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Week Ending August 18, 2006 - From Washington, DC
Religious Freedom Coalition
August 18, 2006 6:52PM EST



RFC chairman William Murray is on a fact finding mission. In his absence RFC Executive Director, Peggy Birchfield wrote this week's update.



The arrest of an American school teacher, John Mark Carr, in Bangkok, Thailand has been spotlighted in the news this week. His arrest in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation brings to light the troublesome continuing problems of human sex trafficking. Apparently the suspect, John Mark Karr when arrested was already being held in Bangkok on unrelated sex charges as well as a child pornography conviction in California. In countries such as Thailand, child sexual exploitation builds on a long-standing and vast prostitution industry, and particularly thrives where law enforcement is weak or corrupt. Sex with young teens and children is not a strong concern in some Asian cultures which makes fighting the problem even more difficult. Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable young boys and girls and turn a commercial profit at the expense of these innocent lives. Some boys and girls used in forced prostitution may be forced to participate in sexual acts anywhere from 10 to 40 times a night. The U.S. Department of State estimates between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, most for sexual purposes and millions more are enslaved within national borders. Human trafficking is truly a worldwide phenomenon. Thailand, where Carr was arrested, is a Tier 2 nation on the Watch List in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2006 released by the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The United States led movement to end human trafficking continues to gain momentum, with the commitment of the President and Congress hopefully will end tragic situations. The Religious Freedom Coalition has been invited by the Justice Department to participate in this year's National Human Trafficking Conference to discus the complex issues surrounding human trafficking and to collaborate on strategies to help reduce or even prevent these crimes in the future.



The Religious Freedom Coalition continues to drop off letters and petitions from constituents to those Senators that have not cosponsored the Pledge Protection Act S-1046 sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). In the past two weeks many thousands of these signed petitions have been delivered directly to Senators. Moderate democrat Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is one of the Senators we have been encouraging to co-sponsor the legislation. As a result of our visit and the presentation of petitions from his constituents to him Senator Nelson sent a letter to the Religious Freedom Coalition concerning his position. In the letter dated just 10 days after our visit to his office stated his support of "One Nation under God" resolutions in the past, however he did not make a firm commitment to co-sponsor S-1046. We would like to add him to the list of the current 17 cosponsors and we encourage his constituents to continue to contact him. Have you signed a petition to your Senator asking him to support the Pledge Protection Act? Click here to sign a petition today. RFC is delivering the petitions continuously during August to inform your Senators know that this issue is important and that we want to see the Senate put this on their agenda in September. Show your support by signing a petition for your Senators.



This week I participated in a briefing at the White House with staff from the National Security Council. Concerns were raised of the Afghanistan's government moving towards establishing the Vice and Virtue Department again. The Vice and Virtue, under the rule of Taliban was responsible for formulating some of the most contentious laws which abused the rights of women and children and vulnerable groups. The Vice and Virtue Department was known under the Taliban for enforcing restrictions on women, men and children through public executions, beatings, humiliation and imprisonment. The Taliban squads beat men whom had trimmed their beards too closely or woman for not having their wrists and ankles covered properly. The few female members of the Afghan parliament are worried about the return of Vice and Virtue. "The people were scared of the Vice and Virtues Ministry under the Taliban, but this new ministry won't be like the Taliban's," Afghan presidential spokesman Rahimi said. "It will take into consideration moral and religious activities to help improve Afghan society." With no clear terms of this department, White House officials have reason of concerns. The Vice and Virtue Department will not address the real problems of increasing insecurity only represses pass practices.


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