US Senate wants religious freedom weighed in trade deals

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed an amendment calling on the government to weigh a nation’s religious freedom picture when conducting trade deals.

“We believe every person should have protection of the government to live (his) faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who sponsored the amendment, said. “We should encourage trade with another country when that country acknowledges our basic value of the dignity of every person to live their own faith… When people have freedom of conscience and faith, they are also better trading partners,”

Lankford asserted. “Their country is stable, their families are stable and their economy will grow.”

Critics have been sceptical, pointing out that the amendment does no more than require the government to “take into consideration” a nation’s religious freedom policies – and there is no guarantee that the overall trade bill will become effective.

But if signed into law, this would be the first time in history that religious freedom considerations would be a requisite for international trade discussions with other countries.

In the lead-up to the vote, Sen. Lankford drew upon the research of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation president, Brian Grim, for the rationale supporting the connection between religious freedom and socio-economic development.

Grim, commenting on the outcome, said, “We are very pleased that the work of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has contributed to something that is not easy to achieve – the unanimous support of all parties on legislation.” Grim added that “because we do not take positions on political issues, this may be one reason that we can contribute to consensus on issues that are of common concern to all.”

Grim and Brian Walsh recently elaborated the business case for religious freedom in an op-ed aptly titled, Religious Freedom is Good for Business.