The nation's Roman Catholic bishops Thursday said they were encouraged by "breezes of renewal" in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe but added that religious freedom should be included in future reforms.
As the last act of business in the annual four-day session of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops adopted a lengthy statement on religious liberty in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that called on governments in those countries to improve their treatment of the religious and allow believers more freedom to practice their faith."We are encouraged by the breezes of renewal that are beginning to blow across the Soviet Union and parts of Eastern Europe and pray that they will bring positive and far-reaching political, economic and cultural reform," the statement said.
But it said reform must reach "religion as well."
"Progress in these other areas will be measured in part by the extent to which institutional guarantees of greater religious freedom are put into place," it said.
The statement included a country-by-country analysis of the religious freedom situation in the Eastern bloc nations.
And, while not dwelling on U.S. policy, the statement called on the government to consider "affirmative measures to influence human rights policies and practices, including developing relations, extending credits and encouraging cultural and educational exchanges and tourism."
It said U.S. policy should make it clear that continued improvement in relations will depend in part on continued improvement in the areas of religious liberty and human rights.
Earlier, the bishops also adopted, with little debate and no dissent, a statement opposing employer sanctions provisions of the 1986 immigration reform act.
The bishops, who have long expressed concern about the effect of sanctions against employers who hire illegal aliens, also said they would work to change the 1986 reform act to allow illegals who arrived after Jan. 1, 1982, to seek legal status.
In their statement, the bishops said the employer sanctions have led to widespread discrimination against Hispanics and other "foreign looking" peoples who are fearful of breaking the law.
Passage of the policy statement came two days after the General Accounting Office released a report estimating that more than 500,000 employers have practiced job discrimination while stopping short of saying the findings constitute "a pattern of discrimination" because the survey "did not adequately address the number of authorized workers who were fired, not hired or otherwise affected by the reported practices."
The bishops, however, said they would seek to document instances of discrimination.