Accidentally On Purpose

At the National Prayer Breakfast this month, President Clinton described how hard his administration had worked to pass the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998—a law designed to fight the torture and murder of people of faith around the world. A few days later, the president's budget was unveiled. How much money did the president earmark to enforce the Religious Freedom Act? Not one plug nickel. The president must have forgotten. The facts are these: For two long years, a broad coalition of religious and civic leaders worked to pass this bill. The president, despite his words at the Prayer Breakfast, fought to block the passage of anything but the most toothless, watered-down version of the bill. Last October, after many battles and compromises, we finally achieved victory in the House and the Senate. Calls from BreakPoint listeners were hugely important in making this victory possible. The president reluctantly signed the Act. And now it seems he has indeed forgotten about it, or has decided to bury it. For example, Congress authorized $3 million to fund the Act. But while the president found $3 million to protect endangered scallops in New England, and found another $150 million to give to starving artists through the National Endowment for the Arts, he could not find even $3 to help endangered and starving Christians. He hasn't just forgotten to fund it: He's also forgotten to choose people to serve on the 10-member commission authorized by the Act. This commission would monitor religious persecution around the world and make policy recommendations to the president. Four of those members were supposed to be appointed by the president. But nearly four months have passed, and President Clinton has not gotten around to naming anybody. Could it be he's forgotten that also? As Rep. Frank Wolf pointed out in a scathing speech on the House floor last Friday, here's what's been happening while the president has ignored this Act: Two weeks ago in China, two priests were arrested. They joined hundreds of other Catholic and Protestant leaders who have been thrown in prison. In Sudan, two million people—mostly Christians—have been deliberately starved to death by a brutal Muslim regime. Christian women and children are being sold into slavery. In Tibet, the Chinese government continues its vicious attacks on Buddhists. Hundreds of monks and nuns have been jailed. Last year 13 of them were tortured to death. In India, just since this Christmas, dozens of churches have been destroyed, nuns have been raped, and Christians have been killed. Among them, an Australian missionary and his two sons were burned alive in their car by Hindu mobs. I think that it's time for you and me to jog the president's memory. Call or write the White House. Ask the president to aggressively seek funding for the Act, and to appoint people of stature to the commission—and do it immediately. Then call your representatives and ask them to make sure the Religious Freedom Act is fully implemented. If we allow the president to ignore the law, we will be sending a message to the thugs of the world that—Act or no Act—we will sit by and do nothing while they torture and kill people of faith.


Chuck Colson


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