Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Spokesman Defends HR2431

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Five Thomas Circle, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005-4153
(202) 387-8001 Fax: (202) 387-8027

Office of Government Information

1 October 1997

Dear Friend in Christ:

Greeting in the name of Christ Jesus, the Holy One of God. Thank you for you recent inquiry about the claims made by Mr. C. E. Carlson regarding the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (HR2431). As a church body, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod does not generally endorse specific pieces of legislation. The function of the Office of Government Information is to make sure that Christians have accurate information so that they may carry our their calling to live as responsible citizens in the society in which God has placed them. In that spirit, I offer the attached analysis of the claims made by Mr. Carlson.

Having examined Mr. Carlson’s assertions in some detail, I have found them to be baseless, misleading, and irresponsible. It is not my place to judge whether such misrepresentations have arisen from incompetence or an intentional attempt to deceive. In either case, the result is the same.

As I indicated above, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod does not have an official position on the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. As a church we certainly support the principle that individuals should be free to believe and worship according to their conscience without feat that they will be subjected to acts of torture, imprisonment, enslavement, or the threat of death for their faith. We know that God has called all us and all Christians to stand with those who suffer for Christ (Heb. 10:32-34) and to remember them as if we were suffering with them (Heb. 13:3). With regard to a specific legislative response on the part of our nation, we believe that each Christian citizen, given accurate information about the issues, should judge the matter according to his or her own conscience and should support such measures as they deem appropriate.

May God grant you wisdom as you consider this important matter. In His love I remain….

Christ’s servant and yours,
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
The Rev’d. Dr. David L. Adams

Jer. 31:3

An analysis of certain claims about the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act being distributed by Mr. C. E. Carlson

1 October 1997


Recently, an organization called “We Hold These Truths” of Scottsdale, Arizona, has distributed an article on the Freedom From Religious Persecution Act (HR2431). In the article Mr. CE Carlson claims to be concerned about the creation of a bureau within the United States government that will monitor religion in America. It is certainly the duty of every concerned American to be concerned about increasing government interference with religion in American life, but in this case, Mr. Carlson is tilting at a windmill.

In the course of this article, Mr. Carlson makes a number of wildly inaccurate claims about the bill and its effects, as even a cursory reading of the bill itself would reveal. In order to respond to these claims we have organized his comments into four broad allegations: that the bill would create an agency to monitor religion in America, that it’s [sic] sanction provisions are overly broad and unfocused, that it would increase the dictatorial powers of the executive branch, and that it promotes one world government. In the following pages, we will evaluate the accuracy of these claims in some detail.

Allegation No. 1: Monitoring religion in America

First and foremost, Mr. Carlson claims that the bill would establish on office to monitor religion in America. He writes:

The bill will provide for a Cabinet level equivalent agency whose mandate would be to provide surveillance over religious groups. The President, through appointees, would instantly enjoy enormous powers to monitor and judge religious groups at his discretion, hitherto forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

This is a serious and, if correct, damning accusation. Such an agency would clearly be unconstitutional and every religious person in America would oppose it. Mr. Carlson’s assertion is, however, wrong on two points. First, the Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring (ORPM) that the bill would create is not a “Cabinet level equivalent agency.” It is an office within the executive branch that has a very limited scope of action. Second, Mr. Carlson completely misrepresents the powers granted to the ORPM under the bill. The bill empowers the ORPM to monitor the actions of governments that persecute people of faith, it does not empower the office to monitor religion or to judge the faith of either religious groups or individuals.

Specifically, the director of the ORPM is charged with the following responsibilities:

Consider the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom presented in the annual reports of the Department of State on human rights [Section 5(e)(1)].
Consider the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom presented by independent human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations [Section 5(e)(2)].
In consultation with the Secretary of State, make policy recommendatio[ns to] the President regarding the policies of the United States Government toward governments which are determined to be engaged in religious persecution [Section 5(c)(3)].
Prepare and submit an annual report including the determination whe[n the] particular country is engaged in religious persecution, and identify the responsible entities within such countries [Section 5(e)(4)].
Maintain the lists of persecution facilitating products, goods, and ser[vices] and the responsible entities within countries determined to be engaged [in] religious persecution [Section 5(e)(5)].
Coordinate with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Sec[retary] of Commerce, and the Secretary of the Treasury to ensure that the prov[isions] of this act are fully and effectively implemented [Section 5(e)(6)].

In short, the bill empowers the director of the office to engage in fact-finding a[nd to] prepare reports and lists of goods used to persecute people of faith, to make pol[icy] recommendations, and to cooperate with other administration officials to carry out which Congress has passed. No other powers are granted to this office or to its director in this legislation. It does not, as Mr. Carlson suggests, empower the director or o[ffice to] determine the course of U.S. foreign policy.

More importantly, nothing in the bill empowers to the director of the office to [monitor] religion either abroad or in America. The fact-finding responsibilities described [do] not empower the director to judge religions, they require him to determine whe[ther] governments are taking actions to suppress with violent force the faith of indiv[idual] groups. It is instructive in this regard to examine the definitions used in the b[ill] shown above, the only thing the ORPM is empowered to monitor is religio[us persecution] as defined in the bill:

The term “religious persecution” means widespread and ongoing persecu[tion] of persons because of their membership in or affiliation with a religion o[r] religious denomination, whether officially recognized or otherwise, wher[e] such persecution includes abduction, enslavement, killing, imprisonme[nt,] forced mass resettlement, rape, or crucifixion or other forms of torture [Section 3(4)(a)].

The bill further distinguishes between situations in which such acts are perfor[med by] government itself (“Category 1” religious persecution [Section 3(4)(b)]) and wh[at] government allows such widespread and ongoing persecution to occur without r[eason] to protect those being persecuted (“Category 2” religious persecution [Section 3(4)(c)].

That the bill does not empower the office to judge religions is further clear by t[he] definition of “responsible entities.”

The term “responsible entities” means specific government departments, agencies, or units which directly carry out acts of religious persecution [Section 3(5)].

The actions of such government departments, agencies, or units which directly carry out acts of religious persecution are the only entities which the ORPM is empowered to evaluate. At no point does the bill empower the ORPM or its director to evaluate religions.

Mr. Carlson appears to base his claim that the bill empowers ORPM to evaluate religions by pointing to the section on immigration policy. Carlson writes:

Section 9 empowers “The Office” to evaluate and compare religions and to train Government employees within various agencies, including the Department of Immigration and Naturalization.

Since Mr. Carlson appears to build his entire case for government oversight of religion on this section of the bill, it is useful to quote Section 9 (b) to which he refers in its entirety:

(b) Training for Certain Immigration Officers. Section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1225) (as amended by section 302 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996; Public Law 104-208; 110 Stat. 3009-579) is amended by adding the end of the following:

(d) Training on Religious Persecution. The Attorney General shall establish and operate a program to provide to immigration officers performing functions under subsection (b), or section 207 or 208, training on religious persecution, including training on:

(1) the fundamental components of the right of freedom of religion;

(2) the variation in beliefs of religious groups; and

(3) the governmental and nongovernmental methods used in violation of the right of freedom of religion.

First, it is important to note that the bill does not empower the ORPM or its director to do any evaluation or training whatsoever. It requires the Attorney General to operate a training program for immigration offices so that they will be able to make competent decisions about claims to asylum on the basis of religious persecution.

Second, presumably Mr. Carlson is disturbed by language of point (d)(2) on “the variation in beliefs of religious groups”. This clause must be understood in the light of it’s context, specifically that “The Attorney General shall establish and operate a program to provide to immigration officers…training on religious persecution…”In other words, this clause does not empower the government to “evaluate and compare religions” in general, as Mr. Carlson suggests, but only to make sure that immigration officials understand the beliefs of religious groups insofar as necessary to carry out their responsibility to make determinations in the cases of applicants seeking asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. In this light it should be further apparent that since no U.S. citizens will be applying for admission to the U.S. on the grounds that they are seeking asylum from religious persecution in other countries, this clause has nothing whatsoever to do with monitoring or evaluating religious groups within the United States.

Mr. Carlson further writes that “HR 1685 would set a precedent the moment it becomes law by passing judgement [sic] on individuals based on their religious beliefs.” As evidence he cites the bill’s reference to the distinction between “radical extremists Muslims” and “moderate Muslims”. The distinction to which he refers is a distinction based on the action of governments, not on the beliefs of individuals. The bill does not condemn “radical extremists Muslims” on the basis of the beliefs, it condemns governments which because of pressure from “radical extremist Muslims” are engaged in “widespread and ongoing” acts of “abduction, enslavement, killing, imprisonment, forced mass resettlement, rape, or crucifixion or other forms of torture” against persons because of their faith [Section 3(4)(a)].

At no point does the bill suggest that the ORPM has either a mandate or the authority to monitor any citizen or group with the United States. Its clearly articulated mandate is to engage in fact-finding activities with regard to the actions of foreign governmental entities engaged in the most heinous forms of inhuman brutality. From all of this it should be clear that the” Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring is empowered to monitor government actions, not individual beliefs.”

Allegation No. 2: Sanctions

In describing the sanction provisions of the bill, Mr. Carlson writes:

The director has nearly unrestricted authority to “sanction”….These sanctions could range from elimination of all air traffic, trade, financial transactions, and selective targeting of individuals to a complete embargo of the designated, offending country.

In an attached summary of the legislation, he suggests that the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act:

Provides for a wide range of economic sanctions that the ORPM may impose upon individuals, countries, and regions at its exclusive discretion.

As before, Mr. Carlson substantially misrepresents the bill and its effects. In this case the misrepresentation arises because Carlson confuses two distinct aspects of the bill: the general sanction provisions that take effect upon a finding that a country is engaged in widespread and on-going religious persecution (section seven of the bill) and the specific sanction provisions aimed only at the government of Sudan (section 12 of the bill). These two are not the same, though throughout his analysis Carlson repeatedly confuses the two. To understand the sanction provisions of the bill one must keep these two sections clearly distinct.

The general sanction provisions of the bill provide base-line response on the part of the U.S. government to nations engaging in widespread and ongoing acts of persecution against individuals and groups because of their faith. Mr. Carlson suggests repeatedly that the sanction provisions of the bill are very broad in both their scope (what is sanctioned) and their application (who is sanctioned). In fact, these provisions are very limited in the scope and highly targeted in their application.

Section 7(a)(1)(A) of the act provides that upon the finding that a government is engaged in widespread and ongoing acts of religious persecution, from of [sic] the bill, the relevant U.S. government agencies will:

(i) prohibit all exports to the responsible entities listed under section 6(b)(3) or in any supplemental list of the Director, and

(ii) prohibit the export of such country of the persecution facilitating products, goods, and services listed under section 6(b)(2) or in any supplemental list of the Director: or

Point (i) above details with the application of the sanction provisions, that is, who is sanctioned. It is clear from the language of the bill that only exports (not imports) to “responsible entities” are prohibited. As we have seen above, the term “responsible entities” refers to the “specific government departments, agencies, or units which directly carry out acts of religious persecution” [Section 3(5)]. Furthermore, in identifying such “responsible entities”, the director of the ORPM is required to define such entities “as narrowly as possible” [Section 6(b)(3)].

These provisions of the act would only limit American companies from doing business with those agencies or entities engaged in the hands-on torture, killing, or other forms of persecution of people of faith. These provisions would not allow for everything from a “selective targeting of individuals to a complete embargo of the designated, offending country,” as Mr. Carlson suggests.

Point (ii) of the sanction provisions deals with the scope of the sanctions, that is, what is sanctioned. In addition to prohibiting exports to those directly responsible for carrying out acts of religious persecution, the bill also prohibits the export of “persecution facilitating products, goods, and services” – items directly shown to be used for surveillance or to torture, maim, and kill – to persecuting countries. As before, the key to understanding what is meant by the bill lies in its definition of “persecution facilitating products, goods, and services”. Section 3(3) of the bill defines this phrase as follows:

The term


1 comment so far

Paul Hoskins
August 31st, 2016

This article ends abruptly but mercifully without the argument of Rev. Adams continuing to defend this abomination which provides again for another bureaucracy. Yet another Marxist NGO. Hurrah! Their machinations and clever mendacity never ceases.

This condemns C. Carlson from his incorrect interpretation of an act , which I assume is proposed legislation not yet thankfully is law.

I never heard of such “government concern” but in churches I have visited like this Rev. Adams they have become another bureaucracy to promote both domestic and foreign policy for the godless , irresponsible violations of congress.

This ORPM subterfuge like other extravagant abominations to write unlawful legislation with a new pharisaic code which abrogates law , whose sovereignty and sanctity they can not infringe ( consider or evaluate) only observe.

Only God creates law; man (Pharisees) circumvent it. This presumptuous and arrogant infringement is unlawful and illegitimate conception of these creatures in congress.
Charles Carlson has discovered their conspiracy and shouted like a good sentry that this gratuitous ORPM like the NRA is unneeded and unwanted.

Thank you Pastor Carlson for “tilting at windmills” I perceive you see their leger de mane. You have perceived their vile affections for more law that God nor man never taught nor provided. Simplicity and honesty is far from them. They want to entangle us with vain words that will be used to bind us in chains . Lord Jesus spoke few words. Beware of twisted vines and entanglements.
Thank you again C. Carlson.