• Tell the Obama Administration to Prohibit LGBTQ Discrimination in Foster Care
    For the more than 400,000 children in foster care across our nation, this action would have an enormous, life-changing impact. The teachings of our respective faiths may diverge on issues of theology and practice, but all speak clearly of our duty to protect the stranger, the orphan and the widow: the most vulnerable members of our society. We are called to do all we can to ensure children grow up with loving, supportive families that will set them on the path toward happy and healthy adulthood. Removing the barriers that currently prevent LGBT adults from becoming parents for these children has the potential to bring an estimated two million potential parents forward to provide loving, permanent homes. The primary reason hundreds of thousands of children remain in, or age out of, the foster care system is a lack of qualified homes. This is a moral travesty. This Administration has made historic progress in the advancement of LGBT rights across the country and your Department has been at the forefront of these changes. Yet, if action is not taken before the end of the Administration to prohibit discrimination in adoption and foster care, a critical piece of this work will remain woefully unfinished. It is crucial that the Obama Administration takes decisive action to ensure that otherwise qualified adoptive and foster parents are not turned away simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and that LGBT and gender non-conforming youth in care do not face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A foundational principle of our child welfare services is the best interest of the child. We firmly believe that ensuring qualified parents are not turned away, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, in addition to protecting youth themselves, is one of the most important steps you can take to meet the needs of children in foster care. Further, we do not believe there should be any exemption to permit religiously affiliated child welfare providers to discriminate against LGBT youth and prospective parents while conducting public foster care and adoption placements and service delivery with significant sums of taxpayer dollars. Such an exemption would undermine this foundational principle by prioritizing the provider’s religious beliefs over the best interests of the children they contract with the government to serve, while also sanctioning discrimination with public dollars. Although the primary responsibility of child welfare agencies and their contractors is to meet a child’s need for safety, permanency and well-being, many LGBT youth face physical threat, harassment, rejection and discrimination from state-funded providers. Due largely to family rejection, LGBT youth are over-represented in child welfare systems compared to their non- LGBT peers, are placed in group homes and residential facilities at higher rates, and often exit to homelessness and increased risk of commercial sexual exploitation. While some states offer explicit protections for LGBT youth, most do not, and an LGBT youth’s safety, well-being, and fair treatment depends largely on a luck of the draw. This month is the last National Foster Care Month of the Obama Administration. We hope you will take this opportunity to use your authority as Secretary to put the needs of children first by issuing guidance ending discrimination against potential adoptive and foster parents and children in foster care based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, without exceptions.
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  • Dear Candidates for President, Senate, and Governors: Will You Advance a Moral Agenda?
    Our moral traditions have a firm foundation upon which to stand against the divide-and-conquer strategies of extremists. We believe in a moral agenda that stands against systemic racism, classism, poverty, xenophobia, and any attempt to promote hate towards any members of the human family. We claim a higher ground in partisan debate by returning public discourse to our deepest moral and constitutional values. Please add your name to call on our 2016 presidential candidates, senate candidates, and governors to advance a moral agenda.
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  • Protect our children. End the #LeadEpidemic.
    Every child deserves a safe and healthy home. Innocent children are being lead poisoned and our current laws do nothing to stop it. Over 1.6 million low-income families rely on the federal government to provide them with safe, decent, and affordable housing. Yet, the majority of these homes are clustered in areas at high risk of lead poisoning. Lanice Walker learned this truth the hard way. When she received a housing voucher, she felt like she could breathe again, like her children finally had a place to grow and thrive for the first time. Shortly after moving into her new home, Ms. Walker’s hopes were shattered when all of her young children were diagnosed with lead poisoning. Unknowingly, Lanice Walker and her family had moved into a home that was rife with lead hazards. Today, her youngest children Emaurie and Mahogahny receive special education services while Ervin struggles to speak. This mother’s dream of security became a tragic reality. (Mahogahny is pictured above. Photo credit: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune) Across the country, families like the Walker's have been exposed to dangerous lead hazards in their homes, with poor and communities of color disproportionately at risk of harm. These risks are multiplied by outdated policies that don’t respond until after a child suffers severe brain damage. Our respective faiths teach us that life is sacred and as such we each have a responsibility to care for one another and protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is time to pay more than lip service to these beliefs because, in this case, inactive faith invites death. Taking action to end the #leadepidemic is a way to respond to the call to confront and eradicate that which harms the most vulnerable in our human family. To ignore the threat of lead poisoning, or the devastating effects it has on our children, is to turn our backs on all we hold to be sacred and true. The Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016 will identify lead hazards before a child is harmed, ensure that federal policies reflect the prevailing science, and allow families living in toxic homes to move if they so choose. These actions are critical to stem the tide of lead poisoning and represent the long overdue solution to a widespread problem that has endangered far too many lives. Signing this petition is a good first step in calling on our country’s moral consciousness to protect our children and telling Congress that we wont stand by as more children are lead poisoned. Called to do more? Here are some suggestions: Spread the Word to Project Our Children - Movements grow in strength as people are engaged. Make sure this crisis is known more broadly by sharing with your networks and communities by word of mouth, on your website, in your newsletter, on your social media pages. The more people know, the more they can protect themselves and others at risk of lead poisoning. Here are some informative articles that can be shared with your community: The Poison in Our Walls: http://nyti.ms/1VTRv8P We Know How To Stop The Epidemic Of Lead Poisoning. So Why Aren’t We?: http://bit.ly/1ZwWM4q Legislation to protect children in public housing from lead exposure introduced in House and Senate: http://bit.ly/1pIrACr Durbin, Quigley target lead hazards in Section 8 housing with new bill: http://trib.in/1QSE6pi Federal housing policy leaves poor kids at risk of lead poisoning: http://trib.in/1QlbIzc Chicago medical clinic prescribes legal help for housing: http://apne.ws/1pIrWcn Stand with Us and Join the Movement - Partner with us for change as a faith leader or as a community. Let others know that faith inspires action to end the #LeadEpidemic through your endorsement. Add your organizations, institutions, and communities to the growing list of those publicly standing in solidarity through endorsement as a means of addressing this #LeadEpidemic harming our nation's children. (Send us a message through our Facebook page to endorse the bill as a community or organization.) If we act together, we can end the #leadepidemic!
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  • Tell Congress To Vote For A Budget That Helps Flint
    The recent tragedy in Flint, Michigan makes all too clear what occurs when severe austerity budgets are implemented: innocent people suffer. And all too often, it’s low-income and communities of color that suffer the most. That's why the People’s Budget includes $765 million for Flint to replace toxic pipelines and provide needed health, education, and other services for our people exposed to lead. The teachings of our respective faiths are steeped in the understanding that we have a communal responsibility to care for the most vulnerable in society. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ensuring that all workers receive a fair wage are not simply policy positions: they are sacred obligations. The People’s Budget would also invest in housing, education, transportation, clean energy and safe water to create millions of jobs. It would increase educational opportunities by providing Pre-K and debt-free college for all. And it would fulfill our communal obligations to our parents and grandparents by increasing, not cutting, Social Security and health care. In short, The People’s Budget, if passed, would set our nation on the path toward a fair and healthy economy. You can read more about the "People's Budget" here: http://1.usa.gov/2200IQb Our government should serve all of its citizens. By bolstering the social safety net for those who most need it and prioritizing measures that reduce the growing inequality in our nation, The People’s Budget does just that, and it deserves the support of Congress. We urge you to vote for it when it comes to the House Floor. Thank you for your consideration.
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  • Tell the Obama Administration: Stop the Deportation of Asylum Seekers Hilda Ramirez and her son Ivan
    Hilda Ramirez is an asylum seeker in danger of deportation to a country where her family will be subjected to violence, discrimination, and extreme poverty. A 28-year-old Mayan mother from San Marcos, Guatemala, Hilda fled to the United States with her 9-year-old son Ivan after facing threats of violence. Arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 hoping to find safety, she was instead detained at the border and jailed at the Karnes detention center with her son in inhumane conditions for 11 months. There, Hilda participated in a courageous hunger strike with another 77 immigrant moms to shut down family detention centers.1 Hilda was eventually released on bond and forced to wear an ankle bracelet. After several months of staying in an Austin shelter for immigrants, the danger of impending ICE raids became overwhelming, leading Hilda and Ivan to seek Sanctuary in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas while she fights deportation orders for herself and her young son. Although she was previously unable to win her asylum case, she continues to appeal her case with the assistance of legal counsel. After the recent decision from the Obama administration to target Central American asylum seekers for immigration raids and deportation, many immigrant communities have been left in a state of fear. As a result, many families and individuals in danger of losing their lives and loved ones are looking for safe haven and support with legal services. Already, more than 120 people have been apprehended in the raids, 77 people immediately deported, including parents with U.S. citizen children.2 Another round of raids has been announced, but no one knows where or when they will happen. OUR VALUES Families like Hilda and her son should not be targeted by immoral and unjust ICE raids. They should be provided the safety they seek, not met with further violence and discrimination. With continued raids announced, it is more important than ever that we stand with Hilda, Ivan, and all our immigrant brothers and sisters living in danger of deportation and separation. On February 9th, 2016, Hilda and Ivan took the prophetic and courageous step to enter into Sanctuary at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. Hilda explains that, "I feel safe here. I don't think immigration agents will break down the door and take me away. That is why I came here." Sanctuary is a place where God’s love and protection is a living reality. Our faith demands that we treat refugees as neighbors. Our faith demands that we open our doors, even when others are shutting theirs. As people of faith and people of moral courage, we cannot stand idle in midst of the inhumanity of raids, deportation and detention. We must be in solidarity with Hilda, Ivan and our immigrant neighbors who are facing similar situations where a deportation could have fatal consequences when returned to their countries of origin. All families are sacred and each individual deserves justice, dignity and hospitality, regardless of their immigration status. TAKE ACTION By signing this petition, you are taking action to stand in solidarity with Hilda and Ivan, and all people suffering because of the United States’ inhumane mass deportation system. Your support of immigrants and refugees as a person of faith or a person of moral courage can help us put pressure on the Obama administration to use their power to end unjust and inhumane raids and deportations. Watch the video of our press conference at St. Andrews Church: https://vimeo.com/154776260 [1] "Mothers held at Texas detention centre go on hunger strike to demand release," The Guardian. April 1, 2015. [2] "U.S. authorities begin raids, taking 121 illegal immigrants into custody over the weekend," The Washington Post. Jan. 4, 2016.
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  • Stand with Native Alaskans: Protect the Arctic Refuge
    For decades, the Gwich'in people have been defending their ancestral land and culture from the imminent threat of oil exploration and drilling. For daily sustenance, the Gwich’in depend on the Porcupine caribou herd, whose birthing patterns would be disrupted by oil exploration. The Gwich'in call the caribou birthing grounds "the sacred place where life begins," and they believe the caribou and Gwich'in people share a piece of each others' hearts. Defending the ecological integrity of the Arctic Refuge is also about defending the lives, livelihoods, spirituality, and culture of the Gwich'in people.
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  • Join In Interfaith Friendship and Support for Sonoma County's Muslim Community
    An alarming wave of Islamophobia is sweeping our nation. It has taken the form of hate crimes, profiling and verbal attacks. Increasingly inflammatory political rhetoric has included calls for internment camps and halting the resettlement of Muslim refugees who are fleeing war and terror. As people of many faith backgrounds living and worshiping in Sonoma County, we, the undersigned, and so many other people, are committed to working for justice, equality, inclusion and safety for all the members of our community. We are keenly aware that the scapegoating of religious minorities has never ended well - in this country or elsewhere - and we do not want to see it in our county or under our watch. We call on this community to oppose and reject Islamophobia in all its forms. We will not be silent or indifferent. We call on all people of good conscience to stand up for peaceful coexistence. We call on this community to extend the hand of friendship to our Muslim neighbors so they know they do not face this challenging time alone. Sponsored by: INTERFAITH COUNCIL OF SONOMA COUNTY SonomaCountyInterfaith@sonic.net (707) 206-2650 Endorsed by: Interfaith Council of Sonoma County, First Congregational United Church of Christ – Santa Rosa, Congregation Ner Shalom – Cotati, Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, Redwood Forest Friends Meeting, Congregation Shomrei Torah – Santa Rosa, Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Santa Rosa, Islamic Center of North Marin, First Congregational Church of Sonoma - UCC, North Bay Organizing Project, Institution of None And All, Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, Congregation Shir Shalom – Sonoma, and Presbyterian Church of the Roses – Santa Rosa
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  • Multifaith sign-on: Reinstate Wheaton Professor Hawkins
    Our hearts broke when we learned that Professor Larycia Hawkins – the first tenured African American woman at Wheaton College since 1860, and the only full-time African American woman on faculty – was put on leave after wearing a hijab in solidarity with Muslims in America. She wrote on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” While the College has framed the issue around theological concerns on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, it has handled the situation in ways that unveil issues of race, gender and religion. Teaching in the evangelical academy is difficult for people of color, especially black women. The white leaders of evangelical institutions need to take the time to listen and learn from black women. The Black Lives Matter Movement, led by black women, is bringing to light both the suffering and hope of a growing faith-rooted movement for justice. As people of faith, we also cannot be bystanders to the rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in our nation, including the spike in acts of hate and violence against Americans who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian. We were all inspired by Prof. Hawkins' brave statement of embodied solidarity. Her courageous composure is a powerful testimony that love, not fear, will have the last word. Forged in the fires of the movement to abolish race-based slavery, Wheaton College has a historic commitment to standing in solidarity with those who are hurting. As the prophet Zechariah says “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (7:10). As people of faith we should applaud Prof. Hawkins’ decision to stand in solidarity with those who are experiencing violence and misunderstanding. Instead, by firing her and revoking her tenure, an unchristian message would be sent that it's okay to punish someone who is using their body as a holy sanctuary against hatred and fear. We understand that you are seeking to deal with this situation through the doctrines and protocols of the College, but we call on you to attend to a higher judge, your conscience, and Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Jesus says we will be judged based on how we treat the least and the lost: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40). Jesus clearly exercises solidarity with those on the margins, calling us to follow his example as he aligns himself with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and prisoner. As people of faith and moral courage, it is vital that we stand in embodied solidarity with African Americans, Muslims, and women. Wheaton College has the opportunity to shine like the sun as an example of what moral courage and compassionate justice look like in the diverse community of creation. Our earnest prayer is that you will do what is right and reinstate Prof. Hawkins as Associate Professor of Political Science. In reconciling with her, Wheaton will reclaim its prophetic legacy through modeling just and compassionate devotion to ‘Christ and the Kingdom.’ In faith, Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel (Wheaton, Class of 1994) Rev. Dr. William Barber II Rabbi Sharon Brous Sister Simone Campbell Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño Dr. Sharon Groves Lisa Sharon Harper Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson Valarie Kaur Rabbi Stephanie Kolin Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews Rev. Brian McLaren Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III Bishop Gene Robinson Linda Sarsour Rev. Dr. John Vaughn Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock
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  • Petition Against Legislation Preventing Straight Party Ticket Voting in Michigan
    If straight party ticket voting is prevented, it would seriously disenfranchise senior citizens, the physically disabled, and the poor by creating unnecessary obstacles to their participation in the electoral process. Michigan citizens should have the right to vote as they please and not have restrictions placed on them, to do so is a violation of their constitutional rights and a violation of their civil liberties.
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  • Amid anti-Muslim hate, sign this letter of support to the Muslim community
    In the famous words of German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemoller: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Today, they are coming for Muslim Americans. And when they come for any member of our community, they come for all of us. As we watch the rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in our nation, as we listen to preposterous hate speech and rhetoric from political candidates -- particularly Mr. Trump -- our hearts are cracked wide open. Even more alarming than the rantings of a single politician are the thousands cheering on bigotry. People are afraid and concerned for their safety. However, responding to fear with hatred diminishes us all - both in spirit and safety. We must not allow fear to undermine the values that stand at the very core of who we are as faith leaders and Americans. Every time there is a surge in anti-Muslim speech, there is a corresponding spike in acts of hate and acts of violence against Americans who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian. You are our neighbors and our doctors, our local merchants and our school board presidents. We know you as restaurant owners and soccer coaches, as policewomen and public officials. We know you as mothers and fathers and caregivers, and as allies and colleagues in movements for justice. You are us. We know you as our brothers and our sisters. America is not America without you. We are speaking out, and we have your back, friends. We commit to building a circle of protection around you; we are standing with you. We love you, and we pledge to show our love in every corner of our lives. May we walk hand in hand into a future where racism, hate, and violence are relics of the past, where differences are celebrated, and our children inherit our joy. نحن نقف بجانبكم (We stand by you.) | نحن نساندكم (We support you.) Signed: Valarie Kaur Linda Sarsour Rabbi Stephanie Kolin Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel Rev. Brian McLaren Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III Bishop Gene Robinson, Lisa Sharon Harper Rev. Dr. William Barber II Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock Rabbi Sharon Brous Sr. Simone Campbell
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  • Assign Special Prosecutor to Investigate Cover-up of Laquan McDonald Execution
    In the City of Big Shoulders, we have witnessed, once again, the killing of a young Black man, by the name of LaQuan McDonald, at the hands of a civil servant called to serve and protect. Chicago, unfortunately, is no stranger to police misconduct and political corruption. For example, a lengthy investigation uncovered forced confessions in the Chicago Police Department under the unethical leadership of then-Commander Jon Burge. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and the 90s, officers under Burge’s leadership routinely tortured citizens until they signed confessions for acts they did not commit. The tragic death of LaQuan McDonald is part of Chicago’s long history of racial tension, failed police policy, and unethical political maneuvering. We are calling upon local and national leaders and activists to join with citizens of Chicago to demand several reforms, including: · Demilitarization of the Chicago Police Department · Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the potential cover-up · A police department that reflects the community it serves · Put in place an elected civilian police board with indictment power · Secure proper funding for restorative justice programs · The resignation and firing of ALL involved, and · Indictment of implicated officers and commanders We are called as people of faith to do justice and to love kindness and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) We call upon all people of faith and moral courage to join with the citizens of Chicago and demand institutional change to these systemic issues.
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  • Tell Politicians: Refugees fleeing violence need help, not hate
    As people from diverse religious traditions we are united in the core value of welcoming the sojourner and loving our neighbors. Just as the Israelites wandered through the desert to escape slavery in Egypt, and as Mary and Joseph traveled from place to place before finding a stable in the inn for the birth of Jesus, today’s refugees face similar struggles. We must stop conflating terrorism with Islam; the form of violent extremism practiced by ISIS is not part of the Muslim tradition. Islam is a religion that promotes peace, not violence. As the Qur’an reads, “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…” Qur’an 5:32 The United States has a proud history of resettling refugees of all faiths. Keeping Syrian refugees out of this country based on their nationality or religion sends the wrong message to the rest of the world about who we are as Americans and dishonors our historic legacy of welcoming. We are a welcoming country with a religiously diverse society and our resettlement program must continue to reflect this. To not do so only feeds into ISIS’ propaganda and makes us all less safe. To be clear, the U.S. process for admitting refugees prioritizes security concerns. The United States handpicks the refugees who resettle here, going through multiple layers of security checks and making them the most thoroughly vetted group of people to enter the United States. Security screenings are rigorous and involve the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple other intelligence agencies. However, despite the proven safety of the U.S. resettlement program, more than half of U.S. Governors have signaled they would like to refuse entry to Syrians. It is important to recognize that states cannot unilaterally block resettlement -- governors do not have the legal authority to determine who lives in their states. Syrian refugees are legally admitted to the United States and therefore have the right to move freely throughout the country. To stop someone from entering a state due to their nationality is an attack on fundamental rights that we as Americans hold true and is against everything that we stand for as a nation of immigrants proud of our history of welcoming. We reject the notion that our country or state can exclude certain refugees based on nationality or religion and ask our Governor and our Congresspersons to welcome all refugees including Syrians as they desperately flee violent persecution.
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