SJR 28: Relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and religious rights.

00 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 28 01 Relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and religious rights. 02 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA: 03 WHEREAS the Ecumenical Patriarchate, located in modern-day Istanbul, formerly 04 known as Constantinople, in the Republic of Turkey, is the Sacred See that presides over a 05 community of self-governing churches of the Orthodox Christian world; and 06 WHEREAS the See is led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is the 269th 07 direct successor of the Apostle Andrew and who holds titular primacy as primus inter pares, 08 "first among equals," in the community of Orthodox Churches worldwide; the Orthodox 09 Church has been in existence for nearly 2,000 years and numbers approximately 300,000,000 10 members around the world, with more than 2,000,000 members in the United States; and 11 WHEREAS the government of Turkey refuses to recognize the international status 12 and the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the head of the Greek 13 Orthodox Church, which is a minority religion in Turkey; and 14 WHEREAS the government of Turkey and Turkish prime ministers have limited the 15 candidates available to the Holy Synod for selection as the Ecumenical Patriarch to Turkish 16 nationals who have performed mandatory military service in the Turkish armed forces, and

01 they continue to insist that any new spiritual head of Orthodox Christians, including Orthodox 02 Christians in Alaska and throughout the United States, be approved by them; because of 03 selective enforcement of laws and regulations, the once large eligible community of Turkish 04 citizens of the Orthodox faith has declined to only approximately 2,500 persons, most of 05 whom are elderly; and 06 WHEREAS, before its closure, the Theological School of Halki was the only 07 educational institution for Orthodox Christianity in Turkey; the school was closed in 1971 by 08 Turkish authorities under a law requiring that higher education in religion and minority 09 training be controlled by the state; and 10 WHEREAS the United States Congress passed a resolution expressing its sentiment 11 that the Theological School of Halki in the Republic of Turkey should be reopened in order to 12 promote religious freedom; and 13 WHEREAS the government of Turkey has reneged on its agreement to reopen the 14 Theological School of Halki, thus impeding training for Orthodox Christian clergy within its 15 borders; and 16 WHEREAS, in recent years, the government of Turkey has, in violation of the 17 inalienable rights of all peoples, confiscated more than 90 percent of the properties of the 18 Ecumenical Patriarchate and placed a 42 percent tax, retroactive to 1999, on the nonprofit 19 Balukli Hospital, which is run by the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and 20 WHEREAS the dissolution of the spiritual head of Orthodox Christian churches in 21 the coming decades is inevitable if Turkey continues its policy of interference in religious 22 matters, despite the government's stated policy of being purely secular in its dealings; and 23 WHEREAS all Christians in our state, in the United States, and around the world 24 stand to lose this nearly 2,000-year-old Sacred See, where the text of the New Testament was 25 codified, the canonical structure of the Christian church was established, and the Nicene 26 Creed was written and first pronounced; the disappearance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate 27 would mean the loss of a crucial link between Christians and their religious history, sacred 28 texts, and religious forebears; and 29 WHEREAS the disappearance of this See would also mean the end of a crucial link 30 between Christians and the Muslim world; at a time when individuals hostile to the United 31 States are attempting to create conflict between Christians and Muslims, the continuing

01 presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey is a powerful testament to the coexistence 02 of these two faiths in Istanbul since 1453; and 03 WHEREAS, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, the 04 spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, gathered 05 international religious leaders and produced the first statement signed by Muslim leaders that 06 condemned the attacks as "anti-religious"; and 07 WHEREAS the importance of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United 08 States is reflected in the record number of Congressional cosponsors of the measure that 09 bestowed on him America's highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor-- 10 an award also given to George Washington, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Mother 11 Teresa, and Pope John Paul II; and 12 WHEREAS the European Union, a group of nations with a common goal of 13 promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples, began accession negotiations with Turkey 14 on October 3, 2005; and 15 WHEREAS the European Union defined membership criteria for accession to the 16 European Union at the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, obligating candidate countries 17 to have achieved certain levels of reform, including stability of institutions guaranteeing 18 democracy, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for and protection of minorities and 19 human rights; and 20 WHEREAS the Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into effect in 1999, affirms that 21 the European Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human 22 rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law; Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty 23 enables the European Council to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on 24 religion or belief; and 25 WHEREAS Turkey's current treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is inconsistent 26 with the membership conditions and goals of the European Union; and 27 WHEREAS the United States has long been a beacon of hope for vulnerable and 28 disenfranchised people around the world, and the state has long valued and defended the 29 principles of democracy, individual liberty, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion; as 30 citizens of conscience of this great land, we bear both the responsibility and the honor to raise 31 our voices against injustice on behalf of those unable to speak for themselves;

01 BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature supports the Ecumenical 02 Patriarchate and urges the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, as 03 leaders of the international community, to encourage the government of Turkey to end its 04 discrimination against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, one of the oldest Christian institutions in 05 the world; and be it 06 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the Governor to call 07 on the government of Turkey to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on religion and to 08 immediately grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate international recognition and the 09 right to train clergy of all nationalities; and be it 10 FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature calls on the government of 11 Turkey to pledge to uphold and safeguard religious rights without compromise. 12 COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable Namik Tan, Ambassador of 13 the Republic of Turkey; the Honorable Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European 14 Union; the Honorable Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; the Honorable 15 Barack Obama, President of the United States; the Honorable James F. Jeffery, United States 16 Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey; and the Honorable Lisa Murkowski and the 17 Honorable Mark Begich, U.S. Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, 18 members of the Alaska delegation in Congress.