Back to business in Washington!
A little bit of history –I have been on Capitol Hill for decades fighting for social conservative values. In 1994 I founded Government Is Not God – Political Action Committee (GING-PAC) to help elect godly men and women to Congress. As an example, one of the first outspoken pro-life Christian conservatives that the PAC supported was Dr. Tom Coburn for Congress from Oklahoma. Two years later GING-PAC helped him run for the Senate. In December, 2014 I dropped by Senator Coburn’s office to say goodbye. He is gone and I am still here. I could recount this same story about dozens of other congressmen and Senators.
If you recall, 1994 was the year of the “Gingrich revolution” when the House moved from Democrat to Republican for the first time since President Eisenhower in the 1950’s. Many social conservatives were elected and for years I worked directly with the offices of Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey, to pass legislation that would permit prayer in the public schools. During that time I actually wrote a book. Let Us Pray: A Plea for Prayer in Our Schools which became a movie distributed by Gospel Films.
This longevity in Washington and the ability to maintain an office just a few blocks from the Capitol Building has given me so much access that at times it surprises me. Last year I had dinner with Senator Ted Cruz one week and Senator Rand Paul the next week. Just by chance, I was at a cigar smoking event with Senator Paul last year as well.
Actually being on Capitol Hill makes a huge difference
How this helps our cause – Each Wednesday that Congress is in session, a private invitation only lunch is held a few blocks from the Capitol. The sixty to seventy people in the room represent the most powerful conservative organizations in the United States including the National Rifle Association, the Right to Life Committee, the Family Research Council, the Chamber of Commerce and others. I am present at that lunch every time it is held representing the Religious Freedom Coalition.
This week, two Senators and three congressmen were present at the lunch along with those representing powerful groups, when I presented a Power Point on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East that featured our Christmas for Refugees program.
The Power Point contained numerous photos I took while in Lebanon and Jordan and a short video of my interviews with victims of the ISIL who had escaped Mosul, Iraq. The group also saw photos of Christian refugee children receiving their Christmas dinners. The room was silent as I described the horror the children had escaped from.
The point I made at this meeting was clear: Congress must stop the funding and arming of Islamic rebels who are killing and driving into exile these Christian families.
If we can’t stop the killing of Christian children in the Middle East, how can we stop the chipping away of the liberties of Christians in the United States?
Direct contact with Congress about funding Islamic fighters – Each week that Congress is in session I am doing something similar to the meeting described above, to fight for the liberty of Christians worldwide because I don’t believe we can protect our rights here if we allow Christians in the rest of the world to be slaughtered and enslaved.
On several occasions last year I spoke with Senator Tim Scott about the persecution of Christians in North Africa and the Middle East. At the
time we talked, he was appointed Senator, serving out the remaining term of former Senator Jim DeMint who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation. Since then, Senator Scott won reelection in a landslide victory in South Carolina. This is a great man of God who loves to share the Gospel whenever he gets the opportunity.
The point I am making is that there are many congressmen and Senators who are on our side in the battle for religious liberty. In the Senate there are more than twenty men whose lives have been touched by the Lord and who publicly acknowledge it, such as Senator Roy Blunt who was the president of a Bible College at one time. Senator Blunt now organizes a monthly meeting called the Senate Values Action Team where he and other Senators work with social conservative leaders. That meeting is held in the Capitol Building!
On the House side nearly one out of every four members are a part of the Congressional Prayer Caucus led by Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia. There was no Prayer Caucus before Randy Forbes was elected in the year 2000. After the new Congress was sworn in a few days ago, the Prayer Caucus had over 100 members, and they don’t just talk. Members of the Prayer Caucus have fought hard for the rights of Christians and have even filed lawsuits to protect religious freedoms. The Prayer Caucus meets before each session to pray for our nation.
Still, it is an uphill battle to stop Congress from funding Islamic fighters. Even members of the Prayer Caucus have voted for funds for the Sunni Muslim fighters because it was part of a bill they needed passed for their districts. Legislation is complex, and when Senator Harry Reid controlled the Senate there was no budget for the United States; it was all passed as big omnibus bills with everything rolled into one, so Obama could get whatever he wanted. Hopefully those days are now over. But that does not mean we Christians automatically get help from Congress.
This make your role much more important – The vast majority of those reading this newsletter mailed post cards to their congressmen and Senators demanding a stop to the funding of Sunni Muslim fighters in Syria. When I talk to a congressman or Senator about President Obama’s support of Islamic fighters it make a big difference if they have heard from you.
Reactions to the demands of your post cards – Many supporters have mailed me copies of the letters they received from their Senators and congressmen, responding to their demand to stop funding Sunni Muslim fighters. Most of the letters so far say nothing of substance, and others are flat out depressing in their total lack of understanding or will to actually do anything.
The letter Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania is sending to those who sent him one of the post cards is a prime example. He wrote: “While I have deep concerns about the details of the plan to fund certain Syrian rebels, it is the only plan we have under this Commander-in Chief to fight back against the ISIS.” The problem with this statement by Senator Toomey is that the rebels to whom we gave the arms immediately announced very publicly that they would use them to fight the Syrian government and not the Islamic State.
A letter from Senator Tim Kaine actually bragged about supporting the overthrow of the current Syrian government, but offered no solution as to a replacement. He stated that under an amendment he offered to the bill, giving funds and arms to Sunni fighters in Syria would have certain restrictions such as “… military assistance would be conditional on the Syrian opposition’s commitment to an inclusive political transition.”
“Syrian opposition?” During my last mission trip to Lebanon and Iraq I interviewed dozens of Christian refugee families and all of them told me the same thing: “In Iraq 85% of the fighters are Iraqi, but in Syria 95% of the fighters are not Syrian. Those fighting the Assad government in Syria are from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Pakistan, as well as from the United States, Russia, Germany, France, the U.K and even China.
The only Syrians involved in the “Syrian opposition” are the ones living in five star hotels in Turkey, at the expense of American taxpayers. They eat fine meals and make proclamations about democracy once in a while, to get more money for their lifestyle. The one thing Hillary Clinton never understood as Secretary of State is the same thing that John Kerry does not understand as Secretary of State. The guys they sip champagne with, and talk with about bringing democracy to Syria, they have no authority beyond ordering room service.
One Senator wrote to an RFC supporter: “As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have closely watched the crisis in Syria unfold. I will continue to support an international resolution of the Syrian conflict that addresses U.S. interests and the challenges we face at home and abroad today.” Can someone please tell me what his position is?
Common to all the letters from congressmen and Senators is the lack of even one word about the persecuted Christians. Our post card specifically demanded that no taxpayer money be sent to Christian killing Islamic fighters. Not a single letter from a single congressman or Senator so far has mentioned the Christians being murdered by Islamic fighters in Syria.
Don’t be disheartened – We are making progress regardless of the sound of those letters right now. We are getting the attention of the staff, and some of the congressmen and Senators as well. After enough post cards arrive and we reach a critical volume point, elected officials will get worried and their comments and voting patterns will change.
Last week we distributed another 50,000 sets of post cards for Christians to mail to their congressmen and Senators. We need at least one million to be delivered, and we are at half that.
Post Cards do make a difference – I began this newsletter by making the point that I am on Capitol Hill and have been there for decades. Because of that I have been able to build many relationships and I get verbal feedback from members of House and Senate staff. It took months, but the post cards are really starting to get noticed as the numbers begin to build. One staffer told me about his boss, “If he gets another thousand of these it will change his vote.” We can’t stop now!
If we are financially able to send out 50,000 post cards a month for the next ten months we can hit a million. We can get there faster if you download the card and give it to your friends and ask them to send it independently to their congressmen and Senators. The card text can be download at: TerrorPostCard.com. There is information there on how to obtain the addresses of congressmen and Senators.
Our Relief Programs Run All Year Round
The Christmas program for 2014 may be over, but the plight of Christian refugees is not. The Religious Freedom Coalition is not a major aid organization, but we were able to assist Christian refugees to some degree all year long.
We do not accept any funds from the governments of the United States or the EU and as a result we are allowed to distribute whatever aid we can to Christians who suffer. Aid groups that accept government funding must give aid proportionally, which means that since 90% of refugees are Muslim they get 90% of the aid.
At right is a photo of myself taken last month just north of Amman, Jordan in the warehouse we support jointly with a local ministry. In 2014 we assisted in delivering three shipping containers of donated new clothing, shoes and blankets from Europe and the United States to the warehouse. We also pay for a portion of the rent each month. It is from this warehouse that kerosene heaters we bought last year were distributed to Christian refugees living in the unheated basements of tenement buildings in the poorer sections of Amman.
Just two weeks after I returned from Jordan and Lebanon a huge snow ice and storm struck knocking out power and cutting off roads. Our warehouse in Jordan was not accessible for days. Our associate ministry there called and requested urgent funds for additional kerosene heaters for refugee families. Unfortunately we only had available funds for fifty more heaters.
Thank you for your support of the Religious Freedom Coalition and our efforts not only for Christian refugees, but to change hearts on Capitol Hill as well.
William J. Murray, Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #900, Washington, DC 20004