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Legislation safeguarding Christian heritage in Turkey unanimously adopted by House of Representatives

The House of Representatives unanimously adopted via a voice vote, H. Res. 306, urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties to their rightful owners, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

"This bipartisan bill reflects America's values and represents an important step towards preserving the heritage of the Armenian community and other minority communities within Turkey," stated the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian in Washington, DC.

Prior to today's action, the Armenian Assembly sent a letter to all Members of Congress urging a "YES" vote. H. Res. 306, which was introduced by Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), along with Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Joe Baca (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NJ), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Dan Lungren (R-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), and Robert Dold (R-IL), reflects America's values with respect to freedom of religion and human rights.

In addition to resolution sponsor Congressman Royce, who along with his colleagues invoked the memory of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey's continued genocide denial, the following Representatives spoke in favor of the legislation: Howard Berman, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Eliot Engel and Frank Pallone, Jr.  Turkish Caucus Co-Chair Edward Whitfield (R-KY) claimed time in opposition to the bill.

As considered on the House floor, H. Res. 306 mirrors a bipartisan amendment (Berman-Cicilline) that overwhelmingly passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a vote of 43-1 earlier this year. During the committee process, the Assembly joined with the Eastern and Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in sending a letter to all House Foreign Affairs Committee Members urging its adoption.

The legislation urges Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties by doing the following:

1) end all forms of religious discrimination;

2) allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious community gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities;

3) return to their rightful owners all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties, including movable properties, such as artwork, manuscripts, vestments, vessels, and other artifacts; and

4) allow the rightful Christian church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to preserve, reconstruct, and repair, as they see fit, all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties within Turkey.

"We commend this bipartisan measure in support of religious freedom in Turkey," stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "In particular, we applaud the efforts of the resolution's sponsor and supporters, especially those Members that spoke so eloquently on the House floor," added Ardouny.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

[Source: Armenian Assembly of America]


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