Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/29/2010 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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Compensation Board
Heard & Held
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Moved CSSB 63(JUD) Out of Committee
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Moved CSSB 297(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 319(FIN) Out of Committee
            SJR 28-ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE OF TURKEY                                                                        
2:34:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SJR 28.                                                                             
SENATOR  KEVIN MEYER,  Sponsor of  SJR 28, related  that a  friend                                                              
who is  active in the Greek  Orthodox Church in  Anchorage brought                                                              
the issue  of religious  freedom for  the Ecumenical  Patriarchate                                                              
in Turkey  to his attention. To  date, 25 state  legislatures have                                                              
adopted resolutions  similar to SJR 28,  which is half  way to the                                                              
SENATOR  MEYER  explained  that  the  Ecumenical  Patriarchate  of                                                              
Turkey  is the  spiritual  leader of  Orthodox  Christians in  the                                                              
world just  as the Pope in Rome  is the spiritual leader  of Roman                                                              
Catholics worldwide.  Unfortunately, the government  of Turkey has                                                              
been  intolerant of  the Ecumenical  Patriarchate.  It has  seized                                                              
church property,  closed their school, and prevented  the Orthodox                                                              
Christian  Church from  selecting  eligible  bishops by  requiring                                                              
them  to have  Turkish citizenship.  SJR  28 urges  the U.S.,  the                                                              
European  Union,   and  the  United   Nations  to   encourage  the                                                              
government  of Turkey  to  end its  discrimination  and pledge  to                                                              
uphold and safeguard religious rights without compromise.                                                                       
SENATOR  MEYER related  that the  Ecumenical  Patriarchate is  the                                                              
spiritual home  to about  six million  Orthodox Christians  in the                                                              
U.S.   and  about   300   million  worldwide.   Alaskan   Orthodox                                                              
Christians  have   a  strong  relationship  with   the  Ecumenical                                                              
Patriarchate through  their Russian  Orthodox bishops  who arrived                                                              
here in  1794. There  are about  95 Russian  Orthodox churches  in                                                              
Alaska  and about  20,000 members.  The  Anchorage Greek  Orthodox                                                              
Church was established in 1958 and now has 200 members.                                                                         
2:37:00 PM                                                                                                                    
VERY  REVEREND  ARCHPRIEST  MICHAEL   JAMES  OLEKSA,  Pastor,  St.                                                              
Alexis  Orthodox  Church  in  Anchorage   and  Chancellor  of  the                                                              
Orthodox Diocese of  Alaska - a diocese of the  Territorial Church                                                              
of North  America,  which is comprised  of churches  in the  U.S.,                                                              
Canada,  and Mexico,  explained  that the  Orthodox  faith is  the                                                              
oldest Christian tradition  in the world and the  oldest in Alaska                                                              
having arrived here  from Russia after 1741. The  oldest parish in                                                              
Alaska dates from  1784 and the first clergy  arrived from Finland                                                              
in  1794. The  Orthodox Church  has  eight Alaskan  saints and  it                                                              
recognizes  Alaska as the  most Orthodox-affiliated  state  in the                                                              
nation with  nearly 100 parishes and  50 clergy. 43 of  its clergy                                                              
are  Native Alaskans  so it  is  also the  largest Native  Alaskan                                                              
religious organization in the state.                                                                                            
REVERAND OLEKSA  related that the  Ecumenical Patriarchate  was in                                                              
Istanbul over 1,100  years before the Ottoman Empire  was founded.                                                              
His   function   worldwide   is   to  preside   and   convene   at                                                              
international   gatherings  of   Orthodox  bishops.  This   wasn't                                                              
possible during  the Cold War  when most Orthodox  Christians were                                                              
behind  the  Iron  Curtain  and being  persecuted.  In  fact,  the                                                              
Orthodox  faith was  persecuted  with perhaps  more violence  than                                                              
any religion  in world history.  The national constitution  of the                                                              
Soviet  Union didn't  require  religious  tolerance  and the  U.S.                                                              
government didn't speak  up. Different today is the  fact that the                                                              
Turkish government  is applying  for EU membership  and is  a NATO                                                              
ally.  As a  NATO  ally, the  U.S.  is obliged  to  call upon  the                                                              
Turkish government  to honor its international  treaty obligations                                                              
and   the   religious   liberties  guaranteed   by   the   Turkish                                                              
2:41:26 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  FRENCH said  he was impressed  to read  that following  the                                                              
9/11  terrorist  attacks,  the  Ecumenical  Patriarch  Bartholomew                                                              
gathered international  leaders and  released the first  statement                                                              
signed  by  Muslim   leaders  condemning  the  attacks   as  anti-                                                              
REVERAND  OLEKSA responded  he has been  instrumental in  bringing                                                              
people  with  diverse  religious   and  world  views  together  to                                                              
discuss world problems.                                                                                                         
2:43:13 PM                                                                                                                    
FATHER LEO SCHEFE,  Pastor and Priest, Holy  Transfiguration Greek                                                              
Orthodox Church,  related that  he was the  on-duty priest  in the                                                              
area  where the  Turkish government  closed the  school. He  spoke                                                              
with many Turkish  citizens who are Orthodox Christians  about the                                                              
persecution  they face on  a day-to-day  basis. People  lose their                                                              
jobs   because   of  their   religion   and  their   property   is                                                              
confiscated.  An educator  who is  also  a tour  guide showed  him                                                              
where uprisings  against Orthodox Christians have  taken place. It                                                              
was disheartening to see, he said.                                                                                              
FATHER  SCHEFE said  that because  of the  Turkish requirement  of                                                              
citizenship  and  military service,  the  Ecumenical  Patriarchate                                                              
could cease  to be. This is  disturbing and virtually  unthinkable                                                              
to all  who are Orthodox worldwide.  Alaska, as the  most Orthodox                                                              
state  in  the Union,  should  do  all  it  can to  encourage  the                                                              
government  of Turkey to  respect religious  rights and  recognize                                                              
the universal importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.                                                                        
2:47:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SOPHIA JANE ZABO,  representing herself, said that  as an Orthodox                                                              
Christian and American  she is asking the Legislature  to pass SJR
28  in  support  of  the  Ecumenical  Patriarchate  and  religious                                                              
rights  in Turkey.  Religious  freedom  should be  celebrated  not                                                              
just  in Turkey,  but  everywhere,  she  said. In  conclusion  she                                                              
quoted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:                                                                                        
     Every  ecosystem on this  planet is  like a nation.  The                                                                   
     estuary  is not  the  tundra, nor  is  the savannah  the                                                                   
     desert.  But like  every culture,  every ecosystem  will                                                                   
     have  an effect  that goes  far  beyond its  boundaries.                                                                   
     And when we  understand that every ecosystem  is part of                                                                   
     the  singular  ecosphere  that  is  inhabited  by  every                                                                   
     living breath  filling the world,  then do we  grasp the                                                                   
     interconnectedness,   the  powerful  communion   of  all                                                                   
     life, and our true interdependency on one another.                                                                         
CHAIR FRENCH closed  public testimony and announced  he would hold                                                              
SJR 28 in committee.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  COGHILL expressed  a desire  to hear  whether or  not the                                                              
Governor  had taken  a position  on the resolution,  if the  State                                                              
Department  had been  involved,  and the  impact that  resolutions                                                              
from other states might have had.                                                                                               
2:51:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH responded  the bill sponsor will have  an opportunity                                                              
to  bring that  information at  the next  hearing. He  set SJR  28                                                              

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