Calls for Return of Confiscated Church Properties
WASHINGTON, DC – The US House of Representatives unanimously adopted via a voice vote, H. Res. 306 on Tuesday, urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties to their rightful owners.
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.
The resolution was drafted by two California lawmakers, Republican Ed Royce and Democrat Howard Berman. “Despite Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s recent claims of progress on religious freedom, Turkey’s Christian communities continue to face severe discrimination,” Royce said after the House vote.
Berman spoke of “Turkey’s disturbing, persistent failure to respect the ancient Christian heritage of Anatolia.” “Turkey should take immediate steps to restore all confiscated church property and allow full freedom of worship and religious education for all Christian communities,” he said.
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.
Ankara was quick to denounce the resolution. The official Anatolia news agency quoted the Turkish ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan, as calling it “unfair and unjustified.”