Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (10/09/1998)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Department of State Activities

Title II: Commission on International Religious Freedom

Title III: National Security Council

Title IV: Presidential Actions

Subtitle I: Targeted Responses to Violations of

Religious Freedom Abroad

Subtitle II: Strengthening Existing Law

Title V: Promotion of Religious Freedom

Title VI: Refugee, Asylum, and Consular Matters

Title VII: Miscellaneous Provisions

International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 - Declares it to be U.S. policy to: (1) condemn violations of religious freedom, and to promote, and to assist other governments in the promotion of, the fundamental right to freedom of religion; and (2) seek to channel U.S. security and development assistance to governments that are found not to be engaged in gross violations of the right to freedom of religion.

Title I: Department of State Activities - Establishes within the Department of State an Office on International Religious Freedom which shall be headed by an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

(Sec. 102) Directs the Ambassador at Large to assist the Secretary of State in preparing those portions of the Human Rights Reports that relate to freedom of religion and freedom from religious discrimination. Directs the Secretary of State to submit to the Congress, in conjunction with the Human Rights Reports, an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom describing: (1) the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, including trends toward improvement in the respect and protection of the right to religious freedom and trends toward deterioration of such right; (2) violations of religious freedom (including particularly severe ones) engaged in or tolerated by the government of that country; (3) the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom in each foreign country; (4) U.S. actions and policies in support of religious freedom in each such country engaging in or tolerating violations of religious freedom; (5) any binding agreement between the United States and a foreign government calling for such government to cease violations of religious freedom; (6) training on violations of religious freedom given to immigration judges and consular, refugee, immigration, and asylum officers; and (7) (in an Executive Summary) the status of religious freedom in certain foreign countries.

(Sec. 103) Requires the Secretary, in order to facilitate access by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the public around the world to international documents on the protection of religious freedom, to establish an Internet site containing major international documents relating to religious freedom, the Annual Report on Religious Persecution, the Executive Summary, and any other relevant documentation or references to other sites.

(Sec. 104) Amends the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to direct the Secretary to establish as part of the standard training for Foreign Service officers, including chiefs of mission, instruction in the field of internationally-recognized human rights.

(Sec. 105) Directs U.S. chiefs of mission to seek out and meet with religious NGOs, including imprisoned religious leaders where appropriate.

(Sec. 106) Expresses the sense of the Congress that: (1) U.S. diplomatic missions in countries where the government engages in or tolerates violations of the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion should develop, as part of annual program planning, a strategy to promote freedom of religion; and (2) in allocating funds or recommending candidates for U.S. programs and grants, U.S. missions should give particular consideration to those programs and candidates deemed to assist in the promotion of the right to religious freedom.

(Sec. 107) Directs the Secretary to permit, on terms no less favorable than those accorded other nongovernmental activities unrelated to the conduct of the diplomatic mission, access to the premises of U.S. diplomatic missions by U.S. citizens seeking to conduct religious activities.

(Sec. 108) Expresses the sense of the Congress that, in order to encourage involvement with religious freedom concerns at every possible opportunity and by all appropriate U.S. Government representatives, officials of the executive branch should promote increased advocacy on such issues during meetings between foreign dignitaries and executive branch officials or Members of Congress.

Requires the Secretary to prepare and maintain issue briefs consisting of country-by-country lists of persons believed to be imprisoned, detained, or placed under house arrest for their religious faith.

Title II: Commission on International Religious Freedom - Establishes the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (Commission).

(Sec. 202) Makes the Commission's primary responsibility: (1) the annual and ongoing review of the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom presented in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Annual Report on Religious Persecution, and the Executive Summary, as well as information from other appropriate sources; and (2) the making of policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary, and the Congress with respect to international religious freedom.

(Sec. 205) Authorizes appropriations for FY 1999 and 2000.

Title III: National Security Council - Amends the National Security Act of 1947 to express the sense of the Congress that there should be within the staff of the National Security Council a Special Adviser to the President on International Religious Freedom, serving as a resource for executive branch officials, compiling information on the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom, and making policy recommendations.

Title IV: Presidential Actions - Subtitle I: Targeted Responses to Violations of Religious Freedom Abroad - Directs the President, for each foreign country in which the government engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom (including particularly severe violations), to oppose such violations by taking certain actions and promoting the right to freedom of religion in that country.

(Sec. 402) Requires the President to review annually the status of religious freedom in each foreign country during the preceding 12 months, and to designate countries of particular concern for religious freedom, including agencies, instrumentalities, and officials responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

(Sec. 403) Directs the President to: (1) consult with the violating foreign government prior to taking any action against it; and (2) report to the Congress.

(Sec. 405) Specifies among the actions the President may take: (1) public condemnation; (2) delay or cancellation of scientific and cultural exchanges; (3) withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of U.S. development assistance and U.S. security assistance; (4) instruction of U.S. executive directors of international financial institutions to vote against loans primarily benefiting the foreign government responsible for such violations; (5) restrictions on the issuance of licenses to export any goods or technology to such foreign government; (6) prohibition against the making, guaranteeing, or insuring of loans, or extension of credit by certain U.S. financial institutions to the violating government; and (7) prohibition of U.S. Government procurement of goods or services from such government. Provides for: (1) commensurate actions in substitution for any of the above presidential actions; and (2) binding agreements with foreign governments obliging them to cease, or take substantial steps to address and phase out, the acts, policies, or practices constituting violations of religious freedom.

Declares that any such action may not prohibit or restrict the provision of humanitarian assistance.

(Sec. 407) Authorizes the President to waive the requirements of this Act if certain conditions are met.

(Sec. 410) Prohibits judicial review of presidential actions or agency actions taken under this Act.

Subtitle II: Strengthening Existing Law - Amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the International Financial Institutions Act to add as a factor for consideration in formulating U.S. development assistance, military assistance, and multilateral assistance programs whether the government of a foreign country has: (1) engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom; or (2) failed to undertake serious and sustained efforts to combat particularly severe violations of religious freedom, when such efforts could have been reasonably undertaken.

(Sec. 423) Requires the inclusion on the list of crime control and detection instruments or equipment controlled for export or reexport under the Export Administration Act of 1979 (and so subject to mandatory licensing) items the Secretary of Commerce has determined are being used or are intended for use directly and in significant measure to carry out particularly severe violations of religious freedom. Declares that the prohibition on the issuance of a license for export of crime control and detection instruments or equipment under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 shall apply to the export or reexport of such items.

Title V: Promotion of Religious Freedom - Amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize the use of development assistance funds to carry out programs and activities in foreign countries which will encourage and promote the right to free religious belief and practice.

(Sec. 502) Amends the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 and the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 with respect to promoting respect for freedom of religion.

(Sec. 504) Amends the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to state that service in the promotion of internationally recognized human rights, including the right to religious freedom, shall serve as a basis for the award of performance pay and Foreign Service awards to Foreign Service employees.

Title VI: Refugee, Asylum, and Consular Matters - Requires the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom to serve as a resource for immigration judges and consular, refugee, and asylum officers in cases involving claims of persecution on the grounds of religion.

(Sec. 602) Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to direct the Attorney General to provide all U.S. officials adjudicating refugee cases with the same training provided to officers adjudicating asylum cases, including training on the internationally recognized right to religious freedom and religious persecution.

Requires the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to develop and implement guidelines that address potential biases in Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel hired abroad and involved with duties which could constitute an effective barrier to a refugee claim if such personnel carry a bias toward the claimant on the grounds of religion, race, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Requires the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to develop and implement guidelines to ensure: (1) uniform procedures for establishing agreements with U.S. Government-designated refugee processing entities and personnel, including uniform procedures for entities and personnel responsible for preparing refugee case files for use by the Immigration and Naturalization Service during refugee adjudications; and (2) that case files prepared by such entities accurately reflect information provided by the refugee applicants, and that genuine refugee applicants are not disadvantaged or denied refugee status due to faulty case file preparation.

(Sec. 603) Requires the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to develop guidelines to ensure that persons with potential biases against individuals on the grounds of religion, race, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, including interpreters and personnel of airlines owned by governments known to be involved in practices which would meet the definition of persecution under international refugee law, shall not in any manner be used to interpret conversations between aliens and inspection or asylum officers.

Requires the Attorney General to provide training to all officers adjudicating asylum cases, including immigration officers who inspect incoming aliens for possible asylum, on the right to religious freedom and the nature of religious persecution abroad, including country-specific conditions.

Requires the Executive Office of Immigration Review of the Department of Justice to incorporate into its initial and ongoing training of immigration judges training on the extent and nature of religious persecution internationally, including country-specific conditions.

(Sec. 604) Makes inadmissible for naturalization any alien (including a spouse and children) who, while serving as a foreign government official, directly was responsible for or carried out, at any time during the preceding 24-month period, particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

(Sec. 605) Directs the Attorney General, if the Commission so requests, to invite experts on refugee and asylum issues to study and report to specified congressional committees whether immigration officers with alien inspection duties are engaging in: (1) improperly encouraging aliens to withdraw their applications for admission; (2) incorrectly failing to refer aliens for an interview by an asylum officer for a determination of whether they have a credible fear of persecution; (3) incorrectly removing aliens to a country where they may be persecuted; or (4) detaining aliens improperly or in inappropriate conditions.

Title VII: Miscellaneous Provisions - Expresses the sense of the Congress that transnational corporations operating in countries in which the government engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom should adopt codes of conduct: (1) upholding the right to freedom of religion of their employees; and (2) ensuring that a worker's religious views in no way affect the status or terms of his or her employment.