Written by Don Byrd

Congress passed and President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 into law, funding the government through September to avoid a budget impasse and government shutdown. Included in the deal were a some funding provisions of religious liberty interest.

Via People For the American Way, the law includes $45 million in funding to continue the D.C. school voucher program. President Trump celebrated the voucher funding by making an unscheduled appearance at a White House event for D.C. students hosted by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. See Division E, Title IV in the bill for details.

Like other school voucher programs, the D.C. scholarships initiative sends taxpayer funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including those providing religious education. 

Via Religion Clause, the bill also includes funding for international religious freedom efforts:

  • $10 million from the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, to be allocated in consultation with the yet-to-be-named Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom;
  • $10 million from the Economic Support Fund to “protect vulnerable and persecuted religious minorities;”
  • $5 million to implement “a plan for transitional justice, reconciliation, and reintegration programs for vulnerable and persecuted religious minorities” in Iraq and Syria.

Plus additional funding authorization:

  • for the development of an “international religious freedom curriculum”
  • for “humanitarian assistance for vulnerable and persecuted religious minorities, including victims of genocide designated by the Secretary of State and other groups that have suffered crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing;”
  • for international broadcasting on “the condition of vulnerable and persecuted religious groups” 
  • “to prevent atrocities and to implement the recommendations of the Atrocities Prevention Board….”

The President is also required to “review and identify non-state actors” in countries that have “engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” See Section 7033 under Title VII of Division J of the Act for more details.