Week Ending September 19, 2003
Religious Freedom Coalition
September 21, 2003 4:45PM EST
Week Ending September 19, 2003 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK ENDING SEPTEMBER 19, 2003
Week Ending September 19, 2003
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK ENDING SEPTEMBER 19, 2003
CONGRESS IN SESSION
HURRICANE ISABEL SHUTS DOWN RFC OFFICE
Our chairman, William J. Murray, is in Brussels, Belgium at an international conference. In his absence a major storm, Hurricane Isabel, devastated areas of Virginia and Washington, DC. Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia have been declared disaster areas by President George W. Bush. All power and telephone service at our operations office in Fredericksburg, Virginia and at our legislative office in Washington, DC was lost on Thursday the 18th. The loss of power delayed this update. Although some power was restored to our Virginia office on Sunday, power is still out at my home. A tree fell on power lines behind our office building in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In addition, trees fell at Chairman Murray's home and several trees were downed on my property as well.
Other than very good news about the Partial Birth Abortion Ban (PBA) there was very little congressional business to report on in Washington, DC this past week as a result of Hurricane Isabel. All congressional offices closed Wednesday in anticipation of the storm and the President moved from Washington, DC to Camp David in Pennsylvania for security reasons. Even Air Force One was moved to Georgia.
Below is a report on the Interplarlimentary Conference on Religious Freedom filed by William J. Murray this past Friday. Please note that this update is being e-mailed by contracted parties rather than by our own server system. If you receive duplicates or if there is any other problem please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION
After several hours of debate the Senate unanimously passed a motion Wednesday to send the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban (S. 3) to the conference committee. Republican leaders deliberately passed the bill to conference with an amendment by Senator Harkin (D-IO) with pro Roe V. Wade language still in it. Had they not done this the Democrats would have filibustered the appointment of conferees and the PBA would have been further delayed. I am sure many evangelical leaders will criticize Senator Bill Frist for not "fighting it out on the floor" to remove the pro- Roe V.Wade amendment to the bill. Actually a floor fight would not have been good strategy at all. Pro-lifers will control the House-Senate conference committee and any pro-abortion language will be removed from the bill in conference. The PBA will then go to the President for his signature. In other words, don't get excited if you hear that there is pro- Roe V. Wade language in the PBA, because it will be removed in conference.
Peggy Birchfield, Executive Director
Interparliamentary Conference On Religious Freedom by William J. Murray
This week I am in Brussels, Belgium for a conference on Religious Freedom. The conference is sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. The official title of the conference is the Interparliamentary Conference On Human Rights and Religious Freedom, and it is being held in the European Parliament Building. Parliamentarians, that is members of parliaments from around the world, are in attendance. In some cases members of embassy staff have come on behalf of their nations. Representatives of Islamic nations have attended principally to defend their nations' lack of religious freedom, and in some cases the defense is by means of fabrication. For example, the Egyptian delegation insisted that there is total separation of church and state in Egypt and further that there is no religious persecution at all. Hmmm ... my friends in the Coptic Church tell me differently.
Representing the United States was Todd Deatherage from our State Department. Deatherage came directly to the meeting from an official trip to Saudi Arabia. I can only report on his public comments at the actual conference. Quoting from George Washington's farewell address to the American people, he made the point that the denial of one freedom leads to the denial of others. This was a theme repeated by all those from democratic nations.
Law professor and international religious freedom expert Dr. Cole Durham presented a Power Point intended to teach the basics on religious freedom to members of parliaments who attended. Like Todd Deatherage from the State Department he clearly stated that, "Where religious freedom is sacrificed, all other rights are in jeopardy."
It was surprising to me how many delegates attended to defend their nations' actions against religious minorities. A Russian Orthodox priest presented an argument that only "traditional" religions should have an official status with government and that "new" religions could be a threat to society. In Russia many evangelical denominations have been outlawed at the request of the Orthodox church, out of fear of their growth and influence.
It is estimated that as many as 3 billion people in the world do not have true religious freedom and that about 1 million are in jail because of their religious beliefs.
On September 17th I served on a panel addressing the issue of, "How Religious Minorities See Their Place in Law and Society." I opened my segment by pointing out that every religious group in the United States is actually a minority. The largest group, Catholics, comprise only 24.5% of the population and my group, Baptists, comprise only 16.3% of the population. Because there is true religious liberty in the United States, minority religions, regardless of their size, are not repressed. I then pointed to the very different situation in the Islamic world, which comprises a third of the world's population. In addition, over a billion people live in communist nations where religious minorities face real discrimination because of their faith.
At the conclusion of the conference, numerous members of various parliaments, along with myself and those representing other groups signed a document calling for religious freedom in all nations. That document included support for the right of missionary activity and the right for an individual to change his religion. While these freedoms may seem universal to us in the United States, they do not exist in much of the world. Does this kind of conference bring about change? Perhaps not immediately, but it serves notice to those who would violate religious and human rights that the civilized world is watching. Also, those of us who understand why religious freedom is so important to the individual and the world society were able to meet and to plan future actions to bring religious freedom to repressed people.
It was encouraging to see that several of the delegations represented "transition" nations -- principally those in territories formerly dominated by the Soviet Union. They are still working on designing their newly independent governments, and may take to heart some of our warnings about the importance of religious freedom. A more complete report on the conference will appear in the October edition of the William J. Murray Report.
A final word from Brussels: About a year ago my laptop computer just stopped working and was so old it could not be fixed. I mentioned this in an update and in response Rev. Alan Woody, who heads a Florida prison ministry, arranged for me to receive the computer I am using for this trip. Also David Buttram, president of the Gospel Tract Society in Kansas, contributed $2,000 to make this important trip to Brussels possible.
Check our Internet site at www.rfcnet.org for last minute updates! To read the September edition of the William J. Murray Report click here. Please feel free to forward this weekly update to friends. We are now at over 60,000 subscribers .... Get the word out and help us hit the 100,000 mark by the end of the year! See below for subscribe/unsubscribe instructions. God richly bless you, that is my prayer.
William J. Murray, Chairman - Religious Freedom Coalition
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