The Armenian National Committee in America is designed to remember a genocide that took place in Turkey in the early 20th century and press for the defense of Christian rights of minorities in Turkey and the Middle East. But despite the fact that those rights are trampled in Turkey and elsewhere, the organization ignores the oppression of Christian rights in the U.S., more specifically, by an official of Armenian descent, Brad Arvakian.
The Armenian National Committee in America is designed to remember a genocide that took place in Turkey in the early 20th century and press for the defense of Christian rights of minorities in Turkey and the Middle East. But despite the fact that those rights are trampled in Turkey and elsewhere, the organization ignores the oppression of Christian rights in the U.S., more specifically, by an official of Armenian descent, Brad Arvakian.Armenians, as a group, have been persecuted by the Muslim majority in Turkey, and the government participated in what is generally acknowledged as a genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century. There are many documentaries that describe the persecution and genocide of Armenians in Turkey. Because many Armenians in Turkey are largely Christian, the group also defends the rights of Christians to practice their religion, and asks that the Turkish government respect those rights as well. Because the government Muslim, it is an uphill battle.
The ANCA also presses the U.S. congress and Obama administration to defend the rights of Armenians in the Middle East on their web site:
“The ANCA carefully tracks Members of Congress on a range of issues of concern to Armenian Americans. We compile this information and present the profile of each Member in an easy-to-read Report Card format. Congressional grades and endorsements for the 114th Congress will be announced in October, 2016.”
A call to the ANCA was answered by the communications director Elizabeth S. Chouldjian, who was not interested in the details of Arvakian’s actions. Her response was that since Arvakian was an American, the organization was not interested in responding to the repression of the rights of Christians in the U.S.
In fact, Arvakian, commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry, not only violated the religious rights of a Christian baker in Oregon, but evidently gloated about it online after his action. In his role as commissioner, he followed the guidance of a judge to fine Aaron and Melissa Klein for refusing to bake a cake for the wedding of two lesbians. The Kleins provided baking services for the two women before, and did not refuse service or products to them simply because of their sexual orientation. The Kleins had no reason to know their sexual orientation.
The Kleins, as a practice, did not ask the sexual orientation of every person who comes into their store, and provided their products to every one. The exception is that, because of their beliefs, they could not bake a cake for a wedding ceremony of a couple of the same sex, in this case, two women, Rachel Cryer-Bowman and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. Evidently, this difference is difficult for Arvakian to understand. As an Armenian, he no doubt understands that his ancestors were persecuted in Turkey, and killed by the thousands. But it seems to be challenging for this very bright former attorney to understand Christians in the U.S. have morals that preclude them from supporting some activities. There are no doubt dozens of bakers in Portland who would gladly provide a wedding cake for the couple. Here is a sarcastic column / letter to Mr. Arvakian from a columnist with the blaze:
Dear Oregon: thank you for protecting us from the scary Christians
For his part, Arvakian, awarded $135,000 in damages to the couple, concluding that by refusing to bake a cake for the lesbian ceremony, the Kleins had caused emotional harm to the two
Arvakian is running for Secretary of State in Oregon, and on his web site he is clear in his advocacy of abortion rights, something that the majority of Christians are opposed to. It should be obvious that Arvakian had an agenda going into the prosecution of these Christians, and that he would side with the two lesbians and the rights of LGBT community, even though it violated the rights of Christians.
Here is a link to his election web site where he is endorsed by NARAL Oregon:
Feb. 26, 2016 - Today the NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon PAC endorsed Brad Avakian for Oregon Secretary of State.
The event happened in 2013. The court proceeding, where the Kleins had to defend themselves, is detailed and extensive, and reports how the couple reportedly suffered because the Kleins simply refused to provide service to the couple in this one instance. (The court proceeding are in a pdf; it’s a total of 122 pages). The Kleins have filed an appeal to dismiss the $135,000 in damages and at first refused to pay the fine, but later agreed to pay the fine until the appeal is heard. It's not in admission of guilt; it's simply so that interest on the fine does not accrue. The couple received more than $500,000 in support through a gofundme campaign. (Their business was closed because protesters disrupted their business at their store front location).
The commissioner awarded complainants $75,000 and $60,000, respectively, in damages for emotional and mental suffering resulting from the denial of service. At the end of the court documents, the Kleins attempted to prove that Arvakian was biased and colluded in his attempt to punish the Kleins because he is a liberal. It was dismissed. Avakian went further than the judgement, and in an order reminiscent of Nazi Germany, declared that the Kleins could not talk about the judgement. He slapped the Kleins with a gag order that prohibits them from voicing their opinions about same-sex marriage:
He even objected to their posting a simple sign on the front of their store:
Closed but still in business. You can reach me by … this fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart.
“The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published…any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations…will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation,” Avakian wrote, The Oregonian reported.
Couple ordered to pay $135,000 because they didn't want to bake a cake for lesbian wedding
What does this have to do with the Armenian National Committee in America? The ANCA consistently lobbies congress and Obama administration and Turkey to respect the religious and human rights of Armenians
The ANCA posts articles on human rights issues related to Armenians, so that congress and the administration, as well as Armenians and other Americans can know about human rights issues, which are usually violations.
Here are some of their efforts:
ANCA Urges Obama Administration Action Regarding Turkish Government Confiscation St. Giragos Armenian Church Religious Properties Diyarbakir
Protecting Christians, Preserving Churches & Promoting Religious Freedom
Protecting Christians, Preserving Churches & Promoting Religious Freedom
The ANCA seeks strong U.S. leadership in pressing the Turkish government to return improperly confiscated or otherwise stolen Christian properties in Turkey (dating back to the Armenian Genocide) and the areas of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish military, to honor its international religious freedom obligations, and to fully respect freedom of faith.
The persecution of Amenians, who are mostly Christian, has been well-documented, and includes many documentaries on youtube. Here are a few:
The Armenian Journey - A Story of an Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide
The ANCA lists on their web site dozens of congressmen who support the efforts of the ANDA. In fact, the co-chair of the ANCA Caucus is a Christian congressman from Illinois, Rep. Robert Dold. Here is the ANCA welcoming Rep. Dold:
The ANCA welcomes Dold, a Republican, as the new co-chair of the caucus.
It is ironic, if not hypocritical of the ANCA, to on the one hand, seek the assistance of a Christian congressman, yet at the same time, ignore the actions of an Armenian official in the U.S., who keeps Christian business people from expressing their religious rights. Many of the press releases and articles written by Chouldjian directed at a Christian congressman, Rep. Robert Dold and others, promote the religious freedom of Christians in Armenia and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The ANCA should ask itself: how are the rights of Christians in Armenia, Turkey, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East any different than the rights of Christian bakers in Oregon. What if a Muslim asked an Armenian baker to bake a cake to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Turkey? Should they be forced to do so, or face a fine? If we are going to defend the rights Christians in Turkey, we need to defend the rights of all Christians, including those in Oregon.
© 2016 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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