Frank R. Wolf: Religious Freedom Hero

Frank R. Wolf’s life changed in 1984. As the U.S. Congressman from the 10th District of the state of Virginia, he flew to famine-ravaged Ethiopia at the behest of a fellow congressman and found himself delayed in a camp run by World Vision. 

Wolf on mission in Bosnia
Congressman Frank R. Wolf (center) and Senator Dan Coats visit the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital at Camp Bedrock in Bosnia-Herzegovina during Operation Joint Endeavor in 1996. (Public Domain)

Next door was another camp, this one run by Mother Theresa. What he saw in the camps—the hopelessness and suffering, the smell of death, the feverish efforts of overworked volunteers trying to at least ease the agony of those who were doomed—made an impact on him that lasted a lifetime.

“Then in ’85, I went to Romania, which was darker than probably Moscow, in kilowatts and evil,” Wolf remembered. “They were bulldozing churches and arresting Christians. So those two trips. . .really changed a lot of what I did in Congress.”

From that day on, the congressman became a human rights crusader over a multi-decade career of service on Capitol Hill. He founded and chaired or co-chaired the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (later renamed the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission), a bipartisan organization made up of nearly 200 Members of Congress who work together to raise awareness about international human rights issues.

Of the nearly 6,000 bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Frank R. Wolf, many directly attacked human rights violations and the flouting of religious freedom around the world. To read the titles of some of the bills is to gain an insight as to where his heart lies: Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act; Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act; Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act; Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act; International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking Act; to name just a very few.

Authored and sponsored by Wolf, and arguably his magnum opus is the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which forever made religious freedom part of U.S. foreign policy. (Updated six years ago, the legislation was renamed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.)

Wherever human rights have been violated, wherever religious freedom has been trampled, wherever there has been suffering inflicted by human beings on fellow human beings, it is likely Frank R. Wolf has been there to witness, record and denounce. From Sudan to Sierra Leone to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Darfur, he has been there to call attention to abuses and the anguish that follows in their wake. He has called out religious persecution in the People's Republic of China, Tibet, Romania, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and the Middle East.

And now, after a long and distinguished career, the former congressman’s journey has come full circle. Appointed this past month to serve as a commissioner on the very agency he created, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), he will be empowered to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

Commissioner Wolf’s path became clear that day in 1984 when a delay forced him to stay in a displacement camp and confront what happens when human beings are treated inhumanely. He has not deviated from that path in the ensuing nearly 40 years.

When an interviewer asked Mr. Wolf, “What do you want people to say about you? What do you want your gravestone to say?” his answer was simple: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.

The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.

The Founder of the Scientology religion is L. Ron Hubbard and Mr. David Miscavige is the religion’s ecclesiastical leader.

For more information visit the Scientology website or Scientology Network.

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Frank R. Wolf USCIRF