Congressmen Fight Religious Intolerance in Sri Lanka

Some 15 House Democrats and Republicans sent a letter to Sri Lanka's ambassador.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Some 15 House Democrats and Republicans have issued a letter to Sri Lanka's ambassador asking that the government table legislation outlawing religious conversion. In the letter to Jaliya Wickramasuriya, the 15 urged Sri Lanka's parliament to vote down the bill, which won approval in an earlier vote. "We believe that this proposed legislation will harm, not protect, the freedom of religion of the Sri Lankan people," wrote the signers. "This anti-conversion bill is overbroad and targets all religious conversions, not just 'unethical conversions.' " The letter was provided to Whispers from the Becket Fund, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm. The Democrats on the letter are James McGovern, Massachusetts; Rush Holt, New Jersey; Michael McMahon, New York; Bart Gordon, Tennessee; and Maurice Hinchey, New York. Republicans are Todd Akin, Missouri; Trent Franks, Arizona; Bob Inglis, South Carolina; Frank Wolf, Virginia; Scott Garrett, New Jersey; Joseph Pitts, Pennsylvania; Paul Broun, Georgia; Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan; John McHugh, New York; and Robert Aderholt, Alabama. The bill would impose a $4,400 fine and up to seven years in prison for those trying to convert. Passage of the bill, said a Becket Fund official, could have a harmful economic impact if religious charities stopped sending money.

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