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During a March budget hearing, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) challenged Gary Locke, current U.S. Secretary of Commerce and President Obama's nominee for the next ambassador to China, to worship at an unregistered house church instead of a Three-Self Patriotic Movement state church in order to "publicly identify with the persecuted." Locke said he would consider it.

"It isn't worship—it's showing up and being there. I'm not asking the ambassador to change his faith. I'm asking him to identify and visit the persecuted, just like you visit people in prison. You visit people where they are. They thirst to have someone identified with the American government show up and be with them. And by doing that, you provide help and protection."

"The U.S. ambassador should worship in a house church, especially if he is a Protestant Christian. If he is Catholic, he should seek out a so-called 'underground church.' Such actions would likely result in more media attention to religious persecution in China, and perhaps give hope to the persecuted. However, media attention would be fleeting. Moreover, such an act—even if done regularly—would be primarily symbolic, and U.S. international religious freedom policy has for too long been characterized by symbols rather than substance. What we should be asking the U.S. ambassador to China is what concrete programs he will initiate to convince the Chinese that religious freedom is in their interests. How will he ensure that U.S. religious freedom policy in China becomes more than words and symbols, as it has been under this administration?"

"If the Chinese government allows it, there should be no problem with ...

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Should the China Ambassador Worship at a House Church?
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June 2011

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