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Religious Right Backs Special Role At UN For Catholic Church.

Conservative Protestant groups, including James C. Dobson's Focus on the Family, have banded together to help the Vatican fend off an effort to end its official seat at the United Nations.

Leaders from both religious and secular right-wing groups appeared at a press conference at the UN March 15 to denounce an effort to reclassify the church's status.

The Roman Catholic Church, under the auspices of the "Holy See," holds status as a Non-Member State Permanent Observer at the United Nations. The church hierarchy uses this position, which is the same as the country of Switzerland, to oppose population control, sex education, abortion services, women's issues and gay rights, especially in the Third World. The special designation allows the Vatican to participate in UN debates but gives it no vote in the General Assembly.

Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC), a Washington-based group that is spearheading the drive to change the Vatican's role, says it would like to see the Holy See have the same UN status as other religious groups--a non-governmental organization. CFC has launched a "See Change" Campaign calling on the UN secretary general to revise the church's status. More than 400 organizations have endorsed the CFC effort.

To counter that move, right-wing leaders gathered 1,015 signatures from religious and secular groups opposing any change in the Vatican's status. Backers include conservative Protestant-oriented organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, the National Association of Evangelicals and Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship. In addition, the appeal was endorsed by several hard-line Muslim groups and Kathryn Balmforth, a law professor at Brigham Young University, a Mormon school.

"We Christians from all denominations will stand with our Catholic allies to see that the abortion industry is not successful at silencing the Holy See at the UN," said Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family.

American politicians have also weighed in. The Republican National Committee's Catholic Task Force has declared its support for the Vatican's special status. Task Force Co-Chair Bonnie Livingston (wife of former U.S. Rep. Robert Livingston, R-La.) said the drive to "kick the Vatican out of the United Nations offends Catholics."

RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson in March demanded that Democratic candidates Al Gore and Hillary Clinton repudiate the move to change the Vatican's role. He called the effort "a very unholy war" that seeks to "muzzle the voice of over 1 billion Catholics."

Meanwhile, in Congress Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) has introduced a resolution (S.Con.Res. 87) supporting continuation of the Vatican's preferred position. In the House, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has filed a similar measure (H.Con.Res. 253), which is cosponsored by Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
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Publication:Church & State
Date:May 1, 2000
Words:460
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