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Making a Case to Congress


L to R: Chairman Dov Fried, Senator Jim Risch, Dr. Antony Harper

Chairman Dov Fried's presence was spotted in the Capitol recently, where Save Vilna is making its case before Congress. Dr. Anthony Harper, White House correspondent for the InterMountain Christian News accompanied Chairman Fried.


A 2015 resolution that was passed by the Lithuanian Parliament, Seimas in 2015, authorizing the development of the Vilnius Conference Center on a 500-year old Jewish cemetery in which 50,000 graves lie, is under the spotlight.


International lawyer Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus Harvard Law School professor known for his work in constitutional law has said that the 2015 Seimas resolution is unconstitutional and not enforceable. “The 2015 Seimas resolution green-lighting the conference center on the Shnipishok cemetery in Vilna, Lithuania, undermines the provisions of the Lithuanian Constitution, Articles 22 and 26. These respective provisions in the Constitution protect religious freedom and religious institutions. Beyond raising a compelling constitutional issue, this resolution is wrong as a matter of justice, historical preservation, basic decency and the dignity of the dead,“ Professor Dershowitz said.


Additionally, the Seimas Resolution is a violation of: 1) a 2002 International Treaty between the U.S. and Lithuanian governments, 2) a 2008 U.S. Senate Resolution, and 3) the 2014 Protection Cemeteries Act (an amendment to the 1998 Freedom of Religion Act).


U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-NY) bill, the Protect Cemeteries Act, amended the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the desecration of cemeteries as one of many infringements on the right to freedom of religion.

  

“Religiously motivated desecration of cemeteries unfortunately occurs with alarming regularity, but this legislation would be a new tool to help combat it,” said Meng. “The bill would also go a long way towards promoting preservation, tolerance and respect for cemeteries, and the committee’s passage of the measure says in a loud clear voice that this type of hate crime will not be tolerated anywhere in our society."


Under the law, the U.S. can impose penalties on countries that obstruct religious freedom. These include slashing foreign aid, public condemnation, cancelling official visits and cultural or scientific exchanges, and prohibiting import and exporting agreements, among others.







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