. Their authors are anonymous. To me, there are some nice stories in the bible. But it ends there.

            I know that the 3 big abrahamic religions are all different in what the believe about Jesus, but Yahweh from the old bible is the same exact ‘person’, from the tales of abraham. All 3 religions – christianity, judaism, and Islam, that’s right, Islam, started from old stories from abraham about god.

          • getstryker

            Tyler . . . From my perspective as a ‘born-again Christian’, you are in error. Your perception of the Bible, what it says and why it says it, why it is the authority of Christian belief, who inspired it to be written by men and why and what it means to you personally is sorely lacking. The Bible is probably the most investigated book in existence. However, you are NOT unique in your beliefs or lack of understanding. I would venture to say that the majority of those that are Evangelical Christians now have held beliefs similar to yours long before they accepted Christ. I too was where you are now long ago. As I have said, you are entitled to your beliefs. You have ‘free-will’ . . . God does NOT make robots. Some come to accept Jesus Christ early in their lives, some later and some not at all. God calls (spiritually) but He never forces anyone to believe. The choice to do that or not will always be yours. As for me, I will pray God will bless you Tyler.

  • getstryker

    Yes, for the witch . . . it is absolutely a ‘Big Deal’ and for those that are able to perceive the significance of that change . . . there had to be a cause. By her own admission, that ’cause’ was Jesus Christ.

    • tyler

      because someone told her to believe in Jesus Christ – and to be able to get an education and be more successful. for a witch, of course that would sound better. I find believing in either to be silly.
      If someone believes in witchcraft, and that there are evil spirits or spells or anything at all like that – i laugh at them.

      • getstryker

        You don’t ‘believe’ in Jesus Christ because someone tells you to. Accepting Jesus Christ is a personal, spiritual experience – it’s NOT like changing a shirt – one day your a witch and the next your a Christian because someone tells you to accept Christ . . . believe me – when you accept Christ and become ‘born-again’ (spiritually) you’ll know it. That’s what happened to the witch – the dreams she experience was God showing her what her fate would be . . . she had ‘free-will’ – she could have resisted but she did not – she sought out the Christians, questioned them and by her own choice – accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior. She left the evil behind and served the church and God until He called her home. Laughing a witchcraft, evil spirits and spells??? Yeah, OK!

        • tyler

          Before believing in Christ, someone would have told you or you heard about it – like from missionaries. It’s not some magical reason that people convert to christianity across the developing world – it’s because missionaries go there. If I were poor living in africa or asia somewhere, and a group of friendly missionaries wanted to build a brand new church building and give me food and drink for joining their group, I probably would. The extremely poor and uneducated are perfect targets for starting a church and trying to convert people. I know that the intentions of many missionaries is good, but to say that it’s some kind of holy magic that extremely poor people in africa, south america, and asia are converting to christianity is silly.

          • getstryker

            Tyler, do you read newspapers, watch the news on TV??? Do you have any idea of what is going on with Christians and the persecution and death visited on them because of their Christian beliefs in Muslim countries? Villages and churches burned, men, women and children killed, raped and beheaded? Your response makes it sound like the ‘missionaries bribe the locals by inviting them to some big picnic and show them a few parlor tricks and they convert.’ Are you real that uninformed? People convert to Christianity because there is a ‘spiritual call’ from God thru the Holy Spirit. The witch was convicted of her sins because God showed her in a dream what her future would be. She had opposed the missionaries with demons. Based on her revelation, she sought out the ‘missionaries’ and received answers to her questions and accepted Christ. What caused the dramatic change? For others, there were no missionaries. There are thousands of people of various faiths that are called (spiritually) convicted of their sins and receive Christ from ‘Jesus dreams’ that they report happening in many foreign countries. It’s NOT magic . . . it’s the power of God in their lives. For many, accepting Christ and Christianity is a death sentence in those countries. Look it up for yourself. Do you really believe that someone would convert to Christianity, knowing the potential consequences, for the sake of a sandwich and a drink?

          • tyler

            I am aware of violence toward Christians in many different countries – and that is awful and sickens me.

            People should respect a persons right to believe and follow any religion.

            I do have some issues with how missionaries work. If I were to come in to a town and put up buildings and set up groups to learn about atheism or agnosticism, I’m certain that there would be many very angry people.

          • getstryker

            Tyler, I am glad that you are aware of the enmity between Christianity and other religions or beliefs. Yes, you are correct, people of one faith should respect others beliefs or lack of belief, but that is not the world we live in. I would submit that most of the animosity and violence is toward Evangelical Christianity. There are many denominations within ‘Christianity’ – each has a different variation of doctrine. Christianity, as a whole, is abused, maligned, lied about, attacked, mocked and misrepresented and yet, when is the last time you heard of a ‘Christian’ blowing up in anyone’s face, or flying an airplane into a building or killing someone because of a cartoon drawing? When is the last time you heard or saw a ‘Christian’ behead someone of another faith? Those that advocate ‘a different belief system’ are coming to our towns and putting up buildings and practicing their faith. They have that right, just as you. And yes, there are ‘angry people’ out there that don’t like it. Based on history and current ‘actions’ . . . do you like it? Which system of beliefs most represents the teaching of Jesus? Do you think you buy that kind of adherence to a system of faith with a sandwich and a drink? I think not.