Three U.S. congressmen were pressuring the Romanian government to make “significant progress” toward ending religious repression just as evangelist Billy Graham planned his first-ever preaching tour of that Eastern-bloc nation.

U.S. Representatives Tony Hall (D-Ohio), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) visited Romania for five days earlier this year. When they returned, they delivered a letter to Nicolae Gavrilescu, Romania’s ambassador to the United States. The letter asked Gavrilescu’s government to redress 12 specific abuses of religious freedom. “It is our view, based on authoritative reports and our own personal observations,” the congressmen wrote, “that religious practice puts some [in Romania] at great risk.”

They cited several examples, including churches that were bulldozed due to alleged building code violations; nine pastors who are unable to obtain licenses to minister; three Romanians who apparently lost their jobs because of their religious faith; and believers who have been imprisoned.

The congressmen appealed for the release of Orthodox priest Gheorge Calciu, who was under house arrest for a year after his release from prison. Calciu had been the target of government harassment and arrest for many years for opposing atheism and the demolition of Orthodox churches by the government.

The congressmen asked the Romanian government to allow the priest to emigrate immediately to the West. Their appeal was reinforced by a letter signed by 66 members of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as initiatives by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole and the U.S. State Department. The pressure appeared to pay off. Calciu was allowed to leave Romania last month, and he reportedly arrived in the United States nine ...

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