Congressional Scorecard to hold U.S. legislators accountable for religious freedom decisions

By March 19, 2012

USA (MNN) — The points have been tallied and the scores are in. The Open Doors USA Congressional Scorecard for International Religious Freedom of the 112th session of Congress was just released, ranking U.S. Congressmen and Senators on their promotion of religious freedom.

Why assign a point value to a legislator's record on issues regarding international religious freedom? Lindsay Vessey with Open Doors has spent six years on Capitol Hill talking to various legislators, and she says one idea has become quite clear:

"Nearly everyone says that they care about religious freedom. But when it comes to actually taking action to help people who are being persecuted for their faith, we find that a lot of legislators weren't willing to take action."

Vessey explains, "The Scorecard is a tool that Open Doors created, mostly to create awareness and accountability regarding international religious freedom with our federal legislators."

Essentially, the Scorecard is a way to keep tabs on legislators' voting records on religious freedom legislation. Open Doors has published this midterm Congressional Scorecard to evaluate each senator's and representative's record on religious freedom issues.

Legislators are graded on their votes and co-sponsorship of a selection of the most important religious freedom bills and resolutions that seek to protect Christians and other persecuted faith groups worldwide.

After the first Scorecard was released in the 111th session of Congress, the response of U.S. citizens caused a reaction. And seeing their support of religious freedom in tangible numbers made legislators think about their actions.

"As we're raising this issue and getting people more engaged, we see a lot better response to various things that are happening around the world," adds Vessey.

Vessey says one example this year was with Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. A resolution drafted in Congress on Nadarkhani's behalf was passed nearly unanimously.

Decisions to promote religious freedom like this inadvertently help further the spread of the Gospel. The hope is that the more the U.S. pressures countries with poor religious freedom policies, the more freedom there will be. More freedom to practice religion means more doors open for the Gospel, especially in nations where it's currently unsafe for believers to share their faith.

There's still a long way to go for U.S. legislators to make the maximum impact. According to the Scorecard, U.S. senators on average scored much lower than their House counterparts. The highest score for any Senator was 75%, whereas 10 Members of the House received perfect scores. Many legislators argue that they don't cosponsor bills because there doesn't seem to be a demand from constituents. International religious freedom is thus a low priority.

However, when U.S. citizens get involved and voice their concern, state and federal heads turn. To view the Scorecard and find out if your representative or senator has religious freedom as a top priority, click here. Open Doors has sample letters you can send to your senators and representatives to thank them for their support or to ask for increased support.

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