Thank you Dr. Gunn. Since time is running and we want to hear from all of you, and then we want to have a dialogue with our members, I'm going to ask you if you try to keep within the 5-minute rule that we have. Your full statements have been made part of the record. We'll now proceed to our next panelist, Reverend N.J. Skip L'Heureux. Reverend L'Heureux is Executive Director of the Queens, New York Federation of Churches, is a moderator of the Religious Liberty Committee, the National Council of Churches. He's a Methodist pastor with wide experience in ecumenical work and religious freedom questions. We welcome your proceeding Mr. L'Heureux.


Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today about the worsening problem of religious intolerance in France. I'll present here a short summary of my testimony.

It was 343 years ago on December the 27, 1657 that residents of Flushing, Queens began a letter to then Governor Peter Styvesant by declaring, and I quote, "You have been pleased to send up onto us a certain prohibition or command that we should not receive or entertain any of those people called Quakers because they are supposed to be by some, seducers of the people. For our part, we cannot condemn them." The Flushing remonstrance is the earliest declaration of religious liberty on these shores, focused on securing that liberty not just for self but for individuals and groups other than the ones making the declaration.

France is a signatory to international human rights laws protecting religious freedom. Unfortunately, the French government policy is so far in violation of these tenets that its officials have set up an office called the Interministerial Mission to Fight Against Sects, commonly known as MILS. MILS has drawn deep from the wells of hostility filled by the American anti-cult movement and by its long campaign of malicious vilification of new or religious religions. In France, a 1996 parliamentary commission report stigmatized some religious movements with the pejorative label of "sect," including the Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. We note as well that there is discrimination visited in France upon the Muslim community.

The U.S. State Department's Annual Report for Religious Freedom published last September criticized this commission report on the grounds, and I quote, "It contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and bias against minority religions." Earlier this year, as has been noted, the rapporteur of the parliamentary commission was himself convicted by a Paris court and denounced for research methods counted by the court as, quote, "not serious." And yet the blacklist of this 173 movements continues to circulate and is used to justify discrimination against the groups.

In March, I was a member of an expert panel at a nongovernmental hearing in Paris which drew more than 300 people from 38 minority religious movements to describe the discrimination to which they had been subjected. I and the other members of the panel were shocked at what we heard because it was evident that these individuals were being targeted solely because of their religious beliefs. I felt it necessary to bring the situation to the attention of a wider audience, and then sought to place a series of paid advertisements in French newspapers in the form of open letters to senior French officials. The open letters focused attention on the violations of European and international human rights standards caused by MILS, and they were in turn signed by some 52 religious and human rights leaders, mostly American.

Four major national newspapers in France refused to publish them. Only the national paper (Francois ?) agreed to run them and, on April the 20th, published our open letter to the president, Jacques Chirac. American signatories of these ads included Lee Boothby (sp) of the International Commission for Human Conscience; Dr. Derrick (sp) Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Relations at Baylor University; the Board of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston; Dr. Franklin H. Littell (sp), professor of holocaust and genocide studies at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey; Dr. David Little (sp) of the Harvard Divinity School; Melissa Rogers (sp), general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs; and representatives of many Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith communities.

Such was the furor following publication of this open letter that although Francois had agreed to run the third letter a week later, the paper not only reneged, but the chief editor publicly stated that he had published this letter on April 20 by mistake.

It is against this background that we come to a recent and most disturbing development in France to date, the proposed bill pending now before the National Assembly, about which much has been said. That bill is the subject of a letter, an open letter, published today in the International Herald Tribune, a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, saying it is a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights standards in that it singles out and targets members of minority religions even as a special category of citizens. The bill's title proclaims its discriminatory intent, "Law Proposal Aimed at Reinforcing the Prevention and the Repression of Groups with Sectarian Character."

The proposed law is essentially the product of the hysteria about minority faiths brought about by MILS and its president, Alain Vivien.

Mr. Chairman, I would urge you and the members of the committee to make the strongest possible representations to the French government that should this law pass, it will place in question France's commitment to the Helsinki Accords. Such a law would be a cancer on French democracy. Only by sending a strong and unmistakable signal of Congress's intent to take firm measures against violations of international human rights codes will we be able to succeed in halting these reverses for religious freedom in Europe.

I thank you very much for hearing my testimony, and I'll be happy in the dialogue to respond to your questions.


Thank you very much, Reverend L'Heureux. We appreciate your reference to the work of our New York ancestors, as well.

We'll now move on to our next panelist, Philip Brumley, general counsel of Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr. Brumley has traveled all over the world in support of religious liberty. We thank you, Mr. Brumley, for being here today, and you may now proceed.


Good morning, Chairman Gilman and Congressman Gejdenson and to all of you on the House Committee of International Relations.

Today happens to be a very special day. Most of you will know that it's Flag Day. It's also a special day for all lovers of religious freedom because it marks the 57th anniversary of an historic Supreme Court decision, West Virginia v. Barnette. In that case, the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to force children of Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag. Most do not understand, nor necessarily agree, with our position that, while we owe respect to the flag, we may not salute it; but that decision stands as irrefutable proof that this country does stand up and grant religious freedom to all, including those of minority faiths.

One would expect that the situation would be similar in Western Europe, but sadly, this is not the case, as has been testified. Witness communities have been active in Western Europe since over 100 years. There are approximately 1 million active Jehovah's Witnesses in Western Europe, approximately 1,600,000 who also attend our services. During World War II, hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses paid the ultimate price for not compromising their faith.

With this backdrop, it's surprising to see the treatment that Jehovah's Witnesses are receiving in Western Europe. I begin with France because it is the epicenter of religious intolerance of Jehovah's Witnesses. Two years ago, France imposed a 60 percent tax on all donations made to our administrative center in France. They assert that we owe as much as $50 million in unpaid taxes. Here we see the level of sophistication of religious intolerance. The French authorities will assert that Jehovah's Witnesses are free to believe whatever we will, but their anti-sect commission labeled us "a dangerous religion," and this had the effect of declaring open season on Jehovah's Witnesses.

Let me give you one example of what happens now to Jehovah's Witnesses in France. One of our ministers, Renee Snerberger (sp), for decades has sent religious literature to inmates in prisons throughout France. Recently those inmates informed him that they were no longer receiving the literature. When he inquired as to the reason, he was given the following answer by the Valpan (sp) prisons officials: Quote, "Receipt of these magazines is being suspended because of the sectarian nature of Jehovah's Witnesses, as recognized by the parliamentary commission."

Regarding Belgium, let me inform you of the situation that children of Jehovah's Witnesses routinely face in Belgium with regard to religious intolerance. A teacher in the Ecole Pageau (sp) issued a paper for class discussions and said this: Quoting, "In Belgium, there are 189 dangerous sects, and 37 are hard-core ones, such as Jehovah's Witnesses." Now, how would you have felt if your children and their faith was subjected to such scrutiny and intolerance in their classrooms?

Some who are Jehovah's Witnesses in Belgium have lost custody of their children just because they happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses. In one case the judge states, quote, "It constitutes a grave danger for the children, taking into account the influence of the Jehovah's sect of which the mother seems to be a member." Another judge was even more openly bigoted. He said, "Jehovah's Witnesses are not to be viewed as a religion but as a movement of fanatics."

What about Germany? As the fall of Communism drew near, the East German officials granted Jehovah's Witnesses full religious status, a status superior to the mere not-for-profit status we enjoy in Western Germany. When unification took place, we moved to have complete religious freedom throughout Germany, like the other majority religions. A trial court and an appellate court ruled that we were entitled to this status. It's called corporation of public law status. But the high administrative court ruled against us. For the first time, it said that we lacked the degree of loyalty necessary for any religion seeking corporation of public benefits status. They said that we lacked this loyalty because we are neutral in political matters. This case is now pending before the German Constitutional Court, and we hope for a favorable victory there.

Once again let me show you the effect on local Jehovah's Witnesses. For decades, one couple had been used to care for foster children. When the local youth office of the German government was informed by an anti-cult chairman that the couple happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses, they moved to have the children removed from this couple. This led to a two-year court battle that the couple ultimately won, but the local youth office has now refused to assign any new children in their care.

Next let me summarize briefly the situation in Austria. For decades, we were moving through the political and the legal court systems to obtain the same religious status as other religions in Austria. And Chairman, just as we were getting to the point of obtaining this religious status, the National Legislature of Austria convened and passed a new law. The new law, for the first time, imposes a 10-year waiting period for any organization seeking full religious recognition. The law applies to nobody but Jehovah's Witnesses. No one else is seeking this status at present. It was clearly passed with us in view.

Again let me move to the individual level of what is happening to Jehovah's Witnesses. One of our brothers was applying for a job, for which he was well-qualified and for which he was going to be accepted. But when they found out he was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, he received the following letter. Quote: "We thank you for your application, but we are sorry to have to tell you that we do not employ persons belonging to any kind of sect."

To just summarize a final matter, Sweden is complicating our operations there because of not recognizing the concept of voluntary work on behalf of religious endeavors. Although Sweden has a much better record than the other four countries I just mentioned, it is hampering our volunteer work to build new kingdom halls because those who would serve as volunteers to do this have to pay a tax on their labors, as though it is a taxable event.

Well, clearly something is wrong in Western Europe. What is the solution? Well, Jehovah's Witnesses turn to the scriptures first, and Isaiah foretold this: "In the wilderness, justice will certainly reside, and in the orchard, righteousness will dwell. My people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence." Jehovah's Witnesses recognize the complete fulfillment of that lies ahead in the future, but in the meantime, we call upon this committee and all governments to recognize our God-given right to religious freedom that currently Western Europe only extends to majority faiths.


Thank you, Dr. Brumley. Your reference to the Supreme Court's decision in Barnette, which not only came on Flag Day but came in the midst of war, reminds us how strong the impulse is to provide for religious freedom in our own nation. After all, that's why many of our ancestors first came here to begin with, is to look for freedom of religion.


Well said.


We'll now avail ourselves of the digital video conference facilities of our committee and the facilities of our American Embassy in Vienna to hear our next witness. We thank the public affairs staff of our embassy in Vienna for their assistance in this endeavor.

We'll now call upon, in Vienna, Dr. Robert A. Hunt. Dr. Hunt has since 1977 been the pastor of the English-speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna. He is a Texan by birth and a graduate of the University of Texas, Southern Methodist University and the University of Malaysia, where he earned his Ph.D. Dr. Hunt has served congregations in Texas, in Malaysia and in Vienna, and has worked in New York and in Singapore. He is a specialist in Christian-Muslim relations.

We know how happy you are in your own ministry, Dr. Hunt; nevertheless, we're grateful that you're willing to share your concerns about the present environment in which you're working in Vienna. Dr. Hunt, please proceed.


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the committee, as well, for inviting me to give this testimony and to share some of the experiences that I've had in Vienna.

According to a statement of the Austrian Information Service dated January 20th, 1998, the laws which regulate the legal status of religious belief communities, especially the law of , while making distinctions among them, in no way infringe on the rights of individuals or groups to practice it in public and private. I would like to suggest that the right of religious freedom cannot, however -- (inaudible due to static interference on the line from Vienna).


We pause for technical difficulties. Dr. Hunt, we're having some problem. You seem to be disconnected. We'll try to come back to you as quickly as we can.

In the interim, we're going to call on Congressman Rogan from California, who is here today to introduce the next witnesses. And if we are able to get Dr. Hunt? back on the line, we'll interrupt you.

Congressman Rogan.


Being interrupted goes with the turf. But I especially thank you for calling this hearing and giving me the privilege to take a moment to introduce two witnesses to this committee who are both friends.

The first witness literally needs no introduction. I'm sure she's familiar to all the members of this committee. Catherine Bell is the star of the hit CBS show, "JAG." On that show, she plays a military attorney. I teased her yesterday. I said, "You have the best of both worlds; you get paid for pretending you're an attorney, but you don't have to go through the disgrace in life of actually being one." (Laughter.) So I want to thank Catherine for coming out. She is a member of the Church of Scientology. She lives near me in Los Angeles. And in her presentation she will be reading prepared testimony of another great actress, Ann Archer, who could not be here today.

The second witness that I wanted to introduce is an old friend of mine. He's also a constituent. Craig Jensen from Glendale, California. Craig is the CEO of Executive Software. His company produces key software that enables disk operating systems to run more efficiently. It's a core component of most computer software operating systems. His company has contributed much to our national economic expansion in the last couple of decades.

Currently, Microsoft plans to include Craig's software in their Windows 2000 operating system. However, the Microsoft product launch, while heralded around the world, is being severely disadvantaged in Western Europe, and in particular in the Federal Republic of Germany. The origins of this imposition relate to the fact that Craig Jensen is a member of the Church of Scientology.

Mr. Chairman, this committee has a long history of acting on behalf of religious freedom. Its work has carried the torch of liberty to many new lands. It's in this spirit that I thank you for inviting Craig, Catherine and the other witnesses before this committee and for giving me the privilege of making this brief introduction of both of them.


Thank you, Congressman Rogan. We thank you for being here with us.

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