AHEPA Applauds Passage of "Return of Churches"
Resolution Urges Turkey to Return Confiscated Church
Safeguard Christian Heritage
WASHINGTON - The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), a leading association for the nation's three million American citizens of Greek heritage, and Philhellenes, applauds passage of H.Res.306, urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tues., Dec. 13, 2011, announced Supreme President Dr. John Grossomanides. The resolution passed by voice vote.
"The resolution's passage is a significant victory for proponents of religious freedom," said Dr. Grossomanides. "We deeply appreciate the efforts of Congressman Ed Royce and Congressman Howard Berman, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who sponsored and championed the resolution. We also thank the members who spoke in favor of the measure on the House Floor or who entered statements into the Congressional Record in addition to the leadership of the House of Representatives for bringing the resolution to the floor."
H.Res.306 expresses the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives that the Secretary of State, in all official contacts with Turkish leaders and other Turkish officials, should emphasize that Turkey should: end all forms of religious discrimination, end restrictions on Christian clerical training, appointments, and succession; return Christian churches and properties to their rightful owners, and fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faith in freedom.
H.Res.306 contains similar language to legislation introduced by Congressmen Royce (R-CA) and Berman (D-CA), and who were joined by Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), that the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed on July 20, 2011 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 43 to 1.
The legislation enjoyed strong bipartisan support, having been co-sponsored by the Republican and Democratic co-chairs of the Hellenic, Armenian, and Human Rights caucuses. In all, 42 U.S. representatives co-sponsored it. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who co-chairs the Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations & Turkish Americans, led the opposition to the resolution.
"This resolution stands in the proud American tradition of championing religious freedom around the world," added Dr. Grossomanides. "Having been adopted, this measure further reinforces our nation's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also builds upon the passage by Congress of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and many other pieces of legislation promoting religious freedom abroad."