Commissioners respond to NNPCW statement
By Robert P. Mills, The Presbyterian Layman, October 23, 1998
The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, has sent the following letter to selected Senators and to Rep. Frank Wolf, author of a religious freedom bill.
October 1, 1998
As the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I am writing to you with concern about religious freedom around the world. I understand that bills on this matter will come before the Senate in the immediate future. We trust that the Senate will take time to study this issue carefully.
I wrote to you in July urging attention to several principles we urge be incorporated in any religious freedom legislation, in accordance with stances of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
1. Include all forms of religious persecution, wherever they are found, without reference to particular religious communities.
2. Place religious persecution in its appropriate context alongside other basic human rights.
3. Avoid any automatic or politically-motivated imposition of economic sanctions as a means of stopping religious persecution.
I would add at this time two additional concerns:
1. Include within the purview of the bill institutionalized discrimination based upon religious affiliation that prohibits persons from particular groups from enjoying full privileges of citizenship (such as lack of access to education, political and corporate life, or even military and law enforcement service and their benefits).
2. Avoid politicization of any processes related to the overview of religious freedom. The advisory panel of the State Department will be best able to act as a review body.
I have been encouraged by the revisions made to the Nickles-Lieberman bill in the recent past, in response to critiques that have been offered. Were the above positions included in the bill, I would urge your support of it.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has had long-term concern for religious freedom. We are concerned that communities and individuals be accorded full religious freedom to witness publicly to their faith, to be able to move from one faith community to another without fear, and to enjoy full equality of citizenship, irrespective of their religious faith. In this context, we have pledged to support church partners in areas where there are major populations of other faith groups. Our sense of urgency about the current Congressional debate is heightened by our awareness that others around the world are watching potential United States action on this issue. They hope for appropriate support for human rights. We urge you to give full consideration to the weighty matters before you.
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly