From the Worldwide Faith News archives

NCCCUSA on Latest Religious Persecution Bill

Date 06 Oct 1998 14:02:40

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2252
Email:  Website:



WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 6 ---- Saying he is
"pleased with the progress made on religious
persecution legislation, moving it closer to the
five criteria* that we've consistently stressed,"
the head of the National Council of Churches' Public
Policy Office said today, "We will encourage our
churches to consider supporting the Nickles-
Lieberman bill."

The Rev. Dr. Albert Pennybacker, NCC Associate
General Secretary for Public Policy, reported that
negotiations are in process on the bill's final form
and that the Senate is expected to vote on it
Wednesday or Thursday.  "It remains unclear what the
final action of both houses of Congress will be and
what position the President will take on the
proposed legislation," he said.  "However, the
current bill goes a long way toward meeting our

"We continue to be concerned about the
politicizing of the persecution issue through a
Congressionally and Presidentially appointed
commission of review.  We are surprised that
economic sanctions, though modified, are being
proposed before the Senate Special Commission on
Sanctions is able to make its report," Dr.
Pennybacker said.  "Also, we regret that the current
bill, like the others before it, makes little
provision for a strong global response to religious
persecution.  We continue to believe that a
multilateral response to human rights violations,
not our country acting alone, is the most effective
deterrent," he said.

For more than two and one-half years, in formal
testimony and other public statements, the NCC has
spelled out criteria for any U.S. legislation to
address religious persecution globally.  The NCC
found the Wolf/Specter "Freedom From Religious
Persecution Act" wanting when measured against those
criteria.  It found the Nickles/Mack "International
Religious Freedom Act of 1998" less objectionable,
and the "Nickles/Lieberman" bill "much more
acceptable to concerned religious groups than the
initial Wolf/Specter bill, Dr. Pennybacker said.

"The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, the U.S. Catholic Conference and
others have expressed support for
Nickles/Lieberman," he said.  Until today, "The NCC
Public Policy Office has neither supported nor
opposed that legislation, but has worked
consistently for its reshaping in keeping with its
ecumenically established criteria for good
legislation on religious persecution."


* The five criteria, in brief: 1) Violations of
human rights abroad are best addressed through
multilateral efforts.  2) Appropriate training for
government personnel as well as more thorough
investigation and reporting is likely to reduce the
incidence of religious persecution.  3) Sanctions
should be a matter of thoughtful last resort, not
automatic first resort.  4) Care should be exercised
so that traditions and cultures of other nations are
respected.  5) Steps should be taken to ensure that
the issue of religious freedom is not further

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