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Old 11-12-2004, 04:43 PM   #1
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Churches as legal sanctuaries -- I need info!

In the wake of Israeli Special Forces' rousting of Mordechai Vanunu from the grounds of St. George's Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem, I got into a heated discussion with a friend about the doctrine of churches providing sanctuary to alleged criminals.

My friend, who is Episcopalian, shares Anglican Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal's outrage that 'sacred' space would be so indelicately violated in the effort to arrest Vanunu. Vanunu, a Christian convert, has been living in the cathedral's guest house since his release from prison in April after serving an 18-year sentence for disclosing Israel's nuclear secrets. Vanunu claims that he is now being persecuted by the Israeli government for his religious conversion.

Can anyone direct me to some clear, concise information regarding the history and application of the doctrine of churches (and other religious entities) providing sanctuary to alleged criminals, both in the US and international community? I understand there has been some controversy around this issue in Canada, where some would-be immigrants who have been denied political asylum have sought refuge in churches.

My gut tells me that this doctrine is neither as widespread, nor as broad in application as my friend believes. Otherwise, wouldn't bank robbers and murderers just hole up in churches and refuse to come out?
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Old 11-12-2004, 05:20 PM   #2
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Well for a while you could claim sanctuary against most anything political in a cathedral...but I don't know how much that's done these days or if it would apply here.
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Old 11-12-2004, 08:52 PM   #3
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Well, the concept certainly doesn't apply in war.
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Old 11-12-2004, 09:14 PM   #4
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If they were worried about what he knew of the nuke program why'd they let him go? Or is it his arrest, trial, incarceration, they want him mum about?

Oh, the priests hid Zorro from the garrison.
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Old 11-13-2004, 12:59 AM   #5
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According to this analysis (adobe acrobat reader required), which mostly relates to the idea of using churches as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants from countries with bad civil rights records and such, but starts out with some history of the church as sanctuary. Apparently it's a matter of church rather than civil law, and has been banned in England since the 1620s and in France since the French Revolution. So, basically, it's illegal at this point. The concept no longer exists.

I also suspect that if the individual claiming sanctuary while it WAS possible was in fact guilty of some major crime, the priest would spend the time trying to convince the miscreant to place his life in God's hands or whatever, and give himself up to the authorities. The same kind of thing that they are supposed to do today if someone confesses a crime.

There may also be question in terms of what churches would have the right of sanctuary to begin with ... The Roman Catholic Church, certainly ... I'm not so sure about the protestant denominations.
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Old 11-13-2004, 11:57 PM   #6
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It's a vestage from a time when the Roman Catholic church viewed itself as a political entity, like a nation. It viewed all of its properties as being embassies of the holy see, and therefore places where one could plead asylum.

-sm
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