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NARLA honors U.S. senator with Congressional Award for promoting religious freedom

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NARLA honors U.S. senator with Congressional Award for promoting religious freedom

The North American Religious Liberty Association presented its Congressional Award to U.S. Senator Roy Blunt on Tuesday, May 14 in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C. From left: Shawn D'Abreu, a NARLA advocate from Blunt's home state of Missouri; Senator Blunt; Dwayne Leslie, legislative affairs director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church; and Melissa Reid, NARLA's executive director. [photo: Ansel Oliver]

Missouri Senator Blunt is lead sponsor of bill to establish special envoy to Asia

May 15, 2014 | Washington, D.C. | Ansel Oliver/ANN

The North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA) presented its Congressional Award this week to a United States senator known for his advocacy of religious freedom, and who is urging fellow lawmakers to create a unique position to help protect religious minorities in Asia.

Roy Blunt, who represents the state of Missouri, is the lead sponsor of bill S. 653, which would establish a special envoy to promote religious freedom for minorities in the Middle East and Southern Asia.

NARLA has lobbied legislators on behalf of the bill during the past year. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar resolution in September.

The details of the bill and what’s preventing its passage in the Senate were outlined last month in an op-ed by Dwayne Leslie, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s director of legislative affairs.

Leslie presented the Congressional Award to Blunt on Tuesday, along with Melissa Reid, NARLA’s executive director, and Shawn D'Abreu, a NARLA advocate from Blunt’s home state of Missouri.

“The world has gotten to be a dangerous place for standing up for your religious beliefs. … Thank you for what you do,” Blunt told the group during a visit in his Capitol Hill office.

The Congressional Award is typically presented during the annual Religious Liberty Dinner. A scheduling conflict prevented Blunt from being able to attend. Both NARLA and the Seventh-day Adventist Church are sponsors of the annual event.

“It was a privilege to honor Senator Blunt with our Congressional Award,” said Melissa Reid, NARLA’s executive director. “He has been a true ally in our quest to better protect the vulnerable religious freedom of all people everywhere.”

Blunt, who previously served as president of a Baptist university and as a member of the House of Representatives for 14 years, pledged to continue urging other areas of the federal government to promote freedom of conscience.

Both Blunt and Leslie stressed the need for the U.S. State Department to fill its position of ambassador of religious freedom, a role that has been vacant since October.

“I don’t think you can have too many voices on this issue,” Leslie said.

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