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Week Ending August 4, 2006 - From Washington, DC
Religious Freedom Coalition
August 4, 2006 1:00PM EST





The Administration of President George W. Bush has been more aggressive in dealing with religious freedom issues around the world than any previous administration. While the Administration has many critics in this area, including myself, the truth is that much as been accomplished. A series of briefings have been held in the White House to bring organizations working for religious freedom up to date on Administration progress. As recently as this week the Religious Freedom Coalition participated in an "off the record" briefing with high ranking Administration officials. There is progress in a number of areas and surprisingly one of those is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has been so stunned by terror from those it trained using hate filled text books in their schools, that changes are slowly being made. Recently the Saudi government confirmed that within two years it would no longer have any text books used in its schools that described Jews as monkeys and Christians as dogs. The Saudi government has also fired hundreds of Imams for preaching hatred and violence. It also appears that the Saudi government is cleaning up, at least somewhat, the Mutawwa'in (religious police) which have in the past regularly abused and tortured people. Apparently they have also confirmed that they will no longer arrest non-Saudi's residing there for having Christian services in the privacy of their homes. While the efforts are small and would be viewed in Western standards as virtually no improvement at all, by the standards of the totalitarian monarchy in Saudi Arabia these are great strides forward. We will watch to make sure that the statements of the Saudi government turn into facts on the ground.



If any one word could define the United States Senate it would be the word "slow." In some case we have worked to pass a bill in the House over and over again in session after session over a period of years before getting Senate action. Imagine how surprised those of us who work on Capitol Hill were to see a Senate vote to protect the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial from an ACLU lawsuit, just one month after passage in the House. The memorial cross to those lost in combat has been ordered removed from a San Diego hillside by federal courts. Recently I mentioned that the Supreme Court was going to take up the issue, but the House and Senate passed a law taking over the memorial and making it a part of the federal park system. (Click here for related story)


Religious Freedom Coalition's, Executive Director Peggy Birchfield attended the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights hosted by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) on Wednesday. The hearing, called "Paying Your Own Way: Creating a Fair Standard for Attorney's Fees Awards in Establishment Clause Cases", was held to examine legal fees won by activist groups such as the ACLU for bringing Establishment Clause cases against city, county and state government agencies. Testimonies in support of and in opposition to the Public Expression of Religion Act was presented. Under questioning from Senator Brownback every witness on the panel, both pro and con, agreed that attorney fees should not be used as "clubs" of intimidation in cases of religious liberty. Senator Brownback expressed concerns to the panel that it is wrong for such groups to abuse civil rights and to use this tool inappropriately to finance and further their various agendas. The Public Expression of Religious Act, S. 3696 (PERA) was introduced not to stop civil cases being brought to court but to stop the abuse of the Establishment Clause by groups such as ACLU from using this financial threat, aka financial "clubs" in cases such as the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial case. "This bill is long overdue," stated Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, one of the witnesses on the panel. The Religious Freedom Coalition submitted written testimony that was placed on the record during the hearing. The companion bill in the House, H.R.2679 sponsored by Congressman John Hostettler (R-IN) is currently in committee.


This week RFC Executive Director Peggy Birchfield spent much of her time in the offices of Senators handing over bundles of petitions in support of the Senate version of the Pledge Protection Act S.1046 to keep the words "under God" in the Pledge to our flag. Among those she visited was presidential hopeful Senator George Allen (R-VA) and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) who still has not co-sponsored the Pledge Protection Act. We are hopeful that he and others will add themselves to the list of the current 17 co-sponsors after receiving signed petitions from their constituents. Have you signed a petition to your Senator asking him to support the Pledge Protection Act? Click here to sign a petition today.


Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) actually voted for the Child Custody Protection Act (S-403), a law which would stop adults from taking underage girls across state lines for abortions. He then had his assistant move to kill the bill by refusing to appoint conferees. The conferee step is required because the Senate bill differs from the version passed by the House by even a greater margin of victory. The Senate and House conferees must work out the differences to send the bill to the President to sign. Because the Democrat Senate leadership bows to every demand made by the abortion industry, they have effectively killed the bill. Senator John Ensign (R-NV), who sponsored the bill, is outraged by the actions of his fellow Nevada Senator who is leading the blockage of CCP. Click here to read Senator Ensign's statement. Click here to contact Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid about his duplicity on the Child Custody Protection Act.


The House went into recess last Friday. The Senate stayed in session until late today.


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William J Murray, Chairman

Religious Freedom Coalition , PO Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013 - (202) 543-0300

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