Sen. Rubio Asks Biden to Appoint Religious Freedom Special Adviser in National Security Council

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is calling on President Joe Biden to fill a vacancy on his National Security Council—a move that would demonstrate U.S. commitment to human rights around the world.

In his letter dated May 6, Mr. Rubio asked President Biden to appoint a “qualified, and respected, expert in religious rights” to the vacant position of special adviser on international religious freedom within the council, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

“From the religious persecution of Tibetans, Falun Gong, and Uyghurs by Communist China, to the repression of Christians in Nicaragua, Cuba, and North Korea, to the Baha’i in Iran, the U.S. must remain firm in its commitment to protecting religious freedoms worldwide,” a statement from his office reads.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been waging a war against people of faith for decades, subjecting innocent people to imprisonment, forced labor, torture, and other inhumane treatment. The U.S. State Department has designated communist China a “country of particular concern” under the IRFA every year since 1999.

Mr. Rubio argued that the vacancy is “impeding the White House’s ability to effectively incorporate international religious freedom concerns within whole-of-government strategies and policies.”

Additionally, the senator said that filling the position would “enhance our national security by helping to address one of the main causes of conflict and instability.”

“This individual would play a pivotal role in coordinating efforts across agencies, including with the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in advising you and your administration on matters related to religious freedom, and contributing to the development of policies that reflect the values of our great nation,” Mr. Rubio said.

In February 2020, then-President Donald Trump appointed Sarah Makin to the position, making her the first individual to take on the role full time. The appointment drew applause from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“We commend the [Trump] administration for filling this important position, demonstrating its ongoing commitment to elevating international religious freedom as a foreign policy priority,” then-USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin said in a statement at the time.

The USCIRF, in its annual reports issued since 2021, has urged the Biden administration to make the appointment. In the 2024 report, the commission asked the current administration to appoint “a well-qualified individual” and provide the person “with the financial resources and staff needed to fulfill their mandate as outlined in IRFA.”

“By prioritizing this position, we not only demonstrate our nation’s unwavering commitment to protecting religious freedom for all, regardless of faith, but we also reaffirm the United States’ leadership role in promoting human rights and democratic principles globally as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world,” Mr. Rubio wrote.In May 2021, Mr. Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, led a bipartisan group of senators calling on President Biden to fill the position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Two months later, the president announced his intent to nominate Rashad Hussain for the post. In December 2021, the Senate confirmed the president’s nomination following an 85–5 vote.

Earlier this month, Mr. Rubio signed on to a letter asking the State Department to create rewards for information that will hold individuals engaged in forced organ harvesting in China accountable. The letter was sent from six Republican lawmakers sitting on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

“Forced organ harvesting is an atrocity and the disruption and deterrence of this practice should be a priority of the State Department,” the letter reads.

“Given the global demand for organ transplants and the evidence of the illegal trafficking of organs in the PRC [People’s Republic of China], there is a pressing need to uncover first-hand information from those who witnessed or engaged in the practice.”

On May 7, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked during a news briefing whether the department would consider the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s request.

“We, I’m sure, have received that letter and will respond in due course to the members themselves,” Mr. Miller said.

The China Tribunal, an independent people’s panel in London, concluded in 2019 that the CCP had been forcibly harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience for years “on a substantial scale,” with Falun Gong adherents being the “principal source” of human organs.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that encourages its adherents to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. By 1999, at least 70 million people had taken up the practice in mainland China, according to official estimates at the time.

The CCP leadership, fearing that the practice’s popularity threatened the regime’s absolute control, launched a brutal campaign to eradicate the group in July 1999. Since then, millions of practitioners have been illegally detained in prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.

Last week, Mr. Rubio spoke out against Russia and China after a Moscow court ordered the two-month detention of Natalya Minenkova—a 46-year-old Russian Falun Gong practitioner—on the basis of her beliefs. This marks the first such incident in Russia amid a growing relationship between Moscow and the CCP.

“Beijing and Moscow have, for years, undermined religious freedom as they actively target anyone who is simply trying to live out their faith,” Mr. Rubio told The Epoch Times.


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