WASHINGTON — While freedom of religion is a protected constitutional right thanks to the First Amendment, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says that freedom is under attack here in the U.S. and abroad.
Grassley, a Republican, says religious discrimination endangers innocent lives in cultures and societies around the world but the work to halt the intolerance and violence has to start in America. “You can see what happens to Jewish places of worship,” Grassley says. “I suppose we have some anti-Muslim, then we have some anti-Christian attitudes in the United States. That all has to be overcome.”
He’s calling on the U.S. to help people in countries like Russia, Bangladesh, and Sudan who live under authoritarian regimes and face persecution for their religious beliefs. Grassley says, “Through various U.N. resolutions and the United States setting a moral standard for the rest of the world and demanding more religious freedom where it doesn’t exist in the world is our goal.”
Grassley says the U.S. should use proposed and future trade agreements to pressure nations like China, North Korea, and Pakistan to allow their citizens to practice their chosen religions and worship without fear. He says the U.S. has built into its negotiations demands for improvements to working conditions and for the environment, so why not religious freedoms?
“Like the USMCA and what we were negotiating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership before we pulled out,” Grassley says, “I think the same focus on religion is helpful to make sure that the moral standard we set on the environment and labor carries over to other freedoms as well.” Grassley was asked if President Trump might consider including religious freedom issues in his talks with China. Grassley responded, “I don’t think so. I think the president’s mostly concerned about economics.”