Sen. Kennedy (R-La.) Sends Bipartisan Letter to President Trump Urging Him to Prioritize Religious Liberty with Indian Prime Minister
Jun 26 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) led a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to President Donald Trump today ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Washington D.C. The letter implores President Trump to use his meeting with the prime minister as an opportunity to discuss India’s discriminatory policies against foreign religious and humanitarian organizations.
Sens. Blunt, Crapo, Lankford, and Klobuchar signed on to Sen. Kennedy’s letter encouraging the president to make it clear to Prime Minister Modi that human rights and religious liberty remain a top priority.
“Over the past few years, the Indian government has made it difficult – if not impossible - for religious and humanitarian organizations to get funding to their charitable operations in India. Many of these organizations are simply trying to meet the basic needs of the citizens of India. Compassion International even had to leave India. This humanitarian aid organization had helped feed and provide health care to children in India for nearly 50 years. Now thousands of innocent children will be left without this critical support,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Discriminating against foreign organizations that help the citizens of India is counterproductive, and it needs to change. I ask that President Trump address this serious issue with Prime Minister Modi during his upcoming trip to Washington.”
Below is the text of the letter.
June 23, 2017
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for your commitment to protecting and advancing religious liberty around the world. You have made it clear that protecting religious freedom deserves our constant vigilance. We agree that our support for democracy requires persistent efforts to support and advocate for religious liberty around the world.
We are particularly concerned about violations of religious liberty in India. India is the world’s largest democracy and therefore holds a position of importance on the world stage, making the ongoing violations even more disturbing. Despite India’s size and religious diversity, violations of religious liberty have existed for years.
Every year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) releases a report outlining the state of religious freedom across the world. India has consistently remained a “Tier 2” country, meaning that USCIRF believes it requires close monitoring based on evidence of violations of religious freedom. These include violence, discrimination, and forced conversions, as well as harassment and intimidation.
Of significant concern is India’s recent use of its Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA) to target humanitarian and religious organizations
. Any foreign religious organizations, including missionaries, working in India must comply with this law. In 2011, the Indian Parliament amended FCRA to allow the government to block funds for foreign organizations that conduct any “activities detrimental to the national interest.”
The Indian government has since used this broad provision to target foreign humanitarian and religious organizations that serve the Indian people, such as Compassion International that was forced to leave India and the 145,000 Indian children it served. Other organizations that have come under scrutiny include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace. Other evangelical Christian organizations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, have also faced discrimination of various kinds. The number of organizations that have lost their licenses has exceeded 10,000 since Prime Minister Modi took office.
Based on these troubling developments, we ask that you make religious liberty a top priority when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United States this month. We request that you use the United States’ strong, longstanding relationship with India to encourage Prime Minister Modi to alleviate the discrimination against these organizations, particularly religious-based aid groups, and to take steps to advance religious liberty for all of India’s citizens.
The United States has served as an example of religious liberty for the entire world ever since its founding. These principles underlie the essence of what it means to be American. Even more importantly, the freedom to practice one’s own religious beliefs underlies the essence of what it means to be human and live in a democracy. We encourage you to bring these violations to Prime Minister Modi’s attention and continue to work to protect religious liberty across the globe.
John Kennedy Roy Blunt
United States Senator United States Senator
Mike Crapo James Lankford
United States Senator United States Senator
United States Senator