In a display of overwhelming support for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, all sixty-two (62) members of the New York State Senate and one hundred and forty-four (144) members of the New York State Assembly signed letters calling for the Turkish Government to cease its discrimination of the Holy See. Similar to the religious freedom resolutions passed in other states, the letters call for the Turkish Government to recognize the ecumenical status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to respect its rights to property and to ecclesiastic succession, and to grant it the right to train its clergy--including by opening the Theological Seminary at Halki.
In the legislature, the effort was led by Senators Dean Skelos and Michael Gianaris and Assemblywomen Aravella Simotas and Nicole Malliotakis, each of whom diligently approached colleagues individually to educate them about the Turkish government’s harmful policies toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to encourage them to sign on to the letter.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, noted the significance of the overwhelming support the letters received. “This is a great day for the State of New York and for the Greek Orthodox Church in America,” His Eminence stated. “The cause of religious liberty is fundamental to the American way of life, and the State legislature of New York, under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Senator Michael Gianaris, and Assemblywomen Aravella Simotas and Nicole Malliotakis, have borne a powerful witness to the rights of all by underscoring the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We also commend the Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew, and the effective leadership of Archon John Catsimatidis, the chairman of the Archon Religious Freedom project. We look forward to the day when every one of the fifty states stands up for the spiritual freedom and human dignity of our Holy Mother Church of Constantinople, and the American values of justice and fairness for all are enshrined in all the State Houses of government.”
Senator Michael Gianaris also noted the importance of the bipartisan effort, stating: “The future of Orthodox Christianity is being threatened by the Turkish government’s oppressive policies restricting the full exercise of religion in its country. I am pleased that the New York State Senate has taken a bipartisan stand for religious freedom and look forward to the day when people of all faiths feel free to worship as they see fit.”
The legislative religious freedom initiative for New York State was coordinated by Archons John Catsimatidis, Peter Skeadas, Nikiforos Mathews, Theodore Klingos and John Kassimatis.
Forty-two legislative chambers in thirty-six states have now either passed resolutions or signed religious freedom letters in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
For more information about the Order of Saint Andrew’s state legislative religious freedom project, visit www.archons.org/resolutions.