NEWS STORY: Religious leaders call for ratification of test ban treaty

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c. 1998 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON _ A coalition of some 200 religious leaders, including the heads of major Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish denominations and agencies, Tuesday (May 19) called on the Senate to”proceed swiftly”to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”The United States Senate has within its powers the capacity to take decisive action on some of the most fateful issues affecting the security of our nation and the peace of the planet,”the statement said.

The five-paragraph statement was issued in the wake of heightened international concern prompted by India setting off a series of nuclear weapons tests last week and Pakistan’s stated willingness to respond with its own testing.

But the statement, which was being prepared long before the latest incidents, is directed primarily at the foot-dragging by the United States in ratifying CTBT.”The strongest possible rebuttal of India’s violation of the international moratorium on nuclear weapons test explosions will be the immediate Senate ratification of the CTBT,”said Joe Volk, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

The CTBT was approved by the United Nations in September 1996 and would ban all test blasts of nuclear weapons worldwide. The Clinton administration has signed the treaty and called for Senate ratification this year. So far, there has been no movement on Capitol Hill.

Overall, 149 nations signed the agreement and 13 have ratified it. But it must be ratified by 44 countries for it to be binding.”If the (treaty) continues to languish in the Senate, the U.S. will miss an important opportunity to help curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide,”said the Rev. Mark Brown of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Office for Governmental Affairs.

In the statement, the religious leaders said the end of the Cold War has changed _ not ended _ the nature of the threat posed by nuclear weapons and”profound moral questions persist.””The retention of thousands of nuclear weapons, combined with the threats of proliferation and terrorism, requires renewed attention to these issues,”the statement said. “At the moral core of nuclear issues is the credibility of nuclear-weapon states in seeking to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by or to other states or political groups,”it said.

The signers also gave the Senate an implied political threat, saying they were determined”to interpret this issue as a vital matter of religious conscience for for out communities.” (OPTIONAL TRIM _ STORY MAY END HERE)

Among the signers were:

Bishop McKinley Young, African Methodist Episcopal Church; The Rev. Daniel Weiss, general secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA; the Rev. Richard Hamm, general minister and president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Bishop Nathaniel Linsey, senior bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, Episcopal Church; the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; John Maurer, general secretary, Friends United Meeting; James Schrag, general secretary, General Conference, Mennonite Church; the Rev. Gordon Sommers, president, Moravian Church, Northern Province; the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary, National Council of Churches.

Also: the Rev. Willie T. Snead, president, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; Metropolitan Theodosius, primate, Orthodox Church in America; the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the Rev. Tyrone Pitts, general secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Ben Beach, general conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president, Union of American Hebrew Congregations; John Buchrens, president, Unitarian Universalist Association; the Rev. Ted Keating, director for peace and justice, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Susan Shank Mix, president, Church Women United; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, the Shalom Center; and Jim Wallis, executive director, Sojourners.

MJP END RNS

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