American Hellenic Institute

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TO:

AHI Chapter Presidents, Congressional Contact Team Leaders, Members and Friends

FROM: Nick Larigakis, AHI President
DATE: April 5, 2011
Re:

CONTACT YOUR U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO CO-SPONSOR RESOLUTION URGING TURKEY TO LIFT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTRICTIONS

BACKGROUND

The Turkish government has tolerated assaults against its Greek Orthodox Christian religious minority, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and continues the illegal closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology in Istanbul.  These actions violate U.S. principles and law on freedom of religion as expressed in Section 2804 of the FY98 Omnibus Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (PL 105-277). This law calls for the Turkish government to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel, and its property, and to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), the president of the United States is obligated to oppose violations of religious freedom in any country whose government “engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom and promote the right to religious freedom in that country.”  The Act further obligates the president to take one or more of 15 enumerated actions with respect to any such country.

IFRA created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. For the past two years (2009 and 2010) USCIRF has placed Turkey on its “Watch List.”

Although in 2010 Turkey has signaled the need to address the issue of religious freedom among its minorities there is still much more that needs to be accomplished—namely the recognition of the Patriarch’s “ecumenical” title, the reopening of the Halki Seminary, the return of all confiscated properties by the Turkish government, and ensuring the succession of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

As a result, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-14-NY) and U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-9-FL) have introduced a House resolution, H.Res.180, that urges Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

STATUS

The legislation, H.Res.180, was introduced on March 17, 2011 by U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Gus Bilirakis. It has 9 co-sponsors as of April 4, 2011. 

The bill currently rests with the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

The co-sponsors are:

Rep Ackerman, Gary L. [NY-5] - 3/31/2011 
Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1] - 3/17/2011 
Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] - 3/17/2011 
Rep Grimm, Michael G. [NY-13] - 3/17/2011 
Rep Pallone, Frank, Jr. [NJ-6] - 3/17/2011 
Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] - 3/31/2011 
Rep Sarbanes, John P. [MD-3] - 3/31/2011 
Rep Tsongas, Niki [MA-5] - 3/17/2011 
Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] - 3/31/2011

ACTION

We urge you to contact your U.S. representative and ask him or her to co-sponsor H.Res.180.

If you do not see your U.S. representative as a co-sponsor above, please contact his/her office today.

Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant.

Advise them you are a constituent, calling from [city or town] and that you’d like the representative’s support by co-sponsoringH.Res.180.

Advise the Congressional staff person to contact Congresswoman Maloney’s or Congressman Bilirakis’ office to sign on as a co-sponsor.

If you do see your legislator as a co-sponsor, please contact him or her to offer your thanks.

RESOURCE: HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS LIST

Reminder: We encourage the community to secure as many co-sponsors of the resolution as possible.  However, it is especially important to secure the co-sponsorship of members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee because that committee has jurisdiction over the resolution.  Please make a special effort if your U.S. representative is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

As a resource, a list of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee can be found athttp://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/members.asp.

CONTACT BY TELEPHONE

Contact your members of Congress by telephone by dialing the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202.224-3121.

CONTACT BY EMAIL/INTERNET

To write your representative, visit https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml to find your representative.

NOTE: Please send a copy of your correspondence, or provide notice of a phone call made, to Demetra Astaloglou at[email protected].

Click here for a sample letter.

QUESTIONS?

For further information or questions, please contact AHI, (202) 785-8430, or email [email protected].

THANK YOU!