Presidential candidate hopeful Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has called on the U.S. government to stop sending foreign aid to nations that persecute Christians.
"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul told the audience at this week.
He was speaking at the June 13 to 15 Faith and Freedom Conference, attended by politically conservative leaders in Washington, D.C.
"There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide.
"And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it," he said.
"You are being taxed to send money to countries that are not only intolerant of Christians but openly hostile," Paul said. "Christians are imprisoned and threatened with death for their beliefs."
The Republican senator has publicly opposed foreign aid in the past, but had not stated this as being due to the persecution of Christians.
Doug Wead, a best-selling author and adviser to two presidents, praised Paul for his remarks.
Wead said in an opinion piece for WND that Paul "has become the first public figure to openly declare what Americans have been bemoaning for the last generation - that there is a war against Christianity."
He said, "Catholics and born-again Christians have talked about the danger for years.
"In the 1990s, during my stint in the White House as special assistant to the president, I was constantly called on to help Christians who were thrown into prisons or slated for execution all over the world. "
Speaking to an audience of evangelical Christians and Jews, Paul blasted his colleagues in the U.S. Congress for defeating a bill he had sponsored last year to cut foreign aid to countries that he says have worked against American national interests.
"How do your leaders respond? Ninety percent of them voted against my bill that would have put restrictions on this aid," he said.
Paul also chastised the U.S. Senate for currently seeking to fund rebels in Syria who he said are affiliated with Al Quaeda, noting that Iraqi Christians "fled in droves" to that country because of the fear of persecution after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
"Where did these Christians go? They headed mostly for Syria, joining the over one million Syrians who have lived as Christians since the time of Christ. "
PROTECTION IN SYRIA
While Paul said that the members of Congress were motivated by a desire to end the violence there, he said that their "actions will bring more violence and more persecution of Christians who have been long protected in Syria."
To support his views, Paul cited cases of persecution and other abuses by nations that receive U.S. financial assistance.
"In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian, sits on death row. Her crime, according to her, is that she dared to drink from a glass that belonged to a Muslim co-worker.
"According to her co-workers, she insulted the Prophet. In our country, we refer to such quibbling as gossip. In Pakistan, if you are a Christian, it can land you on death row. "
The Republican senator also decried the imprisonment and torture of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician credited with helping the U.S. track down Osama Bin Laden.
"Dr. Shakil Afridi is not a Christian, but his imprisonment by Pakistan is nonetheless an injustice," he said.
The previous measure sponsored by Paul denied aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan, he said, unless they turned over the killers of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador murdered in Benghazi, assured the U.S. government that they would protect American embassies, and secured the release of Afridi.
Paul spoke of his own Christian beliefs in September, according to the Christian Post. He said that he had arrived at his own faith, quoting Russian 19th century novelists Fyodor Dostoevsky, "through a fiery furnace of doubt."
DOUBT AND FAITH
"My faith has never been easy for me," Paul said at the time, "It has never been easy to talk about and never been without obstacles.
"I do not and cannot wear my religion on my sleeve.
I am a Christian but not always a good one. I'm not completely free of doubts. I struggle to understand man's inhumanity to man. I struggle to understand the horrible tragedies that war inflicts on our young men and women."
In his September speech to the Values Voter Summit, Paul said America was in a moral and spiritual crisis.
"I don't think the answer is in any politician," he said. "I don't think the answer is in any particular law. I think the answer really is that we need to somehow find our way back to God, find our way back."
Paul has said that he is considering a run for president in 2016.
The Faith and Freedom Conference is thought to be a needed stop on the Republican campaign trail, since Evangelicals make up a part of the party's base.