Church Departmental Report
Church Departmental Report – The unprecedented 83-page report released by the State Department on July 22 highlights religious persecution, particularly against Christians, in 78 countries.
“The official recognition of the persecution of Christians is an important milestone,” Nina Shay, director of Freedom House Puebla’s Religious Freedom Program, told CT. “Until now, the foreign policy bureaucracy has remained deaf to the issue of religious persecution, particularly of Christians.”
Church Departmental Report
Shea, a Catholic, is one of 20 members of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, which was formed last year (CT, Nov. 11, 1996, p. 98). Shea says the report “signals to the general public that religious persecution is an urgent and legitimate human rights issue.”
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The group includes religious, academic and human rights leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic backgrounds. Although Christians are a minority on the committee, the report highlights the persecution of Christians through a directive from both houses of Congress, which last year passed resolutions condemning “gross violations of human rights and the denial of religious freedom for Christians around the world.”
Much of the push for the detail-oriented Christian came from panelist Don Argh, who is president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Argument is co-chairman of the US State Department Commission’s Religious Persecution Subcommittee.
Argue says the report was sent to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Clinton, who will shape US policy.
The study includes countries that human rights groups regularly call oppressors of religious freedom through extremist Islamic or communist governments. These countries, some of which the US government has strained or no diplomatic relations with, include Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, and Vietnam.
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But countries that are not normally prosecuted, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany and Greece, are being prosecuted as rights in Europe are increasingly threatened (CT, 14 July 1997, p. 74). Often a country singles out a certain group, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, for discrimination or oppression.
“The Chinese government has attempted to limit all effective religious practice to government-authorized religious organizations and registered places of worship,” the report said. It detailed the government’s crackdown on unauthorized religious groups over the past year, including attacks on churches and beatings of worshippers. “Local authorities used threats, destruction of property, extortion, fines, interrogations, detentions and sentences of reform through education to carry out this campaign.” The report says that high-ranking US officials have repeatedly complained about human rights violations in China.
In response to criticism of the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Tang Guoqiang said that religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and that the United States “does not have the necessary understanding of the religious situation in China.”
POLITICAL CONNECTION: In November, Congress is expected to take up the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (Contract, Aug. 11, 1997, p. 61), which would ban all exports and end economic aid to foreign nations that sponsor persecution.
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Argue says the bill reflects initiatives outlined in the NAE Statement of Conscience issued in January 1996, which called on the US government to “adopt policies that would limit religious persecution” around the world.
The Clinton administration insists that religious persecution has an impact on US foreign policy. For example, in April, Clinton banned new investment in the country, indicating that the “dismal human rights record and ongoing system of brutal repression” in Myanmar (formerly Burma) prompted Clinton to ban new investment in the country. The study details problems in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, including the rape of Karen Christian women and the kidnapping and killing of refugees.
The US government has repeatedly called on Pakistan to repeal a discriminatory blasphemy law that has led to the destruction of Christian homes and churches.
And last year, the United States suspended diplomatic relations with Sudan. “There are reports that many Christians are victims of slave raids and forced conversions,” the document says.
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Steve Haas, American coordinator of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, is impressed that the report is so timely and specific. For example, it mentions a restrictive law passed by the Russian Duma and rejected by President Boris Yeltsin that would limit religious freedoms (CT, 11 Aug. 1997, p. 61), and an anti-missionary bill introduced by the Israeli Knesset that would ban the distribution of materials religious evangelization (KT, May 19, 1997, p. 55).
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To share this article with your friends, use any of the social media share buttons on our site or simply copy the link below. In 1975, a special state committee investigated abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Audit Service (IRS). Chaired by Idaho Rep. Frank Church (D-ID), the committee was part of a series of investigations into intelligence abuses in 1975, dubbed the “Year of Intelligence,” including its House counterpart, the Pike Committee, and the Rockefeller Presidential Commission. The committee’s efforts led to the permanent creation of the US National Select Committee on Intelligence.
The committee’s most shocking revelations include Operation MKULTRA, which involved drugging and torturing involuntary US citizens as part of human mind control experiments;
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Operation Mockingbird as a systematic propaganda campaign with domestic and foreign journalists acting as CIA assets and dozens of US news organizations covering CIA activities.
He also revealed Project SHAMROCK, in which major telecommunications companies shared their traffic with the NSA (while officially confirming the existence of this signals intelligence agency to the public for the first time).
In the early 1970s, a series of alarming revelations about intelligence activities appeared in the press. The first were revelations made by Army Intelligence Officer Christopher Pyle in January 1970 about US military spying on civilians.
On December 22, 1974, The New York Times published a rich op-ed by Seymour Hersh detailing CIA operations over the years called the “Family Jewels.” Covert action programs involving assassination attempts on foreign leaders and covert attempts to undermine foreign governments were reported for the first time. In addition, the article discussed the attempts of special services to collect information about the political activities of American citizens.
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The creation of the Church Committee was approved on January 27, 1975 by a vote of 82 to 4 in the state.
The final report of the Church Committee was published in April 1976 in six volumes. Seven volumes of the hearings of the State Church Committee were also published.
Before releasing its final report, the commission also released an interim report titled “Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders.”
Which investigated alleged assassinations of foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, H. Rhee Schneider of Chile, and Fidel Castro of Cuba. President Gerald Ford urged the state to withhold the report from the public, but failed.
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And under pressure and recommendations from the committee, Ford issued Executive Order 11905 (eventually superseded in 1981 by President Reagan’s Executive Order 12333) to prohibit US-sanctioned assassinations of foreign leaders.
In addition, the committee produced seven case studies on covert operations, but only the one on Chile, entitled Covert Operations in Chile: 1963–1973, was released.
According to a declassified National Security Agency story, the Church Committee also helped leak the NSA’s watch list. The information for the list was compiled into the so-called “Rhyming Dictionary” of biographical information, which at its peak contained millions of names, thousands of which were American citizens. Notable members of this list included Joan Woodward, Thomas Watson, Walter Mondale, Art Buchwald, Arthur F. Burns, Gregory Peck, Otis G. Pike, Tom Wicker, Whitney Young, Howard Baker, Frank Church, David Dellinger, Ralph Abernathy, and others
But among the committee’s most shocking revelations was the discovery of Operation SHAMROCK, in which major telecommunications companies shared their traffic with the NSA from 1945 to the early 1970s. Information gathered during that operation went directly to the watch list. In 1975, the committee decided to unilaterally declassify the details of this operation, despite the objections of President Ford’s administration.
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Together, the Ecclesiastical Committee reports are said to constitute the most comprehensive review of intelligence activities ever made available to the public. Much of the accounts were classified, but more than 50,000 pages were declassified under the President John F. Neddy Assassination Records Act of 1992.
The church committee learned that beginning in the 1950s, the CIA and the FBI intercepted, opened and photographed more than 215,000 letters until the program (called “HTLINGUAL”) was shut down in 1973. This program was conducted during the “mail cover” program (mail cover is a process by which the government records – without any warrant or notice requirement – all information on the outside of the envelope or package, including the sder’s name and receipt) . This was revealed in the report of the Church
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