Today, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley), along with his Republican colleague Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) introduced the bipartisan Freedom of Faith Act, which will make permanent the visa program for non-minister religious workers. The current visa program is set to expire at the end of this month.
"America's faith communities are a vibrant part of the fabric of our country. They promote community building and preserve religious history. Ensuring that they have a flourishing workforce will help preserve the services provided by our religious institutions without interruption," Congressman Honda said. "People turn to their faith for guidance, in times of need, and to connect with other followers of their faith. Taking this commonsense measure will provide stability and ensure that people can always rely on their faith-based communities."
The Freedom of Faith Act will benefit America's numerous faith communities by providing consistent access to trained religious workers. These workers teach in religious schools, give spiritual counsel, design and build places of worship, and provide specialized religious knowledge. They fill a dramatic shortage in the religions workforce and training facilities in the United States, and provide a link for faith communities to their ancestral roots.
The full text of the bill is available here.
Reps. Jolly, Chu, Swalwell, Gabbard, Lowenthal, Meng, Tim Ryan, Peters, and Lofgren also cosigned the bill.
The Jubilee Campaign USA, the Hindu American Foundation, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America support this bipartisan legislation.
"AJC applauds the introduction by Rep. Mike Honda of the Freedom of Faith Act, legislation that would permanently authorize the Special Immigrant Non-Minister provision in the Religious Worker Visa Program. Under this important program, a maximum of 5,000 visas are available each year for religious workers employed by a broad range of religious denominations and organizations." - Richard Foltin, Director of National and Legislative Affairs, American Jewish Committee
"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. There is no better way to honor the Pope's historic visit than to pass this vital legislation." -Hindu America Foundation
"The Council on American-Islamic Relations: The Freedom of Faith Act ensures that our nation's houses of worship are well staffed with skilled religious workers who have immigrated here for the special purpose of strengthening local faith based communities and public service programs. Congress must break the cycle of continually having to reauthorize the Special Immigrant Non-Minister provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. America's Muslim community strongly urges for the quick adoption of the Freedom of Faith Act, otherwise all communities of faith will be unable to fully serve the needs and interests of the nation." -Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)