Thursday, January 22, 2015

Action Alert: Call Now to Stop Fast Track
As a community of faith with  partners abroad and in our own country who suffer from unemployment, disease, poverty and environmental degradation, our priorities rest with the poorest of the poor.  Those who are most marginalized are disproportionately affected by bad trade agreements. Together let us caution our representatives against an economy of exclusion. 

Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would pose a grave risk to good-paying jobs and economic equality in the United States and beyond.  Please participate in today's National Call-in Day against Fast Track by calling your Representative now at (888) 804-8311 and urging them to oppose Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP has been negotiated in secret and has still not been released to the public.  Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate lobbyists have been granted access to the texts and have, in fact, been enlisted to help write them. This is not something that should be rushed through the approval process. 

We cannot afford for Congress to Fast Track a "NAFTA of the Pacific" that offshores jobs, drives down wages in the jobs that are left and reduces revenues for our schools, roads and bridges, while also giving transnational corporations the power to attack our environmental, consumer and other public interest policies. 

Call Congress now at (888) 804-8311 and voice your opposition to Fast Track for the TPP.

Calling only takes a minute, but it delivers a powerful message to Congress that constituents are watching them on this issue. Together, our calls and emails stopped Fast Track in the last session — and together we can stop Fast Track for good this year.  Please call now. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On the 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, Urge your Congressional Members to Put Democracy Back in the Hands of Voters

January 21, 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, defining a corporation as a ‘person’ with the same free speech rights under the First Amendment as individuals. Moreover, it held that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. This decision undid campaign-finance law that protected voters from undue corporate influence and prevented corporations and unions from electioneering. Now, they can influence elections by funding campaigns through political action committees and financing political ads.

The Citizens United decision set a precedent for the further opening of campaign spending by wealthy individuals and interest groups. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and wealthy donors are no longer limited in their aggregate biennial contributions to campaigns.

Together, these decisions have created a disaster for the promise of democracy – a promise that says that every voice counts. More now than ever, the voices of profit-seeking corporations and special interests are louder and hold the attention of our elected officials more than the voices the average Americans.

In the past five years, we have seen an unprecedented amount of spending each election cycle.  These large contributions by corporations and wealthy interest groups have influenced our nation’s policies. Legislation to end gun violence address climate change, and pass just immigration reform have failed partly due to hefty campaign contributions from the companies that profit from these social problems. Our lawmakers are beholden to the interests of those that help them get elected. For example, ninety percent of Americans support some kind of gun control, like universal background checks, yet such legislation lies fallow in Congress. Lawmakers and and private interests have facilitated the appalling privatization of our prison system, because they stand to make money on the backs of prisoners.  Little will change until we demand that the wealthiest no longer have greater access and power over our lawmakers than the average citizen.

The Christian Call to Respond

As Christians we are called to be prophetic in how we care for the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our nation. They are the ones most affected by the disproportionate voice of money in politics. To be good partners and advocates for the issues that matter most to them, we must stand for change.

In “Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform,” the 218th General Assembly stated that:

“Large sums of money, and the time needed to raise it, dominate our electoral and legislative processes. Money buys access to legislators as well as to the details in legislation. If they reject special interest money, candidates fear that their opponents will outspend them—and spending counts: incumbents almost always raise more money than challengers, and the candidate who spends the most money almost always wins. (For House seats, the number is more than 90 percent.) Because the Supreme Court has ruled [that] campaign contributions are a protected form of “speech,” the most important reform to enhance the voice of citizens and reduce the role of powerful special interests and big money in elections is public financing. Under such systems, candidates or parties receive public funds to replace or augment private money. Public funding can curb the appearance of the influence of big money over lawmakers, encourage candidates with limited resources to run for office, and allow politicians to spend less time raising money and more time serving their constituents.” [emphasis added] - Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Electoral Reform. P. 14

Is Campaign Finance Reform Possible?

In September 2014, the Senate voted on a joint resolution ‘Democracy for All’, that would overturn Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC, as well as establish that Congress and the states can regulate election spending. This was a historic vote; even though it failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to end debate, it is the farthest an amendment of this kind has advanced. It showed that concern for the undue influence of money in politics is growing among our legislators. We are calling for the 114th Congress to bring a Constitutional Amendment back to the floor.

The Office of Public Witness is participating in a broad-based effort to highlight the damage Citizens United has done to our democracy in the last five years. On January 21, we will join with our partners in the faith and advocacy community to rally in D.C. in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to bring attention to the issue.

Join Us for a Webinar on Trade Justice!

Webinar: Building an Economy of Inclusion Through Fair Trade
Tuesday, January 20th, 3:00-4:00pm (EST)

Join the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment for a webinar just hours before the President’s State of the Union Address to get a sneak peek at what President Obama will say about his 2015 trade agenda and what role the new Congress will play. Hear how corporate interests influence trade agreements and harm the lives of our partners on the ground in developing countries. Faith advocates will leave with ideas on how they can help build an economy of inclusion through education and action in 2015. Register here:

Past trade agreements carry unwanted consequences, such as displacement of rural farmers in the Global South, the off-shoring of jobs from the U.S. in exchange for dangerous, low wage jobs abroad, and increased environmental degradation from mining and other extractive industries. With November’s elections behind us, our elected officials are poised to tackle trade issues with renewed fervor in the New Year. With several deals on the table, 2015 has the potential to shape the global economic landscape for years to come.

Register here: to learn how to ensure trade justice for God’s people in 2015.

Renco, a U.S.-owned lead smeltering plant in Peru, caused high lead levels in children. Now Renco hopes to recover lost profits under the Peruvian-US trade agreement.  Photo courtesy of Rev. Jed Koball..

Lori Wallach- Public Citizen Global Trade Watch
Rev. Jed Koball - Presbyterian Hunger Program, Joining Hands in Peru
Catherine Gordon – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (Moderator)

Sponsored by the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment 

Presbyterians Join Religious Leaders in Lifting Up Poverty for 2016 Presidential Candidates

January 15, 2015                                                                                                                 
Fito Moreno, Bread for the World, (202) 812-2223,
Zerline Hughes, Bread for the World, (617) 596-6958,
Juliet Vedral, Sojourners, (202) 745 4625,

 Christian Leaders Challenge Presidential Candidates
to Focus on Ending Hunger, Poverty

Washington, D.C., January 15, 2015 – As President Obama prepares to present his plan for his final two years in office in the annual State of the Union address next week, a group of Christian leaders is already looking ahead to what the next president may do to address hunger and poverty.

The group of 100 Christian leaders around the country, including the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly, is challenging the presidential candidates to appear on camera in a video stating how they propose to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.

"We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?" a statement from the group asks. The full statement is available at

The leaders, convened by the Circle of Protection, represent a diverse array of Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies across the country. They will disseminate the videos throughout their networks and memberships in order to raise hunger and poverty as an election issue.

"We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people.  We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to "give deliverance to the needy" (Psalm 72), the leaders said in their statement released today.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger, while 45 million live in poverty. One in five children lives in poverty. That is 15 million children, 5 million of them under age 6.

The challenge to candidates was issued today during a press conference organized by the Circle of Protection. Speakers included Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director of Christian Churches Together; Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; and Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.  


 The Circle of Protection is a coalition composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations.


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was represented at the press conference by the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness:
“Hunger and poverty in a world of abundance are sins and we have the responsibility – both at our church doors and in our halls of government – to address the underlying root causes that trap generations in poverty. Our elected leaders, those who have been elected and those who are seeking election, must have a comprehensive plan that begins to undo the vast and growing income inequality in this nation. We must make education and good jobs – with living wages and good benefits – available to all people. I hope to see bold vision from these Presidential candidates.”

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World:
"There is broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country.  100 Christian leaders of all stripes are urging all the candidates to explain, on camera, what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”

Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals:
“There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people—some more effective than others. Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility. Silence on poverty is inexcusable.”

Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative:
“We are looking for those who aspire to become president of the United States to seize this moment and take decisive leadership in ways that address the complex yet solvable evil of poverty, particularly as poverty affects nearly one in every five children in America and one in every three children of color.”

Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA:
“Christian leaders from all major Christian traditions have come to have a shared sense that the extent of poverty in this country is unnecessary and shameful. We expect that our president, regardless of which political party he or she represents, place hunger and poverty at the top of his or her priorities."

Fr. Larry Snyder, president Catholic Charities USA:
"For the 45 million Americans living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. Helping them achieve their full potential should not be a partisan issue - it's time for candidates from both sides of the aisle to have a meaningful conversation about advancing the common good," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.

Jim Wallis, founder and CEO, Sojourners:
"The State of the Union is still not good for poor and vulnerable people in America. Should we also not consider God's point of view as we look toward this important speech? Throughout the Scripture, we're told that a society will be judged by how they treat "the least" among them. Our political leaders also must be assessed through the measure of their commitment to the poor and most vulnerable. Though political advisors are telling their candidates that they shouldn't talk about poverty, as people of faith we must and will disagree. That is why, as each presidential candidate declares, the faith community will hold them accountable by asking them all-Republicans and Democrats alike--to tell answer the question "how will you treat those Jesus has called 'the least of these'"? How will you address and find real solutions to poverty?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stand with Immigrants: Tell the Senate to Oppose Anti-Immigrant Proposals

Today, the House of Representatives approved amendments to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, H.R. 240, which would be harmful to immigrants already living in the United States, as well as to those seeking protection from harm — including the most vulnerable among us: children. 


In the budget debates at the end of last year, Congress fully funded all governmental departments for Fiscal Year 2014-2015, except the Department of Homeland Security. This was a strategic move by Republicans so that the 114th Congress, with Republican leadership, could respond to the Obama administration’s Nov. 20 Executive Action that provides deportation relief to undocumented parents of permanent resident and citizen children.

Three Troubling Amendments in the House DHS Appropriations Bill:
  • The Aderholt (AL) Amendment prevents any funds being used to implement the Nov. 20, 2014 Executive Action.
  • The Blackburn (TN) Amendment stops funds being used to implement the 2012 Executive Action (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals- DACA). DACA provides temporary deportation relief and work permits to DREAMers. It would put over 600,000 DACA beneficiaries under threat of deportation.
  • The Desantis (FL) Amendment removes DHS discretion to consider the needs of immigrant victims who may have been wrongly accused, pled guilty to or been unfairly convicted of domestic violence charges. 

These amendments take us backwards as a country, rather than fixing our broken immigration system. We've won huge victories for immigrant families in recent months and we can't let anti-immigrant proposals in Congress stop the President's executive action on immigration or stall our progress!

As people of faith, we stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters: young people and families whose lives will be changed by the President's executive action, children seeking protection from gang violence, and all individuals fleeing persecution who see the United States as a beacon of hope, safety and freedom.

What does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Say?

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has strong policy affirming the inclusion of immigrants in our society. The 217th General Assembly of the PC(USA), in a renewal of our call to love our neighbor, stated, “We affirm the PC(USA)’s commitment to providing sanctuary to anyone in need of safe space, food or shelter.”

Moreover, the 221st General Assembly created 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.

We must stand on the side of immigrant families.