Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Decoding the Budget Webinar - Register Now

The Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs Presents:

Our federal budget has an enormous impact on poverty in America. Join us to learn basics about the budget appropriations process, how sequestration affects funding for domestic poverty programs, a review of some of the budget proposals we’ve seen so far in 2015, why poverty and the federal budget matter to us as advocates and people of faith, and action steps to get involved!

March 12, 2015
4:00pm Eastern

Raed Jarrar, American Friends Service Committee
Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World
Tila Neguse, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Kathy Saile, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities


** The Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs is a Coalition of diverse faith voices speaking on poverty and economic justice in the United States. PC(USA) Office of Public Witness' Leslie Woods serves as co-chair of this table.

J. Herbert Nelson speaks on SCOTUS and Health Care

This morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. This case could take away access to health care for 8 million people and cause premiums to spike for millions more. A decision in favor of the petitioner, King, could eliminate tax credits to buy health coverage through the Affordable Care Act in approximately three dozen states. The resulting chaos would wreak havoc on the health care system, placing the most vulnerable people in our communities at risk.
The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness, joined with several other faith leaders, patients, families, nurses, doctors, healthcare providers, and other allies to support health care subsides for millions of people in the U.S. and to affirm that health care is a human right, an essential component of human dignity and just community.
Nelson said, "We advocate so vigorously for affordable health care, because we know that sickness in public places is a barrier to building community."
To read the press statement about this morning's events, click here

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II in support of accessible healthcare for all, along with fellow heads of faith offices, Rabbi Lori Koffman (National Council of Jewish Women), Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe (United Method Church), Dr. Sayyid Syeed (Islamic Society of North America), Sandy Sorenson (United Church of Christ), and Sr. Simone Campbell (NETWORK).

J. Herbert Nelson's remarks, as prepared:

Benevolent, Beneficent, and Bountiful Creator, we humble ourselves before You as we ask that our prayers be heard and answered. We come before you as Ecumenical and Interfaith religious leaders appealing for guidance that only you can give. As we stand with millions of people today who could lose their health insurance by a ruling of this Supreme Court of our country, we petition You to exercise Your Supreme Authority that calls us here today to stand for the least of these among us.

We all can attest that in your mercy, you have reached down and provided a balm of healing amid our need. Therefore, our presence here today is a reminder to others that you are still in the business of hope and healing. Therefore, our advocacy for affordable healthcare is an affirmation of your Sovereign love for all of humanity.

We pray in the name of the Sovereign Creator, who chooses love over the law while giving grace in all things. Amen

Good morning. I am Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly has supported legislative efforts for affordable healthcare in Washington, DC for more than sixty years. They approved a resolution for advocacy on behalf of the uninsured. Despite our historic advocacy for a single payer system, we were excited in 2010 when the United States Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. We felt a move one stop closer to our nation realizing that the scriptures that we follow calls each of us to care for the least of these among us.

We advocate so vigorously for affordable healthcare, because we know that sickness in public places is a barrier to building community. Jesus teaches us through many biblical encounters that healing provides stability to the body; wholeness to the mind; and sustenance to the Spirit. When people are walking around unstable; lacking mental clarity and Spiritually disconnected it impacts households, institutions and whole communities.

In my travels, I have heard the testimonies of self employed professionals who are thankful that their premiums are significantly lower, because their pre-existing conditions are no longer held against them. On the other hand, I have heard from the poor who work every day and could not previously afford insurance for themselves or their children, giving thanks for the opportunity to know that they did not have to go to work sick or send their children to school while self diagnosing their conditions, because they could now afford a doctor’s care. When sick people are all around us, who cannot afford a balm of healing, we all are impacted.

I know these judges are deliberating over interpretations of the law, but let’s cut to the chase. This is an issue of national security, because my faith tells me that righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34a). This court has an opportunity to render a supreme judgment if they can recognize in their deliberations that highest law that they can render is one that is based in love.

Let affordable healthcare remain affordable for the estimated 8 million persons who stand to lose their insurance.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

J. Herbert Nelson to speak in support of health care for millions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MARCH 3, 2015                                                          For more information, contact:
Rev. Cynthia Abrams,
Director of Health and Wholeness
General Board of Church & Society
w: (202) 488-5636 c: (703) 586-7005

King v. Burwell:
Interfaith Press Conference and Prayer Vigil
at the U.S. Supreme Court

Faith leaders pray for health care access for all people  

An interfaith press conference and prayer vigil with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders will be held on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 4 at 10:15 a.m. These leaders will speak to the moral imperative to ensure access to health care for all people and the importance of health care from a faith perspective.
U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell on March 4.This case potentially impacts millions of men, women, children, and families who have access to affordable and quality health care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director for Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rabbi Lori Koffman, National Council of Jewish Women
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Islamic Society of North America 
Sandy Sorenson, Director of the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK

In front of the U.S. Supreme Court

Faith Leaders Press Conference and Prayer Vigil for health care. Faith leaders will address the importance of subsidies and ensuring that everyone has access to health care. Speakers will be available for interviews. 

March 4 from 10:15 – 10:30 a.m. 
For more information, contact Michelle C. Whittaker at (202) 488-5632 or (202) 701-8420.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its task is to advocate, and help the church to advocate, the social witness perspectives and policies of the Presbyterian General Assembly.

The National Council of Jewish Women is a volunteer organization that has been at the forefront of social change for over a century — championing the needs of women, children, and families — while courageously taking a progressive stance on such issues as child welfare, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination's highest policy-making body.

The Islamic Society of North America fosters the development of the Muslim community, interfaith
relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.

The Justice and Witness Ministries is the justice and advocacy arm of the United Church of Christ. The Washington office responds to God's commandments to do justice and seek peace through public policy advocacy and witness.

NETWORK, a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, educates, lobbies, and organizes for economic and social transformation. NETWORK is a progressive voice within the Catholic community that has been influencing Congress in favor of peace and justice for more than 40 years. 


Letter to the House of Representatives on Threats to Asylum Seeker Protections from PC(USA) Stated Clerk Rev. Gradye Parsons

Both of these troubling pieces of legislation are being marked-up Wednesday, March 4 in the Judiciary committee : The Protection of Children Act introduced by Representative John Carter (R-TX-31) and The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT 3) and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6). Members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition have written letters opposing these damaging pieces of legislation. 

In short, the Protection of Children Act would roll back important protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act for unaccompanied minors who seek refuge at our border. The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act would restrict access to asylum and humanitarian parole for several vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors, as well as augment the use of immigrant detention. 

This is the letter sent on behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

March 2, 2015
Dear Members of the House of Representatives,
I write to you today on behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to express concern about the Protection of Children Act and the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act.
Just as Christ welcomed the children[1], so strives the church. Presbyterian congregations across the United States gathered together to support the needs of unaccompanied children arriving from Central America in the summer of 2014. Their stories and their faces are forever etched on our hearts and in our minds. The notion that our government could have kept any one of these children in detention longer or required them to participate in a hearing so ordered as to guarantee their return to danger, as these proposed bills would allow, is contrary to our belief in the special place children hold in our faith communities.
The authors and signors of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) recognized the value and vulnerability of children when they added the provisions protecting unaccompanied minors in 2008. That section of the TVPRA was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by a Republican president.[2] The process under the TVPRA was created out of a concern that a child traveling alone from another country could be fleeing genocide, family violence, and/or have become the victim of human trafficking. The protections of the TVPRA have been used to save the lives of thousands of children from countries all over the world since its passage. The tragic arrival of tens of thousands of children last year does not make the need to protect children and ensure that their humanitarian claims are heard any less important. We do not alter our values and obligations to children and the world because it has become inconvenient.
Proponents of diminishing the protections to unaccompanied children in the TVPRA blame the TVPRA for the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children at our southern border last year. This logic is flawed and altering the TVPRA will not keep children from making dangerous journeys to the U.S. The majority of child arrivals last year were from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They were fleeing country conditions, not arriving to take advantage of permissive laws. Proof of that lies in the fact that countries neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador saw a similar increase (712 percent) in the amount of children applying for asylum as well.[3]
The TVPRA’s guarantee of a speedy placement with Health and Human Services and in the least restrictive setting considering the best interest of the child is not a “loophole.” Children who arrive alone from noncontiguous countries have traveled a great distance and are likely to have been traumatized and exploited on their journey. Taking them out of the hands of an immigration enforcement agency and placing them in the care of a social service agency is common sense. This guarantee allows children the time and space to tell their story and have access to counsel. These are not lavish or meaningless guarantees. They are basic due process guarantees that take into consideration the nature and vulnerability of a child far away from home and placed in immigration removal proceedings.

The Protection of Children Act and the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act would take away these basic due process protections by requiring that children remain in the custody of Homeland Security for thirty days and be subjected to a removal hearing with an immigration judge within fourteen days. These acts further eviscerate due process by eliminating the review process that takes into account a child’s ability to make an independent decision about her or his case and forbids the use of government funds for attorneys for unaccompanied children in removal proceedings. Children, far away from home and likely subjected to trauma, will be forced to tell their story to immigration enforcement officers and participate in hearings without counsel a mere fourteen days after arrival in the United States. The passage of either of these bills guarantees that children with real claims for protection by this country will instead be returned to the violence and exploitation they journeyed so far to escape.
United States immigration law does not require adults who appear at our border with humanitarian claims to prepare a hearing within fourteen days. We do not have a mandate to hold them in custody while they await their hearing. Why, then, would we require children, who have been traumatized, who may not understand English or be able to read in any language, to be held to a more onerous process? Children deserve special consideration and protection—not less consideration and protection. The authors and signors of the TVPRA in 2008 understood this. A vote for lessening the protections of the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act would be a vote for refoulement of the most vulnerable group of persons seeking protection that our country encounters—unaccompanied children.

We ask that you oppose the Protection of Children Act and the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act and any other bill that is proposed that would lessen the protections of the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act.

In Christ,
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

[1] Matthew 19:13–14
[3] Children on the Run, UNHCR,