Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation, released the following statement on the passing of former New Jersey Congressman Bob Roe Tuesday:
“Bob Roe was an extraordinarily effective lawmaker, always fair, tenacious, focused—a true workhorse for the people,” said Smith. “As chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, he made enduring contributions to the infrastructure of not only New Jersey but the rest of the nation as well. I will miss him.”
Smith noted that even after his retirement, Roe would visit him occasionally in Washington. Smith, a Republican first elected in 1980, served for more than a decade with Roe, a Democrat elected in 1969 who left office in 1993.
"Mr. Speaker, I move that the House suspend the rules and pass H.R. 4653, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2014, as amended, authored by Chairman Frank Wolf of Virginia.
"H.R. 4653 demonstrates the strong bipartisan support that exists for religious freedom, with nearly an equal number of Republican and Democrat co-sponsors. This makes for a powerful statement in a world where we see the rights of religious minorities and conscientious objectors being trampled upon in countries where intolerant ideologies, be they of a sectarian or secular nature, seek to crush moral and spiritual thought and conscience.
"The headlines are filled with examples. A 27-year old mother in Sudan was imprisoned and faced a death sentence in Sudan because under Sharia law she was considered an apostate as the child of a Muslim father, even though the only religion she herself had ever professed was Christianity. To this day, Meriam Ibrahim remains unable to leave Sudan.
"Anti-Semitism, pervasive and lethal in the Middle East, has spread like a cancer in many parts of Europe and has resurfaced in Ukraine with a series of shocking and violent attacks following the ouster of former Prime Minister Yanukovich.
"In Communist dictatorships such as China, religious believers are imprisoned, tortured and even executed for attempting to practice their faith. In China today, there is a pernicious, escalating war on believers made worse by the wanton brutality of the regime’s ubiquitous secret police. In North Korea, the situation couldn’t be more dire, with Christians in particular subject to what human rights observers have termed genocide, dying by the tens of thousands from starvation and torture in concentration camps for daring to hold true to their consciences—that innermost sanctuary of the individual.
"Tragically, many countries of the world are a long way from achieving the human right of religious freedom recognized by Article 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
"In 1998, with great legislative skill, commitment and driving passion, Chairman Frank Wolf pushed a supportive Congress but highly reluctant White House into enacting a singularly important human rights law—the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
"For the first time ever, Frank Wolf’s law made the protection and promotion of religious freedom a serious priority in U.S. foreign policy by creating an Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, by establishing the Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State—which among other duties, compiles the International Religious Freedom Reports on every country in the world—and by crafting the independent-minded U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the subject of today’s reauthorization.
"Importantly, Frank Wolf’s landmark law also created a system for naming and taking action against Countries of Particular Concern, or CPCs. History has shown that when the U.S. elevates religious freedom and that priority is conveyed to Countries of Particular Concern, conditions often change for the better, prisoners of conscience gain their freedom and progress is made in the free or at least freer exercise of religious liberty.
"According to the Commission, three themes guide Commissioner’s discussions on priority countries with severe violations of religious freedom: state-sponsored hostility to and repression of religion; state-sponsored extremist ideology and education; and state failure to prevent and punish religious freedom violations (impunity). Several of the CPC countries that systematically violate religious freedom fall into all three categories
"Mr. Speaker, when an Administration—be it Republican or Democrat—demotes or trivializes religious freedom to a minor talking point, human rights abusing nations construe such indifference as license to harass and exploit persons of faith.
"Since its founding, the International Religious Freedom Commission has issued 15 annual reports and 14 special reports covering 76 countries. Of these, the Commission has identified 16 of these as countries that should be designated CPCs.
"I should also point out that in the Commission has acted as a true watchdog, recommending with incisive commentary twice as many countries as CPCs than the State Department has designated as Countries of Particular Concern. This includes nations such as Vietnam, which is an egregious violator of the rights of religious minorities. The Commission, however, calls it like it is and pulls no punches.
"It is unfortunate that, while CPC designations remain, the penalties associated with the designations have now essentially lapsed. The last designations by the Obama Administration were in 2011, and as two years have passed, the sanctions directly linked to the International Religious Freedom Act’s sanctions authority have expired. This failure to implement our law on religious freedom sends a deeply troubling message to violators of this fundamental human right. It is thus even more important that we in Congress speak with a clear voice today.
"Two and a half years ago, after passing with strong bipartisan support in the House, reauthorization for the Commission got bogged down in the Senate.
"This time we hope we can avoid such a repeat. In the House there has been tremendous cooperation on both sides of the aisle. We have had excellent input from the Commission throughout this process, including testimony from then-Chairman Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, at a hearing my subcommittee held this past May 22. (On July 1, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett was elected as the new Chair, Dr. George is now Vice Chair.) Members from religious minority communities – Muslim, Bah’ai and Christian – spoke about the importance of the work of the Commission in Iran, China and Pakistan helping shine a light on the serious abuses that take place in all three countries, and in so doing, elevated an issue that is of grave concern in far too many countries of the world today.
"I therefore ask all our colleagues to join us in supporting this fine bipartisan piece of legislation, sending an important message to the world that the United States values religious liberty, and that it should continue to be a cornerstone of our foreign policy."
Rep. Chris Smith celebrated the official opening of the newly reconstructed Ocean Grove Boardwalk today, joining the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) in cutting the ribbon on the boardwalk that was largely destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. The federal funding for the project came after Smith and others worked with the Association as they appealed two previous denials.
Standing alongside Governor Chris Christie, President of the OGCMA Dr. Dale C. Whilden, Senator Jennifer Beck, and Neptune Township Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley, Smith praised the community for its resiliency and the partnership between federal, state, and local leaders that helped reverse FEMA’s original decision and strong opposition to the reconstruction project.
“Today is truly a great day for Ocean Grove, Neptune Township, Monmouth County, and the Jersey Shore, and a critical step forward in our recovery from Sandy,” said Smith. “This boardwalk is an integral part of Ocean Grove the neighboring Jersey Shore community, a fact we reinforced during our efforts to reverse FEMA’s original decision at the local level—and yet another at the regional level—to deny critical funding.”
“With unrelenting determination and teamwork, we brought the case to critical decision makers in Washington, holding meetings with FEMA in my congressional office. On the second appeal, a skillful oral presentation given to FEMA by Ocean Grove leaders left no doubt as to the boardwalk’s important emergency and public health and safety function—resulting in FEMA’s reversal,” continued Smith.
“Not long after the Storm I visited the boardwalk, and vividly remember the total devastation all around. Dr. Whilden, J.P Gradone, Bill Bailey, Ralph DelCampo and all those with OGCMA deserve great credit for their tenacity and tireless efforts to rebuild and restore the Ocean Grove community and boardwalk.”
FEMA originally deemed OGCMA ineligible for federal assistance as a private, nonprofit entity, despite facts to the contrary. Following the denial, Smith helped lead an effort with OGCMA leadership, Governor Chris Christie’s office, and in particular, NJ “Sandy Czar,” Mark Ferzan, Neptune Township and Ocean Grove’s state legislators—State Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini—to petition the federal agency in Washington to reverse its decision.
Following several discussions and meetings in Washington, including a pivotal June session in Smith’s Washington, D.C. office with top FEMA officials—and a letter to FEMA making the request—the Agency agreed to allow Ocean Grove’s leaders to present an oral argument on second appeal in Washington.
In the appeal process, the OGCMA—the non-profit organization which owns the boardwalk—demonstrated that it has a unique history in helping with government services in Ocean Grove. They demonstrated further that the boardwalk is a vital economic artery for businesses in Ocean Grove and neighboring towns, and is also a heavily-traveled thoroughfare used by police and emergency services to access to the beaches, connecting Neptune to the towns of Asbury Park to the north and Bradley Beach to the south.
In December 2013, FEMA announced its reversal and deemed the Ocean Grove boardwalk an eligible facility for federal public assistance. On February 4, 2014, Ocean Grove received final notice that a federal grant for the construction of the boardwalk would be available, and on February 7, Smith met with key personnel from the local, state and federal levels for the project’s planning meeting. On May 9, Rep. Smith announced an award of $2,377,629 in federal funding for reconstruction of the boardwalk.
Smith also worked to persuade FEMA to approve a 90 percent federal share for FEMA funding going to all Jersey public assistance programs that pay for cleanup and reconstruction costs—instead of the initially planned 75 percent.
“The FEMA grant for Ocean Grove represents 90 percent of the cost of this work, while the CMA cost share is only 10 percent,” Smith said. “Had FEMA not raised the cost-share rate from 75 to 90 percent, the added cost to Ocean Grove would have been nearly $400,000 more.”
Above: Rep. Chris Smith and Governor Chris Christie (center) cut the ribbon on the new Ocean Grove boardwalk as (from left) Dr. Dale Whilden, Assemblywoman Caroline Cassagrande, Senator Jennifer Beck, and Neptune Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley look on.
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Baku, Azerbaijan—Child sex trafficking and anti-Semitism were the subjects of Rep. Chris Smith’s successful legislative efforts this week at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. The Assembly, consisting of parliamentarians representing the 57 countries that make up the OSCE, conducted its 22nd annual conference from June 28-July 2, at which parliamentarians from member states discussed their response to the Ukraine crisis, human rights violations in a number of member states, and other foreign policy issues. Rep. Smith (NJ-04) was the head of the eight-member U.S. Delegation to the Assembly.
Smith’s resolution on child sex trafficking urged member states to adopt a series of specific measures that would protect child victims, promote effective prosecution of offenders, and coordinate action between countries in the event of international travel by convicted child sex offenders. The resolution contained many elements of Smith’s International Megan’s Law, H.R. 4573, passed by the House of Representatives on May 20. Click here to see the debate on Smith’s resolution.
The conference also adopted Rep. Smith’s amendment on anti-Semitism, re-affirming the unambiguous condemnation of anti-Semitism by the 2004 Berlin Declaration. The Declaration resulted from Smith’s initiative to put the issue of fighting anti-Semitism on the OSCE agenda, as anti-Semitism had made a frightening resurgence sometimes masked as opposition to Israel. Smith’s efforts resulted in a series of high-level conferences, the chief of which was the 2004 Berlin Conference, attended by Smith and then-Secretary of State Powell, at which the organization’s members committed themselves to concrete steps in the fight against anti-Semitism. In the past year, Smith has supported Rabbi Andy Baker, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, in his efforts to review progress on those commitments.
Smith also addressed the lawmakers, urging them to renew and increase their commitment to combating anti-Semitic and anti-Christian extremism. Click here to see Smith’s remarks, excerpted below:
“I would point out to my colleagues that just two months ago the Anti-Defamation League released the largest survey ever on anti-Semitism: more than 53,000 people were interviewed in 102 countries, covering approximately 86% of the world’s population. They found that 26% of those polled had deeply anti-Semitic views. The worst place of all, not surprisingly, was the Middle East and Northern Africa.
“We need to be doing more, Mr. Chairman, and I do believe with the 10-year anniversary commemoration coming up for the Berlin Action Plan, that very, very watershed event, we need as a Parliamentary Assembly to be redoubling our effort.
“By way of background, Mr. Chairman, members should know that at the Berlin 2002 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I sponsored the first resolution on combating anti-Semitism. Also in 2002 I chaired a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism in Washington and proposed that the OSCE itself schedule a major conference on combating anti-Semitism.
“As many of you know, the Bush Administration agreed and U.S. Ambassador Stephan Minikes worked with his fellow ambassadors to make those conferences – because it became plural – a reality. The first conference was held in Vienna, followed by the conference in Berlin, in 2004. And we are now at Berlin +10 and it is time to begin the assessment of where we have been and where we need to be.
“In Berlin the OSCE adopted a comprehensive plan of action, including chronicling acts of anti-Semitic hate, trying to make systemic changes in our legal systems, and of course Holocaust education so that young men and young women would be sensitized to the terrible bias that underlies anti-Semitism.
“It was in Berlin that Natan Sharansky defined the newest, emerging manifestation of anti-Semitism, which he described as the Three D’s – first, demonization of Israel, double standards applied to Israel and other countries, and de-legitimization of Israel’s right to exist, the third D. He said everyone has the right to disagree with Israeli policies, but very often those disagreements simply camouflage underlying anti-Semitic hate.
After urging a redoubling of the efforts in each country to combat anti-Semitism, Smith also focused on the increasing incidents of Christian persecution world-wide:
“There is a rise of anti-Christian belief as well, worldwide. Pope Francis is right when he says the greatest persecution in the world today is against Christians. I’ve held 50 hearings on persecution and human rights violations in China alone, where Christians in particular, as well as some others like the Falun Gong, are terribly discriminated against and tortured. But it does happen in the OSCE space as well. Sometimes it’s more nuanced. But it does happen where Christians are marginalized and left out. “We know that Christians in Syria are targeted simply because they are Christians – beheaded and killed in the most horrific of ways in that terrible conflict.
“I just returned, Mr. Chairman, from Nigeria – I was in Jos last September, and I was in Abuja three weeks ago. I met with many survivors who’ve had their homes raided by night, particularly in the northern three states, but also below those three states. One man I met in an IDP camp in September, Habila Adamu, told me that a gun was put to his head: ‘renounce your faith, become a Muslim or you die!’ He said, ‘I’m ready to meet my Lord.’ He was shot; he survived with half his face blown away. That is the reality of what these extremist groups are all about.”
NEW JERSEY - U.S. Representatives Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) today strongly condemned the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to grant the necessary authorization to allow a proposed seismic testing survey off of Barnegat Bay and the Jersey Shore to go forward.
“I’m deeply disappointed with NOAA’s decision to allow seismic testing off of the Jersey Shore despite near-unanimous opposition from local concerned residents, commercial and recreational fishermen, and environmentalists for the proposed project,” said Representative LoBiondo. “Congressman Smith and I have repeatedly pressed NOAA to recognize the serious and significant reservations of our communities and those who visit the Jersey Shore during the summer tourism season. There are legitimate questions unanswered about the impact to local marine life, the potential damage to endangered species and habitats, and the need to do such research at this time in the first place.”
“It is unacceptable that the National Science Foundation and NOAA have chosen to proceed with the seismic study off the New Jersey coast. The citizens of the Fourth Congressional District—which includes coastal towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties—as well as numerous local, state and national fishing and environmental groups, have voiced disapproval with the timing of this study. With a wide variety of marine life active off our shores at the peak of summer and New Jersey’s fishing industry still recovering from natural disasters, Congressman LoBiondo and I echo the concerns of local residents: this is an ill-advised move,” said Representative Smith.
Under the NOAA authorization, Rutgers University in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF) would conduct a seismic survey 25-85 kilometers offshore New Jersey from June through August 2014 aboard a vessel owned by NSF. LoBiondo and Smith opposed the survey, arguing in a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan in April 2014 that “The New Jersey shore’s environmental and commercial vitality may be impacted negatively from this marine seismic survey. While we fully support scientific research, any proposal for this kind of research must be scrutinized and examined thoroughly before New Jersey communities are exposed to the potentially harmful impacts of this seismic testing.”
The Congressmen succeeded in having NOAA extend the public comment period for an additional 30 days so local opposition could be heard. The comment period ended on May 16, 2014. LoBiondo will be attending a town meeting hosted by Clean Ocean Action and other concerned citizens in Barnegat Light on Wednesday evening.
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chair of the Bi-partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decisions today in the religious freedom cases of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell:
“This is a resounding victory for religious freedom, and more than that, freedom for all Americans who want to live and work according to the dictates of their conscience. In handing the Obama Administration this historic defeat, the Court has upheld the conscience rights of Americans, including the Green and Hahn family businesses, and provided much needed relief from a discriminatory Obamacare policy. The Court’s decision also exposes the Constitutional problems inherent in this Obamacare mandate forcing American family business-owners to either violate their moral and religious beliefs by paying for insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs and devices—or pay massive fines to provide health insurance for their employees.
“Notwithstanding today's victory affirming that Americans do not lose their conscience rights in the workplace, we must not forget that there remain more than 50 cases involving nonprofit organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and the Little Sisters of the Poor, which have sought similar relief in the courts in order to follow their religious beliefs as they provide healthcare for their employees. Next the Court will have to consider the Obama Administration's coercive rule, (the so-called ‘accommodation’) for religious nonprofits. This ‘accommodation’ is a distinction without a difference, and fails to protect the freedoms of charities that provide services to Americans and instead forces them to be complicit in activities they morally oppose. President Obama’s attempt to force these faith-based organizations to violate their religious beliefs cannot possibly stand after today’s decision.
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2014—In response to reports that Israeli officials have found the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted earlier this month in the West Bank, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House panel that oversees international human rights, said:
“My heart goes out to everyone who knew these young men, especially their families. The death of a young man is always a terrible loss, but this is made worse by the hateful crime that ended their lives. Let’s remember them in our prayers – and support the Israeli government as it seeks justice for the victims and their families and holds accountable those who committed this horrific crime.
Smith, a Senior Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights & International Organizations, has been a congressional leader in the fight against anti-Semitism for three decades. Smith authored the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department. More recently, on January 30, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed Smith’s amendment to the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 (H.R. 938) – the Smith amendment added a section to the bill providing that “the Department of State should continue and, to the furthest extent practicable, increase its coordination on monitoring and combating anti-Semitism with the Government of Israel.”
Smith has chaired six hearings on anti-Semitism, including Congress’s first-ever hearings on anti-Semitism. Following Smith’s landmark 2002 hearing, “Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe,” he led a congressional drive to place the issue of combating anti-Semitism at the top of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agenda. As a result, in 2004 the OSCE adopted new norms for its 56 member states on fighting anti-Semitism, and from 2004 to the present has held a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism. Rep. Smith is the author of numerous laws, resolutions, and member letters on combating anti-Semitism. In the 1990s Smith chaired Congress’s first hearings on anti-Semitism and in the early 1980s his first trips abroad as a member of Congress were to the former Soviet Union, where he fought for the release of Jewish “refuseniks.” He is co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (an organization of Members of Congress) and a member of the steering committee of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism.
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Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.
Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.
According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.
He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.
Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.
A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.
The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.
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Today's Subcommittee hearing on The Growing Crisis of Africa's Orphans will being shortly; tune in here: http://t.co/qTbwf1kxc5
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