Friday, August 26, 2016

PCUSA Joins Faith Groups in Statement on Anti-BDS Legislation


Employing Economic Measures as Nonviolent Tools for Justice In the Israeli-Palestinian Context
August 22, 2016 

The U.S. Congress and 22 states across the U.S. are considering, or have passed, laws that penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures to oppose Israeli policies towards Palestinians that many find unjust and discriminatory. The targets of these proposed laws are organizations and agencies that endorse, in full or in part, the Palestinian call for the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Such actions are anti-democratic, suppress legitimate criticism, and restrict our freedom to determine our own investment and selective purchasing practices. We affirm and defend the right of churches and organizations to witness using economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine.

The BDS call, issued in 2005 by over 100 Palestinian civil society organizations, seeks to promote a nonviolent response to end Israel’s 50-year military occupation of Palestinian territories and dismantle the separation barrier, much of which is built on Palestinian land; to recognize the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and to respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, according to UN resolution 194. U.S. churches, among many others, are clear in seeking an end to the occupation.

Churches and church-related organizations have employed such nonviolent tactics in many instances of injustice, both domestically and globally, over the decades. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the boycott of products made by slave labor are some historical precedents. Some more recent examples include:
  •   Support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to seek fair wages for farmworkers who pick tomatoes used by major restaurant chains. The churches have affirmed boycotts of Taco Bell and Wendy’s in support of the farmworkers.
  •   Support for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in the boycott of Mt. Olive Pickle Company in order to seek better wages for those who pick cucumbers.
  •   Support for United Farm Workers (UFW) in grape and lettuce boycotts aimed at securing fair wages for farmworkers.
  •   Opposition to the use of racially offensive names and logos by professional sports teams through boycotts.
  •   Participation in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility to promote socially responsible practices by various companies through shareholder activism.
  •   Divestment to oppose the policy of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
  •   Corporate engagement with and/or divestment from fossil fuel companies in the context
    of the climate change debates. 

    Through the use of such nonviolent but impactful measures at the intersection of faith and finance, the churches have participated in making a difference, promoting justice, and effecting change. Indeed, when corporate social responsibility standards do not lead businesses to change their practices, then it is often only through the concerted economic pressure of civil society and public interest groups that positive political and social reforms occur.
Economic Measures (Examples of engagement corrected for accuracy, 8/25/2016) Page 1
The current effort to penalize or criminalize such use of economic leverage in the specific case of Israel-Palestine is therefore offensive and disturbing. It strikes us as an attempt to remove a responsible, powerful, and legal method of public witness as an option. To target economic measures in any way on one specific policy issueIsrael-Palestineis selective and inconsistent. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, without dissent, the right to boycott (1982).

As churches and church-related organizations, we may not endorse all aspects of the Palestinian civil society BDS movement; nor do we all have similar policies on the use of economic leverage in the context of Israel-Palestine. However, we all share a hope and desire for an end to occupation, and we continue to advocate for that. If we choose, through debate and reflection, to employ our economic leverage to advance that policy objective, as we do many others, we understand it as our right to do so. It is an assertion of our right as stewards of our financial resources to spend and invest as we choose, and to do so responsibly, according to our theological and moral conviction, expressed in our denominational or organizational policies.

We must be clear: such an assertion of this right is an effort to change unjust Israeli policy toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises. Our choices to purchase and invest responsibly, and to advocate with corporations or governments, including our own, are motivated by our firm commitments to justice and peace for all people, without discrimination or exclusion.

As churches and church-related organizations, we reject any efforts by the State to curtail these rights, and will continue to exercise them, as appropriate and in accordance with our faith and policies.

American Friends Service Committee
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society


Monday, July 18, 2016

Updated: Urging Congress To Do Their Job: Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Urging Congress To Do Their Job
Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation


Advocacy Toolkit 



Table of Contents
1) Introduction and Background Information
2) Instructions for Letter Drop
3) Sample letter to your Representative to Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation
4) Social Media
5) Primary Objectives of Letter Drop

Introduction and Background Information

After the historic and unprecedented Democratic sit-in on the House floor Wednesday June 22 to urge the House to take up what it has long ignored – preventing gun violence – it is now up to us, people of faith, to take this message to our Representatives.

This is a perfect time for you to let your Representative know that ignoring the epidemic of gun violence will not protect public safety. Every day 91 people in the United States are killed by a gun. Yet, the House and Senate continue to act as if this is not happening because of the stifling grip of the gun lobby.

What is more, according to Everytown for Gun Safety gun violence is becoming increasingly used as part of hate crimes directed towards members of the LGBTQ community as we saw in Orlando. Consider these facts:
Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that between 2010 and 2014, there were an estimated 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States that involved guns.
More than half (52 percent) of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are violent.
Between 2004 and 2012, the percentage of hate crimes involving violence increased from 78 percent to 90 percent.
In studies going back decades, assaults involving guns have proven to be five times more likely to end in the death of the victim than those involving knives, and the difference is even greater with high-caliber guns. 

Simple measures can greatly reduce many of the mass shootings to which we have become accustomed. No one law will stop every incident of gun deaths, but we can go a long way toward having a safer community, a safer nation, a safer world. Simply put, universal background checks saves lives. In states that require a background check for all handgun sales, there are:
·      46 percent fewer women shot to death by intimate partners,
·      48 percent fewer law enforcement shot to death with handguns,
·      48 percent fewer people killed by firearms suicide,
·      48 percent less gun trafficking, and
·      52 percent fewer mass shootings.


Therefore, we must take this unique time to urge members of Congress that gun violence can be drastically reduced and they must take leadership in making this happen. 


Instructions for Letter Drop

Use this toolkit with your congregation, faith group, or coalition and invite them to join with you in making a powerful impact.

Materials Needed: A sign on letter adapted from the below template (you can edit it), sign on sheet, clipboards, pens, small table (optional)
See the sample letter on the next page (which can be edited). With others from your congregation or organization, read through and modify the letter to best describe what you want to share with your Representative and/or Senator for them to do on addressing gun violence. List yourself or another point person’s contact information at the top of the letter or on a cover sheet so you can receive the reply from the member of Congress.
Find your member of Congress and the address of their local office closest to you. Click HERE to find your Representative. Click HERE to find your Senator.

Work with others in your congregation or community group to get signatures on the letter in a high-traffic area after a worship service or event. You can send it around adult education classes, Bible/book studies, youth groups, and college classes in addition to your entire congregation. Ask the members you know are willing to sign first – people are more likely to sign something when they already see other names. We are encouraging groups to not drop it off until you are able to 10-15 signatures. The more you are able to gather, the more powerful it will be!

Make sure an announcement is made about the letter in the congregation bulletin, from the pulpit, and through social media. The most effective way to get folks to sign is through personal invitation. You and others should personally invite folks to sign the letter! Before you turn in the signatures, make sure to scan them or take a photo with your phone in order to capture the contact information for your future organizing efforts.
Call your Representative’s local office to either schedule a meeting with the Representative or a staff person, or even to simply find out the hours when they are open, so you can drop off the letters. 
When you get to the office here is a possible script: "Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am a member of [Congregation/Group] in [City]. Many of our members signed this letter to urge Representative [NAME] to pass gun violence prevention legislation on July 5th when the current recess is over. Will you please make sure the Representative and appropriate staff see this letter?"

When you and a friend (or friends) take your letter by your Representatives’ office take a selfie and tweet it out using the hashtag #LetterDrop. (You can also use hashtags like #StopGunViolence or #NoBillNoBreak as well.) That way we can see all who participate and those of us in DC can collect the pics and use them in advocacy to get the House and Senate moving. So, please tweet or send us your pictures!

Share this toolkit with key leaders from 3-4 other congregations in your area and urge them to do this as well. This will make an impact with a number of faith communities engaged. Make sure they also post pictures on social media! Email them this message and then call them for the best effect. Nothing beats a phone call to get folks moving! 


Sample Letter Urging Congress to Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Dear Representative/Senator                       ,

As members of                    (name of faith community)           we are deeply concerned about the lack of progress by the Congress in addressing the epidemic of gun violence. As the days, months, and years go by without any action taken, more mass shootings occur and the needless loss of life continues. We are writing to demand that action be taken to quell the terrible epidemic of gun violence our society is suffering.

Virginia Tech, Tucson, Oak Creek, Aurora, Santa Clara, Fort Hood, Newtown, San Bernadino, and now Orlando. The number of cities with mass shootings spreads across the states in our nation and fills our hearts with tremendous sorrow for the tragic and unnecessary loss of life. We are also angry that these tragedies continue without any congressional leadership being taken. No more time can be wasted. Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the constant day-to-day of senseless deaths. It is long past time for action.

Not only are we concerned about gun violence, but it must also be mentioned that we are concerned about the rhetoric in this debate that scapegoats our Muslim sisters and brothers. Violence committed by people of any religious, ethnic, or racial profile for any intention is devastating – focus on the secretive, error-filled terrorist watch list as a substitute for meaningful gun safety legislation is a distraction.  The vast majority of mass shootings in the U.S. have been committed by white males whose intentions to do violence would not have qualified them for inclusion on this list.

We need you to take action to ensure that:
   Every person who buys a gun no matter where that takes place should pass a background check. No longer should we allow for a gun show loophole.
   High-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians. There is no legitimate self-defense or sporting purpose for these military-style, high-capacity weapons and magazines whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time. We need an effective assault weapons ban now.

Public support for these measures is overwhelming. The time for merely offering thoughts and prayers without necessary action is over. Compromises that scapegoat a narrowly defined group of people for scrutiny is an unacceptable distraction for a problem shared by our whole society.  We need you to take action. We look forward to working with you to enact these common-sense measures to reduce gun violence. Our prayers are with you, our support is behind you. It is time for you to lead.

Sincerely,


Social Media

Social media is a great way to spread the word about these issues and to get your friends, family, and other community members involved. Using popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encourage you to post a picture of your letters and/or your meetings with your congressman/woman using #LetterDrop. If you are not able to meet with your congressman/woman take a picture holding up the signed letter with #LetterDrop, and you might also use the hashtags, #NoBillNoBreak or #StopGunViolence. And, as always, encourage your friends and family to share on social media and join the movement!



Letter Drop Primary Objectives


We want everyone everywhere, regardless of what district you are in to take part in the Letter Drop. It’s important that our voices are heard from every states in the religious community.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interfaith Coalition Urges Immediate Steps to Mend Divisions between Communities and Law Enforcement


July 14, 2016 

Interfaith Coalition Urges Immediate Steps to Mend Divisions between Communities and Law Enforcement 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan and Minority Leaders Reid and Pelosi: 

Mourning the crisis of violence in the United States and recognizing that last week’s terrifying shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas are yet another reminder of the great harm caused by unaddressed racial injustices and divisions in America, the undersigned faith organizations join in prayer for healing, love and accountability. As we continue to promote civil dialogue and work to heal community divisions, we also recognize that your leadership is critical to addressing the monumental crisis of racial injustice that has plagued this nation since its inception. 
According to data compiled by The Washington Post, 990 fatal police shootings occurred in 2015. Surprisingly, reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have never counted more than 460 police shootings in a single year. Addressing this shocking data disparity is a crucial first step to understanding the extent of excessive use of force by police, and therefore we seek your support for the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015 (S. 2168/H.R. 2875).The bill would require law enforcement to report data on traffic and pedestrian stops, frisk and body searches, and use of deadly force, including demographic details such as race, ethnicity, age and gender. The legislation would also provide accreditation, training and funding to law enforcement to implement best practice pilot programs. 

Our organizations also urge your support for the End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1056 /H.R. 1933) to prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement and to support data collection on its prevalence. Nationwide surveys indicate that during traffic stops, black and Hispanic drivers are three times more likely than white drivers to be searched by police. Black drivers are also twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a traffic stop despite the fact that police generally have lower “contraband hit rates” when they search black versus white drivers. Additional studies conducted between 2002 and 2008 have shown Hispanic Americans were up to twice as likely and black Americans up to three times as likely as white Americans to experience physical force or the threat of force when encountering police.

We now know that these acts of racial profiling can have deadly consequences. The Washington Post’s research found black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers. In 2015, 40 percent of police shootings of unarmed men involved black victims, even though black males comprise just 6 percent of the population. Sadly, these disturbing trends are emblematic of the racial disparities that exist at every stage of the justice system, including the federal criminal justice system. 

As an interfaith community, we are guided by our traditions’ foundational principles of equality, respect, love and mercy for all people, and we are committed to addressing the United States’ deep racial divisions and their consequences. We deplore violent attacks on law enforcement and desire constructive cooperation among all community stakeholders. We hope that Congress will lead the nation in this necessary endeavor to advance justice reforms that build trust between law enforcement and local communities, protect human life, and ensure equality and proportionality. Your work is vitally important and we are eager to engage with you to accomplish these objectives. 

Sincerely, 
Alliance of Baptists 
American Baptist Home Mission Societies 
Bread for the World 
Brooklyn Zen Center 
California Council of Churches IMPACT 
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good 
Church of the Brethren 
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office 
Clear Vision Project 
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach 
Conference of Major Superiors of Men 
The Dharma Foundation 
Disciples Justice Action Network 
East Bay Meditation Center 
Faith Action Network – Washington State 
Franciscan Action Network 
Friends Committee on National Legislation 
Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple 
Insight Community of the Desert 
Insight Meditation Community of Washington 
Interfaith Action for Human Rights 
International Center of Chinese Buddhist Culture and Education, USA 
Islamic Society of North America, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances 
Jewish Council for Public Affairs 
Kentucky Council of Churches 
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office 
Mindful Meditation Community of Charlotte 3 
National Council of Churches 
National Council of Jewish Women 
National Council of Jewish Women California State Policy Advocates 
National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section 
National Council of Jewish Women Illinois State Policy Advocacy Network 
National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles Section 
National Council of Jewish Women, Minnesota Section 
National Council of Jewish Women, New Orleans Section 
National Council of Jewish Women, South Cook Section 
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice 
New York Insight Meditation Center 
Pax Christi International 
Pax Christi USA 
Presbyterian Church (USA) 
Rhode Island State Council of Churches 
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team 
Sojourners 
Spirit Rock Meditation Center 
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights 
Union for Reform Judaism 
Unitarian Universalist Association 
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee 
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries 
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society 

Virginia Council of Churches 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Urge the United States to Sign an Unconditional Korean Peace Treaty Now


Click here to join the signature campaign for a peace treaty!

The 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) directed the PC(USA) to join its ecumenical partners, especially the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), the Korean Christian Federation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the National Council of Christian Churches in the USA (NCCCUSA), and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in efforts to pursue peace in the Korean peninsula.

The Assembly urged members of the PC(USA) to actively participate in the global signature campaign for a Korean Peace treaty that is being led by the NCCK and NCCCUSA with a goal of delivering 100,000 signatures of U.S. citizens to President Obama on July 27, 2016, the day that marks the 63rd anniversary of the armistice agreement.

Click here to join the signature campaign for a peace treaty!



This is the longest running and the costliest war in US history. The people of Korea are suffering under conflict and division for over 70 years. Continuing conflict redirects valuable resources away from the welfare of people. US policy has only increased distrust and fear for 70 years.

The US holds a special responsibility for peaceful resolution of the conflict as it occupied the South in 1945 and signed the armistice in 1953. Call on President Obama to build trust by entering negotiations now for a peace treaty to end this war without demanding disarmament as a precondition.

Please click here for more information and to sign the campaign!

A Call To Action On Ending Gun Violence And Racism

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 8:11 (NIV)

By Calista Malone, Summer Fellow, Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness '16

We are hurting as a nation. It is impossible to read or watch the news without seeing the overwhelming amount of pain our country is experiencing because of the ever-increasing violence in our streets.  This month, police killed two African American men by the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. In Dallas, five police officers were killed and seven others wounded when a sniper open-fired during a peaceful protest against police violence. We are surrounded by the reality of racism and violence in our country. It is high time we, as a church, address the issues and take action.

In a recent statement, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson, lifted up recent General Assembly actions on racism and gun violence and called on the church to act.  These assembly actions have no meaning unless we as people of faith act to eradicate racism in our nation. Our efforts must begin in our own communities and require courage. Racism is a cancer that has historically pervaded our society. It blatantly disrupts the flow of building Jesus’ call for the Beloved Community.”  

We must follow God into the public square by acknowledging the problem, writing to government officials, advocating for change, signing petitions for change, and calling on others to do the same.

We are called to practice advocacy as Jesus did. Walter Wink, author of Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, says “Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil.” We must remain strong in our faith and act with Jesus guiding our actions. In order for us to be effective, we must move past only lamenting.  We must grow stronger and braver in our actions.

With two more African Americans dead and the highest number of police killed since 9/11, the time is now to take action. We must educate ourselves on the issues, call on Congress to take action, mobilize our communities, and, above all, we must love and support each other because we are all God’s children.

Here are a  few ways to get involved: 

Click here for a Tool Kit on advocating against gun violence.


Click here for a letter from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and our ecumenical partners on gun violence issues to Congress.

Click here for a tool kit for promoting justice in policing.


Click here for information on the Church and it’s role in racial injustice.





Friday, July 8, 2016

A Call to Congress for Effective Legislation on Gun Violence


July 6, 2016

Dear Representative,

As leaders of faith communities from across the United States we are deeply concerned about the lack of progress by the United States Congress in addressing the epidemic of gun violence. As the days, months, and years go by without any action taken, more mass shootings occur and the needless loss of life continues. We are writing to demand that action be taken that prevents any further loss of life to gun violence. And we want that action to be effective. Effective legislation to prevent gun violence should include:
  • Universal background checks on every gun purchase,
  • A ban on all high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines. There is no legitimate self-defense or sporting purpose for these military-style, high-capacity weapons and magazines whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time.

Though we are a diverse coalition of denominations and faith-based organizations representing tens of millions of Americans, we are united by the call of our faiths to confront America’s gun violence epidemic and to rally support for policies that reduce death and injury from gunfire.

Virginia Tech, Tucson, Oak Creek, Aurora, Santa Clara, Fort Hood, Newtown, San Bernadino, Charleston, and now Orlando. The number of cities with mass shootings spreads across the states in our nation and fills our hearts with tremendous sorrow for the tragic and unnecessary loss of life, as well as anger that these tragedies continue without any Congressional leadership being taken. We cannot stand by silently while the Congress does nothing.

The families experiencing these unimaginable losses are in our congregations. We grieve with them and pray for healing for the constant wounds they continue to feel. But we also share their determination to do all within our power to ensure that these tragedies never happen again. No more time can be wasted. Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the senseless deaths happening every day. It is long past time for action.

Public support for these measures is overwhelming. The time for merely offering thoughts and prayers without necessary action is over. We need you to take action. We look forward to working with you to enact these common-sense measures to reduce gun violence. Our prayers are with you, our support is behind you. It is time for you to lead.

Sincerely,


Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Dominican Sisters
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faith Action Network – Washington State
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Heeding God's Call to End Gun Violence
Islamic Society of North America
JPIC of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Priests of the Sacred Heart, US Province
Kentucky Council of Churches
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate-Justice & Peace Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches, USA
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians).
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
The Xaverian Brothers
T'ruah; The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Unitarian Universalist Association

United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness Ministries.