WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined U.S. Senator Carl Levin (Mich.) today to introduce legislation that will create a new U.S. Department of State special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East aimed at promoting and protecting religious freedoms.

In a letter to President Obama, Senator Blunt stressed the importance of the Middle East as the birthplace of three of the world’s major religions and that as change takes place in many of these countries, they will look to the United States as a model of religious tolerance and freedom.

“Every person has a fundamental right to religious beliefs and I have always supported initiatives to protect the rights of individuals to live a life free from abuse and exploitation, and with the dignity they possess as human beings regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Blunt. “I expect this bill to encourage the State Department to redouble its efforts to call attention to all religious minorities and demonstrate to leaders in the Middle East that the United States takes religious freedom seriously.”

This legislation was preceded by a bill in the House of Representatives earlier this year by United States Representatives Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

 

[Text of the letter below and attached]

Senator Roy Blunt

Statement for the Record to Accompany Introduction of Legislation

To provide for the establishment of the Special Envoy to

Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in

the Near East and South Central Asia

 

June 21, 2011

 

Mr. President,

I’m pleased to join my friend Senator Carl Levin in introducing this legislation to create a new U.S. Department of State special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East.

As we observe the political upheavals occurring throughout the region, we need to remember that this region is the birthplace of three of the world’s major religions. I’m particularly interested in ensuring that the shrinking minority of Christians in places like Egypt, Iraq, the West Bank, and Afghanistan receive adequate attention by our foreign emissaries.

I expect this bill to encourage the State Department to redouble its efforts to call attention to all religious minorities and demonstrate to leaders in the region that the United States takes religious freedom seriously. I’m hopeful that as change takes place in many of these countries, they will look to the United States as a model of religious tolerance and freedom.

I thank my friends in the House of Representatives, Frank Wolf and Anna Eshoo, for their efforts on this bill’s House companion, which was introduced earlier this year.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the Capitol and with the Administration to enact this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Roy Blunt (Mo.)

United States Senator

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