International coalition urges Czech Republic officials to drop plans to legalize prostitution

WASHINGTON (BP)--The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and more than 110 allies have called on the Czech Republic to reject reported plans to legalize prostitution.

In a letter to President Vaclav Klaus and other Czech leaders, ERLC President Richard Land and the co-signers said such an act "would be a terrible mistake for the country as a whole and, in particular, for the women and children of the Eastern Europe region who will be victims of the Czech sex trade." It also would "irreparably harm" the Czech Republic's relations with the United States and other countries, the letter warned.

Legalizing prostitution would make the Czech Republic "the gateway for the flow of women and children from poorer Eastern and Central European countries to sex industries throughout Western Europe and the world -- an act unworthy of Czechs' traditions of fighting for their own freedom," Land and the others said in the letter. They said they would resist such a Czech effort in Congress and other legislative bodies, as well as "through our organized women's movements and from tens of thousands of church and synagogue pulpits."

The international coalition that endorsed the letter included signers from Russia, India, Israel, Ireland, England and France. Among signers from the United States were Todd Bassett, national commander of The Salvation Army; Clive Calver, president of World Relief; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Michael Horowitz, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute; Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough; Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs of Family Research Council; Ronald Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association, and Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

In the May 5 letter on ERLC letterhead, they said the experiences of such countries as the Netherlands, Australia and Germany demonstrate organized crime, illegal and street prostitution, and sex trafficking are not reduced when prostitution is legalized.

Czech leaders said they were unaware such concerns were held by the ERLC and others, according to a May 7 Associated Press article from Prague, the Czech capital.

An ERLC spokesman said such concerns were expressed to a Czech official last year, however. Barrett Duke said he, joined by Horowitz and Lisa Thompson of The Salvation Army among others, met Nov. 5 with Richard Krpac, consul of the Czech embassy in Washington.

They told Krpac the Czech Republic "had an opportunity to set a different standard for the new Europe rather than accommodating some current attitudes toward the moral climate in Europe and that they should set a higher example," Duke said. "Instead of legalizing prostitution, they should work very vigorously at ending prostitution, which in our opinion would significantly contribute to the eradication of trafficking in persons and human sexual slavery.

"It would seem that we had no effect with that visit, since apparently our letter to the leaders of the Czech Republic caught them totally off guard," he said. "So, their statement that they were unaware of our concerns helps us to recognize that the letter was the next appropriate step to take."

The letter was sent not only to Klaus but also to the leaders of the Czech Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

According to AP, the Czech government revealed in April its plans to propose legislation to permit cities to license prostitutes in certain areas.

In the letter, Land and the others said the Czech Republic "is fast gaining an international reputation as a prime destination for European and other 'sex tourists' and pedophiles. The Czech Republic has also become a transit country for human trafficking and smuggling."

The United States has acted to thwart sexual trafficking in recent years. In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to combat the international problem. In September, President Bush called on the United Nations to work to end trafficking.


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