WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced his latest effort in defense of religious minorities abroad. He is joining his colleagues, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to continue American help for members of religious groups that are forced to flee their homes due to persecution.
Originally enacted in 1990, the Lautenberg Amendment streamlines the process for historically persecuted groups to obtain refugee status. In recent years, these protections have primarily assisted Jews, Christians, Baha'is, and other religious minorities fleeing Iran. Without legislative action, the Lautenberg Amendment will expire at the end of fiscal year 2014.
"America was founded by those who fled their homeland in search of religious freedom," said Sen. Toomey. "Over the centuries we have assisted beleaguered people forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs. "Religious freedom is a natural right for everyone and I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to support renewing the Lautenberg Amendment."
Said Jeffrey H. Finkelstein, CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh:
"For more than 20 years, the Lautenberg Amendment has served as a critical lifeline for individuals fleeing religious persecution. Today, the provisions of the amendment largely help religious minorities to flee from Iran to the United States. With more than 400,000 beneficiaries of the Lautenberg amendment, renewing the Lautenberg amendment is a critical step in assisting these individuals in preserving their religious freedoms. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh thanks Sen. Toomey for his support of this amendment and his advocacy on behalf of religious minorities."
Said Robin Schatz, Director of Government Affairs, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia:
"The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia thanks Sen. Toomey for his leadership on this issue. The Lautenberg amendment has been a staple for 20 years in assisting religious minorities flee oppressive countries, like Iran."
In December 2013, Sen. Toomey spearheaded the passage of a bipartisan resolution condemning Iran's state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority. Additionally, Sen. Toomey and a bipartisan group of Senators are working to ensure that roughly 2,700 Jewish artifacts, including Torah parchments and ancient prayer books discovered in Iraq, are re-located to an area which is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants.