Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celebrate the Birthday of the Minimum Wage: Send a Letter to the Editor!

“Before those days there were no wages... But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace.” 
Zechariah 8:10-12

This Friday, we sing a joyous ‘Happy 76th Birthday’ to the U.S. federal minimum wage! As we [1]
celebrate how God has blessed us through the fulfillment of vocation and the dignity of work, we also know that many people labor in jobs that do not pay a just wage. The federal minimum wage for the
past 76 years has been instrumental in providing a wage floor, a guide to help employers treat workers fairly and offer a just wage. But even as we celebrate the minimum wage’s birthday, we also pray for a raise in the wage to $10.10 per hour. The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour traps workers and their families in cycles of poverty. As Christians, we are compelled to advocate for justice for the lowest-earners in our society and raising the wage would lift just under one million people out of poverty.

Will you send a letter to the editor of your local paper asking Congress to raise the wage?

At the beginning of the Great Depression, there was no minimum wage. Just like today, the disparity between the rich and poor had grown in the Roaring 20’s.  The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
established the minimum wage not only to mitigate this injustice, but also to spur economic growth by increasing low wage-earners’ purchasing power. The minimum wage was first set at 25 cents an hour, to be raised to 40 cents the following year.

Many of the arguments against the institution of a minimum wage are still being used today. In the Congressional debate on the Fair Labor Standards Act, Rep. John McClellan of Arkansas inquired what difference a minimum wage law would make “if [a worker] then lose the opportunity to work.” Similarly today, many of our legislators oppose a raise in the wage, saying it would kill jobs.

McClellan’s concerns fell flat. After the institution of the minimum wage, along with other social programs of the New Deal, unemployment decreased from 19% in 1938 to 1.2% in 1944. It helped bring the nation out of the Great Depression.

Be a voice in your community for raising the wage!

Since 1968, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation as the gap between rich and poor has continued to grow. The 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 would be worth $10.86 in today’s dollars.

It’s time to raise the wage. Take local action today.

We have found much hope in state legislative efforts to raise the wage. States that raised their minimum wage in 2014 saw faster job growth than those that didn’t. [2] Moreover, raising the wage would allow 1.7 million Americans to transition off of government assistance programs. [3]
As God has blessed us with work and vocation, let us rejoice in the dignity of all those who labor. We celebrate the great gains that the worker has made with the help of the minimum wage over the past 76 years and we pray for a raise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10. It would be a great blessing of justice and peace to workers, to our government’s budget, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole.


[1] Congressional Budget Office. The Effect of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Income. 18 Feb, 2014.

[2] Wolcott, Ben. 2014 Job Creation Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage. Center for Economic and Policy Research. 30 June 2014.

[3] Cooper, David. Report: Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 would Save Safety Net Programs Billions and Help Ensure Businesses Are Doing Their Fair Share. Economic Policy Institute. 16 Oct, 2014.

Join us for a webinar: Pentagon Budget 101



Just How Big is the Pentagon Budget? 

Faith Perspectives on Pentagon Spending

Join us for a webinar!


Wednesday, October 29 3:00-4:00 PM EST 

Join policy experts from national faith advocacy organizations in a discussion about U.S. Pentagon Spending and federal budget priorities.

As we wind down from over a decade of war, Pentagon spending should come down. U.S. Pentagon spending is excessive and starves other vital programs and contributes to the militarization of our foreign and domestic policy. This year’s Census data revealed that in 2013, roughly one out of five children in the U.S. lived in poverty. Just a reminder that though the U.S. leads the world in military strength, it is desperately lacking in other capacities. As members of the faith community, our engagement with policy is rooted in spiritual conviction. In seeking a world that is free from war and the threat of war we must examine its true costs.

Please join us for this important discussion.

Register here:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Briefing with International Peacemakers from South Sudan and Malawi

Please join us for a 

Briefing with International Peacemakers from South Sudan and Malawi

Friday, October 17, 2014
10am - 12pm
Office of Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
100 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 410

Rev. James Ninrew currently serves as the Liaison Officer for the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCoSS) in Juba. He is a human rights activist, especially in the areas of the environment and extractive industries. He is a founding member and sits on the board of directors of the Nuer Peace Council (NPC), is chairperson of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arm (SSANSA), is executive director of Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA), and is a founding member of the South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Election (SSuNDE). He has been a minister with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan for 19 years. James speaks English, Arabic and Nuer and is married with 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls.

Moses Makandwire is currently based in Malawi and works as a Director for Church and Society -CCAP Synod of Livingstonia.  He has vast experience in election monitoring and observation in the SADC Region. He has observed elections in DR Congo, Southern Sudan, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.  He has also assisted in designing and implementing election projects in his country around 1999, 2004 and 2009 and for the forthcoming 2014 Tripartite elections.  He has written and presented papers on issues of good governance, peace and conflict areas, human rights and democracy.  He is completing his second Masters in Political Geography at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College.  He also holds numerous postgraduate certificates and Diplomas in Human Rights, Project Management, Election and Peace and Conflict Studies.  He has held positions at International and national levels as a Chairperson for the SADC Civil Rights Network, SADC Election Support Network, Malawi Election Support Network (MESN), National Integrity Platform-Malawi and Civic and Political Space Platform.  He has servd as a Special Law Commissioner for Review of the Republican Constitution in Malawi between 2005 and 2007 and as a Negotiating team member for the Civil Society-Malawi Government Dialogue team during the post 20 July 2011 demonstrations.  He is married with three children.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

November 4, 2014 is Election Day: Get Out the Vote!

The 2014 Midterm elections on November 4 are just one month away! Are you registered to vote? You can still register to vote in 25 states. What is your plan-- are you voting early or voting on election day? Are you encouraging your friends, neighbors, and members of your church to vote? If you are outside of the state in which you are registered to vote, make sure to request an absentee ballot in time (this is different for every state). For those who aren’t eligible to vote, use your voice to encourage other people to vote! Voting is both one of our fundamental rights as citizens and is a vital way we speak to the values of the kingdom of God in the political realm.

Click here to take a pledge to vote today.
As a member of a congregation, how is your congregation getting out the vote? You might assume churches can’t be involved in elections because of their non-partisan 501(c)(3) status, but there are many ways that you can. Here are some do’s and don’ts of congregation and clergy involvement in political action.

Do’s: [1]
  • Educate community and congregation members about issues important to you and your community.
  • Support church and community members on Election Day by providing rides, preparing to-go dinners for voters, or offering childcare for parents.
  • Incorporate voting into your Sunday worship service or host a voter informational session after your worship service.
  • Protect the right to vote at polling places. Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report any violations you observe or hear about on Election Day.[2] 
  • Host a Bible Study on living into the roles of both Christian and Citizen.
  • Churches may not endorse specific candidates for office.
  • Churches may not contribute to political campaigns.
Why should Christians vote?

Photo credit: United Church of Christ
Presbyterians have long expressed the importance of Christian participation in public life, and by extension the democratic process. The Confession of 1967 laid out the reasons the body of Christ should be involved in the reconciliation of society, saying, “In each time and place there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act.” [3] By voting, we choose the leaders who then act for the reconciliation of society to which we are called.

The 200th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a policy statement called “God Alone is Lord of the Conscience” that affirms the importance of religious community participation in public life. “According to the Reformed tradition…faith demands engagement in the secular order and involvement in the political realm.” [4]

Midterm elections are an especially crucial time to get out the vote. Americans with the most extreme political views on both sides tend to vote in midterm elections. We must exercise our rights and speak with our voices of faith to who we want to be as a nation this election season.

Other Resources:

Check out The United Church of Christ’s “Our Faith, Our Vote” resource.

Visit the Interfaith Alliance’s Election year Resource Center.

Don't forget to pledge to vote today.

May we leverage our collective voices of faith to promote the common good in our nation and around the world. We’ll see you at the polls!

[1] “Do’s and Don’ts” are compiled from resources provided by the United Church of Christ “Our Faith, Our Vote:” and NETWORK Nuns on the Bus “I am a Voter” campaign: Please note: the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness cannot provide legal advice on these matters. Direct all questions to qualified legal counsel.

[2] In “Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform” published by ACSWP with ACREC in 2008, the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) voiced concern for obstacles to voter participation and affirmed voting early, easing absentee ballot restrictions, and making election day a national holiday as ways to insure “equality and fairness in the process.”

[4]  “God Alone is Lord of the Conscience” Approved by the 200th General Assembly (1988) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Save the Date! October 1 Briefing on Peace in Israel and Palestine

Join the conversation 

Advocating for a just peace for Palestine and Israel – What can U.S. Christians do?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
8-9 PM EDT Dial: 1-866-740-1260
Participant Access Code: 2419972#

The aftermath of 50 days of fighting has left devastation in Gaza which still struggles under a suffocating
blockade. More and more land continues to be confiscated for expanding settlements in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestinian lands continues unchecked. Israelis and
Palestinians both suffer from the lack of a peaceful resolution. Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers
look to the international community for support in their efforts to change the status quo and work
toward a just peace. With the breakdown in peace talks, what direction should U.S. policy take? How
can persons of faith be part of the solution through their public policy advocacy? Join us as we take a
look at these questions, hear perspectives from experienced advocates on what churches are doing and
can do, and engage in conversation about directions for advocacy.

Catherine Gordon
Representative for International Issues
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Office of Public Witness
Mike Merryman-Lotze
Israel-Palestine Program Director
American Friends Service Committee
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
There will be time for questions and answers, as together we seek a constructive way forward in
advocacy for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.
Sponsored by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, a network of national Christian denominations and
organizations working for a just peace in the Middle East with a primary focus Israel and Palestine.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Join the Sanctuary Movement and Keep Families Together

Every day, close to 1,000 people are deported from this country. Mothers and fathers, brothers and friends are torn from their families and communities, deported to countries some of them no longer know. Congress has not acted to change this reality; they have failed to take any meaningful action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This nation desperately needs Immigration policy reform that will grant legal status to the 11 million people living in fear of deportation. Moreover, on September 6, 2014, the Obama Administration delayed executive action that could have extended deportation relief and offer work permits to thousands.

Click here to read PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons response to Obama’s announcement on delayed action.

In response, communities of faith across the nation have decided to take a stand against our broken immigration system: we are leading a movement to offer Sanctuary to people set to be deported and thus separated from their families. Sanctuary is the practice of offering housing and shelter in the church building, protecting people from harm; it has deep roots in church tradition. Four congregations in the U.S. are currently providing Sanctuary to two loving families; two of these churches are Presbyterian: Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ and University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, AZ.

President Obama must not continue to stand by while people are forcibly separated from their families. Contact the White House today and ask him to use his broad executive authority to stopdeportations immediately and to expand deferred action for all.

The Sanctuary Movement

Rooted in the actions of people of faith throughout history who have welcomed the stranger and loved their neighbors, Sanctuary in 2014 seeks to shield immigrants under immediate threat of deportation. By invoking 2011 policy set by immigration authorities, which recommends individuals who fit certain qualifications be granted deportation relief through prosecutorial discretion, faith communities protect these individuals in the shelter of their churches until they receive a stay of removal or their cases are closed. These qualifications include the length of time they have resided in the U.S., a lack of a criminal history, and whether an immediate family member -- a child, parent, or spouse -- is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Thousands of deportation cases have been closed through this type of prosecutorial discretion. But people in immigration removal proceedings rarely have access to adequate legal representation that would request this type of relief. This is where communities of faith, under the advisement of legal teams, can intervene. We can offer sanctuary, thereby publicly shielding immigrants from deportation and providing a network of care and support throughout the advocacy process. (Immigration authorities have set policy forbidding immigration officers to enter places of worship to make an arrest.)

Sanctuary Has Real Meaning in Real Lives

Daniel Neyoy Ruiz
Photo credit: Fernanda Echavarri/Arizona Public Media
Southside Presbyterian in Tucson, AZ, has taken the lead in this movement, reviving the 1980s movement (also founded at Southside) of over five hundred churches and synagogues nationwide that sheltered over ten thousand Central Americans fleeing civil wars. On May 12, 2014, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, publicly entered into sanctuary in Southside on the eve of his deportation order. After a month of living inside the church with his family, he received a stay of removal, granting a means to remain in the U.S. and receive a work permit.

Luiz Lopez Acabal, in Sanctuary at University PC in Tempe
Right now, four immigrants reside in Sanctuary: Rosa Loreto Robles at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, Luis Lopez Acabal at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, AZ, Beatriz Santiago Ramirez at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Chicago, IL, and most recently, Francisco Aguirre in Agustana Lutheran Church in Portland, OR.

Their individual histories and cases are different, but they all bear the cost of immigration policy that fails to uphold the unity of family, recognize human dignity, or acknowledge immigrants’ rich and diverse contributions to their communities and this country.

Rosa Robles Loretto and family

This is how you can help*:

1. Contact the White House today and ask them to:

  • Expand deferred action for all
  • Close Luis’ case
  • Close Rosa’s case 
  • Close Beatriz's case

What does the PC(USA) say about Sanctuary?

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has affirmed its support for immigrants many times. This year, the 221st General Assembly (2014) affirmed the formation of the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative, a campaign to “empower Presbyterians to work to change policies and practices that infringe on the human and civil rights of immigrants in our communities including immigrant detention, streamlined deportation, and the executing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by local law enforcement.” ** Sanctuary—a movement begun by Presbyterian churches-- is heeding that call.

The 2014 Sanctuary Movement is growing. This week is the launch of the National Sanctuary Movement. Over seventy-five congregations nationwide are preparing to offer Sanctuary or to support other congregations engaging in this ministry.

Read PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons’ letter to President Obama on Sanctuary and delay of executive action: 

Just yesterday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took part in a tele-press conference about the growing Sanctuary movement. Here are the remarks prepared by the Reverend Gradye Parsons. 


* Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates on how you can support Sanctuary 2014.

** “On Recognizing the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative to Affirm and Promote the Civil and Human Rights of Immigrants in Our Communities—From the Presbytery of Central Florida.” Approved by the 221st General Assembly (2014).