A coalition of religious groups led by evangelical Christians on Wednesday won the endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Speaker Newt Gingrich for its bill mandating economic sanctions against countries engaging in religious persecution, underlining its new status as a dominant force in the foreign policy debate over human rights.
The measure known as the Freedom From Religious Persecution Act of 1997 would create a new office within the White House to monitor the treatment of religious minorities around the world. It would also require economic sanctions against nations that abuse its citizens on the basis of their religion. And it would give those fleeing religious persecution priority over other types of refugees in gaining entry into the United States.
With the backing of the Republican leadership, the bill is likely to pass but with some amendments.
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