Congressman Honda Introduces Freedom of Faith Act
Washington, DC – Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA17) today introduced the Freedom of Faith Act (H.R. 4460), which will make permanent the special immigrant provision for non-minister religious workers. The current religious workers program is set to expire in 2015.
“For over two decades, Congress has reauthorized this program time and time again,” Congressman Honda said. “It’s time we do what’s right for our communities of faith and make permanent this program that allows workers who lead worship, officiate events, and offer pastoral care, to receive temporary visas like ministers and faith leaders do.”
The Freedom of Faith Act would cover religious workers who provide a variety of services, such as translating for Korean Presbyterian churches, singing as cantors in Jewish temples, delivering sermons as mullahs in Muslim mosques, and helping with Hindu pujas during Dussehra, Naimittika, Shivaratri, and Sikh ceremonies such as Akhandpath. Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Jain, Mormon, Catholic, Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim workers would benefit from this.
This legislation is supported by Americans For Democracy & Human Rights In Bahrain, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Hindu American Foundation, the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the Islamic Information Center, the Jubilee Campaign USA, the Church Of Scientology National Affairs Office, the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church Of America, Shia Rights Watch, the Union Of Councils For Jews In The Former Soviet Union (UCSJ), the Universal Muslim Association Of America, and the American Gudwara Parabandhak Committee.
The Hindu American Foundation: “Religious freedom is a bedrock of American society. However, religious freedom is meaningless without access to clergy, religious workers, and houses of worship. By removing bureaucratic barriers preventing religious workers from serving the American people, the Freedom of Faith Act further strengthens our collective religious freedom.”
The American Jewish Community: “The Freedom of Faith Act is a common sense solution that ensures religious communities are able to adequately maintain their houses of worship and other religious institutions. Permanent authorization of the Religious Worker Visa Program would strengthen the constitutional protections of religious liberty in the United States by ensuring that all congregations have access to trained clergy and religious workers.”
The Universal Muslim Association of America: “Many religious centers in the United States go without proper religious instruction or guidance. For minority groups with religious texts or services in different languages, this problem is exacerbated and the need for religious scholars to come from abroad is even more obvious. By allowing accredited and recognized religious scholars and preachers to come to the United States to promote authentic religious beliefs, this bill allows countless Americans increased opportunities to practice their faith.”
United Conference of Catholic Bishops: “A permanent legislative extension would ensure the continuation of this important program and would provide a measure of stability that would allow religious organizations to plan ahead. With the rapid decrease in the number of Americans turning to religious vocations, religious organizations are experiencing an acute shortage of non-minister religious workers in the United States. In these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever that fiath-based organizations be able to serve the community through the essential services provided by religious workers. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops urges the 112th Congress to make this possible by permamently extending the Non-Minister Religious Worker Visa Program.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations: “We applaud the introduction of the Freedom of Faith Act which unchains the Special Immigrant Non-Minister provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act from the unnecessary burden of continuous congressional reauthorization. This will free the nation's communities of worship to expand the needed public services that they provide. Without the adoption of the Freedom of Faith Act, America's faith leaders will remain hindered with the uncertainty of whether or not they can rely on this visa program to fully serve the needs and interests of their communities.”
Communications Director Carmen Russell | (202) 308-4005 | firstname.lastname@example.org