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Ohio Legislators asked to back religious freedom resolution for the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Resolutions for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate continue to become introduced to state lawmakers around the country. Two new resolutions have been introduced to the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives: SCR 14 was introduced by Senator Joe Schiavoni and HCR 29 was introduced by Rep. Tom Letson.

In Ohio, Fr. Thomas M. Constantine of St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church has been a main advocate for the Mother Church of Constantinople, testifying in Columbus, Ohio before the Senate's state and local government affairs committee in support of a religious freedom resolution.

Archon Stephen Georgeson, who serves as the national coordinator for the state resolutions project for the Order of St. Andrew said, "We are grateful to Fr. Constantine, along with Archons Dr. Nicholas Tererzis, Dr. Manuel Tzagournis (President of The Ohio State University's School of Medicine), and Mr. Harry Meshel for their efforts."

An article on these efforts in the Ohio Senate was published in The Vindicator, the daily newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio.

To learn more about the Archons' Religious Freedom Resolutions Project, visit www.archons.org/resolutions
 



Boardman pastor asks Senators to back anti-persecution resolution
By Marc Kovac

Read this article on the website of The Vindicator

COLUMBUS - A Boardman clergyman is hoping state lawmakers will take a symbolic stand against persecution of Eastern Orthodox Christians by the Turkish government.

"In Turkey, one is not allowed to express his religious freedom," said the Rev. Thomas M. Constantine, from St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church, Glenwood Avenue. "One cannot wear a cross or any other religious symbols. A clergyman must wear secular clothes and is not allowed to celebrate freely. Many Christians in Turkey must worship secretly."

Father Constantine testified Tuesday in Columbus before the Senate's state and local government affairs committee in support of a resolution offered by Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 urges Turkish officials to "respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church," which has existed in Istanbul since the mid-1400s.

The church has some 300 million members worldwide. But the Turkish government does not acknowledge the church's international status and has confiscated its properties and taxed a church hospital.

"Over the years, the government of Turkey has pared away at the institutional presence of the Patriarchate, including closing down the Halki Seminary, the only school of theology in the country for training Orthodox clergy," said Thomas Kasulis, a professor of cultural studies at Ohio State University and former head of the American Society for the Study of Religion.

He added, "This is clearly a violation of the kinds of religious freedoms we would expect of a nation known to be a loyal ally of the United States and an important representative democracy in the region."

Father Constantine said there have been increased physical attacks on Christians in the country, as well.

"Hand grenades, cluster bombs, gasoline bombs have been thrown into the Patriarchate compound, which have damaged the buildings and injured some people," he said. "The Turkish government has not taken any decisive action to stop these attacks."

Schiavoni's resolution is a symbolic gesture, offering the state's official opinion of the matter.

"It is our prayer the persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate cease, as well as the persecution to all the Christians," Father Constantine said. "We pray that there will be religious freedom in Turkey. The passage of this resolution is a major step in that direction."