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posted: 8/22/2014 5:01 AM

U.S. must safeguard religious freedom of all

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I joined all Americans in breathing a sigh of relief as we heard of the safe passage of Meriam Ibrahim and her family from our American Embassy in Sudan to New Hampshire and away from danger. Ibrahim, who was under a state death sentence for the past year for her conversion to Christianity, and who was forced to bear a child in a Sudanese prison, showed calm in the face of daunting circumstances.

The picture of Ibrahim holding her 20-month-old son and newborn daughter in the Sudanese prison is engraved in my memory. As co-sponsor of a congressional resolution condemning her death sentence and reaffirming our commitment to combat religious persecution at home or abroad, I am thrilled with her release.

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Stories like Ibrahim's are a reminder that we must safeguard the freedom of everyone everywhere to worship openly without fear of discrimination, violence or government reprisal. Freedom of religion is America's first freedom. From Thomas Jefferson's thundering words, "No provision in our constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against enterprises of civil authority," our country has called out religious persecution wherever it exists.

That's why I also support a House resolution condemning Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i religious minority and continued violation of human rights. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has killed or executed more than 200 Baha'i leaders, and many more face arrests, are restricted from getting an education and face restrictions on worship, as detailed by the bipartisan and independent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The day we stop defending religious freedom is the day we lose the right to enjoy our own individual liberties. An attack on the beliefs of one is an attack on us all.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

14th Congressional District

Winfield

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