Landmark US House Resolution Presses Turkey to Return Stolen Churches

Majority Leader Eric Cantor Brought Key Religious Freedom Measure to a Floor Vote

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives Dec. 13 adopted a landmark religious freedom measure, H.Res.306, calling upon Turkey to return the Christian church properties it stole through genocide, and to end its repression of the surviving members of the vast Christian civilizations that once represented a majority in the territory of the present-day Republic of Turkey, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The measure, spearheaded by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) was scheduled for House consideration by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, with the support of Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Berman, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. House Members speaking in support of the measure included Reps. Royce, Berman, Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution lead co-sponsor Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).
Congressional Turkey Caucus co-chair Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) was alone in speaking out against the resolution. The measure was adopted by voice vote.

“Despite Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent claims of progress on religious freedom, Turkey’s Christian communities continue to face severe discrimination,” explained Royce. “Today, the U.S. House of Representatives considered and adopted my legislation, which calls upon the government of Turkey to end religious discrimination, allow religious prayer and education, and return stolen church property. The United States has a strong interest in promoting religious freedom abroad.”

Berman concurred, noting, “This important resolution calls attention to Turkey’s disturbing, persistent failure to respect the ancient Christian heritage of Anatolia and to treat its Christian
communities as free and equal citizens. Turkey should take immediate steps to restore all confiscated church property and allow full freedom of worship and religious education for all Christian communities.”

In July, Royce and Berman were joined by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in spearheading House Foreign Affairs Committee consideration of the “Return of Churches” amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill. Their amendment was overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of 43 to 1.

“The passage of House Resolution 306 is a great victory for religious freedom around the world, and is a turning point in the Armenian people’s fight for religious freedom. Respect for the full exercise of our civil rights is really central to who we are as Americans and central to the values and ideals that we promote all over the world. My home state of Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams on the principles of religious liberty and freedom and I am proud to co-sponsor the Resolution in that spirit,” said Congressman David Cicilline.

The text of H.Res.306 adopted today is the same as the abridged version adopted at the committee level.

“Today’s vote, over opposition from Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and, sadly, even our own American president’s administration, represents a powerful victory for religious freedom, and also reflects the growing American and international consensus that Turkey must—starting with the return of thousands of stolen Christian churches properties and holy sites—accept its responsibilities for the full moral and material implications of a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian.

Armenian Americans across the U.S. were joined by religious freedom advocates and their counterparts in the Greek, Assyrian, and Syriac communities in making thousands of phone calls to their Representatives in support of H.Res.306, following action alerts issued by the Armenian National Committee of America, American Hellenic Institute, and American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association and the American Hellenic Council.

With hours left to the scheduled vote on H.Res.306, Turkish American groups mounted a campaign to block the measure but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The ANCA will be posting full video coverage of U.S. consideration of H.Res.306 on its website at

Text of H.Res.306


Urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and to return confiscated church properties.
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the Secretary of State, in all official contacts with Turkish leaders and other Turkish officials, should emphasize that Turkey should –
(1) end all forms of religious discrimination;
(2) allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to organize and administer prayer services, religious education, clerical training, appointments, and succession, religious community gatherings, social services, including ministry to the needs of the poor and infirm, and other religious activities;
(3) return to their rightful owners all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties, including movable properties, such as artwork, manuscripts, vestments, vessels, and other artifacts; and
(4) allow the rightful Christian church and lay owners of Christian church properties, without hindrance or restriction, to preserve, reconstruct, and repair, as they see fit, all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties within Turkey.


  1. I also heard that there is a landmark Turkish parliament resolution pressing US to return stolen lands to Native Americans. Ha!

  2. An important moment.  A tacit recognition of the results of genocide.  We need to see this for what it is, one step closer to our goal.   Thank your congressman.

  3. It is good to see Democratic Institutions in Turkey developing, but trying to grossly exxagerate Human Rights Issues in Turkey and pass milions of resolutions which serves the interests of Armenian Faschist Imperialist Warmongering will not have a lasting resolution to the Turkish-Armenian conflict and will not promote peace, stability, democracy, and greater human rights in the region.

  4. Two things…First, this bill has to go to the Senate. Second, regadless of the outcome, Turkey is a soverign nation. Who’s going to try to enforce this obviously biased bill? The Ethiopian parliament has just passed a bill forcing Armenia to admit to their genocides against Moslems AND demanding the withdrawl of ALL Armenian troops from NK!! Do you see the folly? Nice try though. 

  5. The preamble to the bill includes the text, “Ottoman Empire’s intentional destruction of over 2,000,000 Armenians, …” and the other victim groups. “Intentional destruction” effectively amounts to recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the House. Congratulations to the US Congress for finally recognizing the genocide.

  6. Finally Congress recognizes the truth of what present day Turkey perpetuates.  Too bad the “representatives” of Turkey who post on this site can’t say they want the same.  But there are progressives in Turkey who would welcome a little truth on what everybody already knows wherever there is an abandoned church.

  7. The purpose of these ‘billions’ of resolutions is to compel the Fascist Imperialist Turkish Warmongering State to finally give up their dream of Pan-Turanism, and leave the indigenous populations alone, S. Yilmaz.  When the Fascist Turkish State mends its wayward ways, maybe  the 1000 year nightmare unleashed by the invading Seljuk Turk nomadic hordes will finally end. After that, all of us – Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Turks, Alevi, Syriac will have peace, stability, democracy, and greater human rights in the region.
    Turk-oglu Robert: if these resolutions and bills had no effect,  Official Turkey would not react with such fury and hysteria. Just today it was announced that a Turkish Parliamentary delegation is headed to France to try to thwart the Armenian Genocide Denial Criminalization bill. Turkey also threatens to recall their envoy to France  if the bill passes. Now, if these bills have no effect on Turkey, why not ignore them – instead doing everything to kill them. Why even bother ? Obviously your Turkish leaders know something you don’t.

  8. Dear turks, the fact that there are thousands of ancient Armenian churches is in itself  a testament to the ORIGINAL OWNERS OF THE lands that are currently occupied by you turks today..Its also funny how when pressed with facts the only thing turks bring up is American Indians..Turks are scared to death of their past.. Thats why laws are required to silence anyone countering official Turkish denials..Merry Christmas Turks

  9. S. Yilmaz,
    Please refrain from using misleading and cowardly neutral language like “Turkish-Armenian conflict.” Such language implies a two-sided dispute with equally legitimate ‘competing narratives.’
    There are no two “sides” to this issue. There is a murderer–Turkey–and a victim–the Armenians. They are not co-equal belligerents. There is one party that has violated international law and human rights, and the victims of those violations.
    When discussing the Holocaust, do you refer to the “Jewish-German conflict”? I thought not.

  10. It is interesting that this news does not include the most important aspect of the resolution acceptance story. It was a very late hour of the day and there were only three votes, two of which supports the law. It is meaningless to comment on this law’s impact, it reflects nothing. 

  11. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy regarding the bill circulating in the French parliament that criminalizes the denial of the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman empire. According to the Turkish news portal Dünya Bülteni, in his letter Erdogan urged “not to sacrifice bilateral relations for the sake of a third party – Armenia”. Turkey threatened to withdraw her ambassador to France and to freeze all ties with Paris, if French lawmakers approve the bill to be voted next week. “It will have irreparable consequences for entire bilateral relations,” said Turkish ambassador to France Engin Solakoglu. Earlier, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused France of returning to the “medieval mentality” and said that Ankara would not leave attempts by any country to disgrace Turkey and her nation unanswered. In addition, on the eve of the vote in the French parliament, Turkey will send a delegation to Paris headed by her Parliament’s foreign affairs committee chairman Volkan Bozkirom to explain what harm the bill does to relations between Turkey and France.   —Source: Russian News Agency REGNUM
    Does this look like these resolutions and bills have no effect on Turkish state?

  12. Turk-oglu Robert, regarding this sentence of mine in above post: ‘Turk-oglu Robert: if these resolutions and bills had no effect,  Official Turkey would not react with such fury and hysteria.’

    This just in: ” Erdoğan warns Sarkozy of ‘grave consequences’  ”
    (Hurriyet December/16/2011). 
    {Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter today to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, warning of the “grave consequences” a French bill recognizing Armenian genocide claims would have on bilateral relations. } 

    Apparently these bills have such little effect on Turkey, that PM Erdogan sends a personal letter to Pres. Sarkozy. The slime, who with great fanfare “apologized” for Dersim (which he didn’t), is still slithering in Denialist mud: ‘Armenian genocide claims…’

    Also, the highly educated PM Erdogan need to be educated some more: France has already recognized the Armenian Genocide. This Bill will Criminalize its Denial.


  13. @Ugur, it was a voice vote: 43 for and one against. Even some of the more pro-Turkish members of the House approved of the measure. It has passed Committee and now the House. It will pass the Senate

  14. As long as Turkey imprisons citizens who use the words Armenian and genocide together, they have no right to be hurt, insulted or otherwise offended by what France does in regard to Armenians. There were plenty of French (and German, American, Danish, Norwegian) eyewitnesses to the genocide. Turkey wants to somehow insist that they were deaf, dumb and blind, but guess what…they can and will speak the truth. If anyone should be offended, it is diaspora and native Armenians about the ongoing treatment of historical memory in Turkey. At the same time, what is all powerful Turkey really so afraid of?  Two words?  Come on…this is a joke. Own up to your own history and stop being embarrassed by it. Own up to it and the truth shall be your friend.  

  15. Dear All,
    I would not be so sure that the higher chamber in France do so as well.Mr. Erdogan has according to European news*not confirmed, addressed to France,Mr. sarkozy, saying”your  country has become a pawn or a prisoner  to the Armenians  in your country”to that effect.The main issue  here is not Recognition or punishment of Denialism*a degree  higher  than Recognition  only.Did  I say  ONLY_
    Well yes, it is not the only or  any such .IT  IS  COMPENSATION/RESTITUTION  that worries  the leaders  of great Turkey. otherwise  they will come and kneel before the Monument  of our martyrs  in Tstzernagapert,.Bedlieve  you me  they will!!!
    but  pay  for BLOOD  MONEY, return confiscated  real properties.
    A few churches  yes!!! indeed as Bakhshish!!! that  is their mentality what  is  in their minds to get rid  of these heirs  of  our ex-raya  Ermenis…
    Thanks beforehand 

  16. I guess a truth is not true until the almighty US Congres passes a resolution on it. It is my New Year’s resolution that this resolution passes this year and we can all get busy pursuing more productive goals but more likely the next distraction and hate lobbying theme. Then all will see that facts remain facts and myths remain just myths.

    What fact requires so much protection? None!

    I truly wish the Turkish officals were not this hysterical about any related development but we are an emotional bunch obviously. I would rather they spent their time and energy on improving the lot of all their citizens today.  

  17. this is stupid and against freedom of speech.

    then, we , Turkey , have the  right to jail people who says “Kurdish people killed Armenians”…

  18. gaytzag palandjian:

    IT  IS  COMPENSATION/RESTITUTION  that worries  the leaders  of great Turkey.

    True. So so true. If it was just recognition Turkey would do it.

  19. Necati:
    then, we , Turkey , have the  right to jail people who says “Kurdish people killed Armenians”…

    Uhhhhhh…. Kudish people did kill Armenians.

    Denying the truth (genocide) and stating the truth are different thıngs. Again I tried to make this as simple as possible so you can maybe understand common sense.

  20. We seem to forget that Armenian issues including the Genocide have been manipulated by other countries for their own political agendas. Almost in every instance some Armenians jump in joy when a “pro Armenian” resolution (Res 306) passes in Congress or Senate.  
     Recently, President Gul expressed his concerns regarding the submission of resolutions targeting Turkey. In an indirect response Defense Secretary Mr. Panetta reminded Mr. Gul about mending ties with Israel.   Here is an excerpt from the text:
    Gül warns on resolutions

    Another important message dispatched by Gül to Panetta was Turkey’s displeasure over the submission of resolutions targeting Turkey at the U.S. Congress. Alongside some resolutions pressing Turkey to recognize the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, Congress adopted a non-binding resolution slamming Turkey for failing to safeguard the country’s Christian heritage.
    “Does this approach of Congress fit with the allied relationship of two NATO countries?” Gül asked Panetta.

    Panetta: Mending ties with Israel is crucial

    Panetta, meanwhile, said the mending of ties between Turkey and Israel was important alongside the issues of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring.
    The Journal of Turkish Weekly  Saturday, 17 December 2011

  21. ‘What fact requires so much protection? None!’ writes Murat.

    If that is so, why does the fact of the Jewish Holocaust require any protection at all ?
    Denialist Ernst Zündel spent 3 years in jail in Germany for the crime of Holocaust Denial (…well, technically  Incitement for Holocaust Denial)
    Either you deny the Jewish Holocaust, same as you implicitly deny the Armenian Genocide, or your claim that truth requires no protection is false. 

    Which is it ? 

  22. Freedom of speech is not freedom to lie, Necati.  I cringe at your twisted thinking.

    Murat, facts don’t need protection, people do.  And those who deny the facts of genocide threaten real people by perpetuating the mindset that those who died didn’t really matter and their death does not require justice in a just world.  No one is safe when this mindset goes unchallenged.  It takes real moral courage to protect targeted people by affirming their history, their right for justice, and their dignity as human beings.

  23. Again…why does Turkey maintain law 301?  If that is not a restriction on free speech and open journalism, tell me what it is.  Turkey has no right to tell France what to do, just as France cannot tell Turkey what to do. But, France is not dictating to Turkey…it is passing a law on its own citizens. Very different. Erdogan insists that France examine itself, well…Algeria was terrible, but 45,000 is not a genocide, and Rwandans were not French citizens or living in France. Armenians were Ottoman citizens…living on their own land. There is no comparison. The CUP murdered millions of Armenians – who by the way, had no government, no army, no structure…they were not a separate country…they were Ottomans, Anatolians – citizens. And, those running Turkey at that time were criminals, plain and simple. 

  24. “…. trying to grossly exxagerate Human Rights Issues in Turkey and pass milions of resolutions which serves the interests of Armenian Faschist Imperialist Warmongering will not have a lasting resolution to the Turkish-Armenian conflict and will not promote peace, stability, democracy, and greater human rights in the region.”

    S. Yilmaz, what exaggeration are you referring to?  Is it an exaggeration that before 1915 there were more than 2000 churches in Turkey and today there are about 100? These structures, which survive for hundreds of years elsewhere, didn’t just crumble   away.   Armenian desire to see Turkey pay for the crime of genocide and destruction of a Christian culture is not Fascist Imperialist Warmongering—it is called the pursuit of justice.  Open your mind.

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