FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2012
Office of Morals and Spirituality
The Holy Synod of the Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide (ŒCOCW) defends the religious freedom of a Phoenix, Arizona citizen arrested for religious express in his home.
The ŒCOCW counsels respect for laws enacted for the preservation of peace and protection of all citizens. However, when an innocent citizen exercises his constitutional right of religious expression, and is summarily bludgeoned with 67 code violations for gatherings defined as “hostile,” the ŒCOCW stands in support of such constitutionally guaranteed freedom.
This particular case is extreme by every reasonable measure considering that many Phoenix citizens regularly host gatherings of similar size, however, often for different reasons without such excessive zealous response from law enforcement. Because this was a religious gathering, the question of discrimination easily becomes pertinent. Would it have been more appropriate for the city’s law enforcement agency to respond more courteously? When did “bible study” become an unlawful social event? When Moslems, Jews, and practitioners of all other religions are rightfully guaranteed by law the freedom to worship according to their precepts, why are Christians being restricted, especially when home congregations have been, historically, a part of Christian life since 30 A.D.?
The ŒCOCW supports the lawful exercise of religious freedom and suggests that the City of Phoenix consider moderating its response. The Church supports the lesson of “render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s….” (Mark 12:17), however, there is also the matter of common courtesy and respect for individual and religious freedom. In today’s world, no one’s practice of faith should be restricted. To persecute those practicing their faith presages the Hate Crimes we now find so odious in the current practice of law.
Our beloved constitution guarantees freedom of religious express and freedom of assembly, not the unfair restriction of either.
+Metropolitan Scholarios-Gennadius III, OSB
Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide