• Get racism out of pro sports: Sack the 'Skins!
    My name is Peggy Flanagan, I am a Native American person of faith, and a board member of Sojourners. I’m ready for the NFL to stop treating me like a mascot. I am not a mascot. My daughter is not a mascot. My people are not mascots. It’s time to sack the ‘Skins. For more than 80 years, Washington D.C.’s football team has been operating under public racism. To me, this is personal – as a Native American woman and mother, the word “Redsk*ns” offends me. Worse, it makes me fear that my young daughter will be hurt by seeing the racist images that degrade her people every day. Recently, we saw the NBA oust one of its owners for his private racism. But for more than 80 years, Washington, D.C.’s, football team has been operating under public racism. With renewed attention on racism in professional sports, now is the perfect time to get this slur out of the NFL. Join me, Jim Wallis, and people of faith around the country in calling on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the hurtful “Redsk*ns” name! Our faith tradition tells us that when one member suffers, we all suffer. We’re all created in God’s image. But, let me tell you, turning on a television and seeing a racist, derogatory word for my community does NOT make me feel respected. Some of my proudest moments have been marching and demonstrating against this hateful name, and now I’m ready to turn up the heat. Commissioner Goodell needs to take a hint and work to end racism in his league. Join me in standing against the racial slur “Redsk*ns.” The pressure against the Redsk*ns name is mounting – from sports fans, elected officials, media outlets, and more. As a faith community, let’s make sure Commissioner Goodell knows what side we stand on. Peggy Flanagan Sojourners board member, citizen of the White Earth Nation, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota
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  • FAITH LEADERS FOR PRISON REFORM: REINSTATE CONDITIONAL RELEASE, MR. POLONCARZ & COUNTY LEGISLATURE
    UPDATE - Since clergy and faith leaders met with County Executive Mark Poloncarz on April 22nd he has expressed his support of reinstating the conditional release program and has committed to send representation to the June 10th VOICE-Buffalo public meeting. However, we still to convince the Erie County Legislature and Sheriff Tim Howard that this program must be reinstated. We must collectively show that as people of faith all across Western New York that we are called to address the horrendous conditions of our criminal justice system. We can no longer tolerate our neighbors – youth, young adults, veterans, elderly – suffering after being imprisoned for nonviolent offenses or because of treatable mental health or addiction issues. We call on our representatives to help heal our communities by: (1) Reinstating the Local Conditional Release Program for Erie County (1) Joining us in person at our public meeting on Tuesday, June 10th at 7PM at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary RC Church in Williamsville The conditional release program would give our neighbors a second chance at life – the opportunity to return to our communities and their families with the treatment and support they need. It's our vision of liberation and restorative justice in Erie County! How does it work? Under the Local Conditional Release Program, 25 non-violent offenders are selected for early release if they agree to a year of probation and participation in programs that provide mental health care, addiction treatment, job training or a variety of other needed services. Does it work? Yes, it restores lives while saving county tax dollars. The rate of recidivism (return to prison) for people who participated in the local conditional release program from 1992 to 2005 was 15% – compare that to 65% for those who were released without services and support. Take the inspiring story of Jacqueline Gerald. At a time in her life when she was struggling with addiction and financial pressures to support her family, Jacqueline was sentenced to serve time as a result of laundering charges. While in prison, Jackie applied for the early release program and was accepted. In Jackie’s own words about the program: “If you keep your eyes open and strive to do well, the Lord will make a way out of no way. For me the way the Lord provided me was through this program.” After being released Jackie was accepted to Nursing School with help from Rev. Eugene Pierce, who was the chair of the local conditional release commission, and Mr. Dolansky, who was her probation officer for that one year. Today, Jackie is a registered nurse. “I’ve learned that sometimes in life we think we are not good enough and we can’t pursue our dreams, but the Lord puts people in our lives who will support us.” Let's show County Executive Poloncarz and the Erie County Legislature we believe in liberation and redemption. Add your name to tell our public servants to reinstate the Conditional Release program. For more info, visit VOICE-Buffalo at http://www.voice-buffalo.org/ You can hear more in our coverage by Buffalo's NPR News http://news.wbfo.org/post/clergy-members-call-county-jail-release-program
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  • People of Faith Call on the Louisiana Legislature to Help the Poor, Stay Out of People's Bedrooms
    On April 15, 2014, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 66-27 to retain a state law that bans sexual relations between consenting adults. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such laws are unconstitutional, and they cannot be legally enforced. During what is for many people one of the most sacred seasons of the year (Holy Week and Passover), Louisiana lawmakers decided that the best use of their time would be to make an official pronouncement against the 100,000+ Louisianans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and the millions more who love them. Their vote means: "You are not welcome in Louisiana. If it were up to us, you would be fined thousands of dollars or put into jail for up to five years." Trying to extend the reach of government, they also said with their vote: "What you choose to do in your own bedroom is our business." This is in violation of a central tenet of all our faith traditions -- to "love your neighbor." It is especially damaging to LGBT children, who like all children need to know that they are loved and respected as God's unique creations. Louisiana lawmakers used their positions and taxpayer resources to express those intolerant and ignorant opinions, instead of focusing on the fact that Louisiana: > Ranks second in terms of state poverty rates > Has the nation's highest murder rate > Has the highest incarceration rate in the world > Stands to lose billions of dollars and refuse medical care to low income people by refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid > Is slipping into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of one football field per hour The legislature's vote is not only mean spirited, it is also ironic: Many of these lawmakers are themselves guilty of the "sin of Sodom" as expressed in Ezekiel 16:49: "Sodom's sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door." As clergy and ordinary people of faith, we call on the Louisiana House of Representatives to repeal Louisiana code 14:89 - the "sodomy law" - and then move on to the real work that needs to be done so the state can live up to its full potential: > Help people to rise out of poverty > Make our streets safe > Keep people out of jail if they don't need to be there > Accept federal money to expand Medicaid > Save this beautiful land before it disappears into the sea.
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  • Send a Prayer or Note to Prabhjot Singh
    We’ve seen the healing that’s possible when we come together to combat hate. This attack, pending the investigation, will at least be tracked and monitored as a hate crime by the US government. We did that together. In fact, Prabhjot – a Columbia university professor, doctor, and community health expert – helped make that possible. In the New York Times last year, he called upon the government “to vigorously combat bias and discrimination against all Americans." This is our moment to come together again -- to shine a spotlight on Prabhjot's brave leadership and help prevent future attacks with our action.
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  • LIVE OUT THE VISION FOR A GLOBAL ETHIC
    Twenty years ago, more than 100 global faith and spiritual leaders declared a shared vision of the world’s critical challenges, and what we can do in harmony to eradicate these problems. While we celebrate this pioneering global ethic, the work toward true interreligious and human harmony continues. Our generation lives in the face of the same struggles: Continuous war, division, poverty, hunger, violence, ecological danger, and political dysfunction toward achieving true, lasting harmony. And yet, the world is still populated by a groundswell of caring, collaborative, and eager people. The innovators of contemporary interfaith trailblazed; their declaration to fix a world languishing presented a CALL TO ACTION we as millennials are better equipped to accept than any generation before. It is time for a fundamental change of hearts and minds, to act harmoniously with one another and our earth, transcendent of boundary and creed. THE GROUNDSWELL FOR A BETTER FUTURE BEGINS WITH THIS PLEDGE. SIGN AND DECLARE: We are interdependent. We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences. We consider humankind our family. We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We must strive for a just social and economic order in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. We pledge to increase our awareness by disciplining our minds, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking. Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore we commit ourselves to this global ethic, to understanding one another, and to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life. WE INVITE ALL PEOPLE, RELIGIOUS, SPIRITUAL, AND ETHICAL, TO DO THE SAME. Signing is easy, but committing takes guts. Will you: 1) Commit to and sign the Global Ethic!* ( Full text of the Towards a Global Ethic declaration is downloadable by clicking on "Campaign website" on the left sidebar. 2) Share how you will live out the global ethic for a better future for all. 3) Start a conversation with your teachers, faith leaders, family partners, and especially those with whom you seek to find common ground: like your grandparents, co-workers, and in-laws! 4) Ask your neighbors to sign, too. Use Facebook, e-mail, and around the old-fashioned water cooler . Tip: If a debate erupts, steer the conversation toward your common core values. 5) Pick a partner, pick a common cause, and pick a time to act together. 6) Let go of hate. Live out the vision.
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  • End the ban on devout Sikhs in the military
    Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi is an American hero who served bravely in Afghanistan as a doctor, earning a bronze star. But he was only allowed in the military in the first place after petitioning for two years for a special accommodation. Today, in America, turbaned Sikhs are effectively barred from military service. Although the U.S. military technically permits soldiers to wear turbans, yarmulkes, and certain other articles of faith, they may only do so after requesting a special exemption from their commanding officer. This process is often long and laborious and essentially requires Sikhs and members of other religious traditions to choose between faith and military service. Major Kalsi is standing up to the military’s policy, and we, as people of many faiths and backgrounds, stand with him. President Obama, we respectfully call on your Administration to give turbaned Sikh American an equal opportunity to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. As people of faith and moral conscious, we speak out against the U.S. military’s policy hindering Sikh Americans and others from serving military duty. “[A]sking a person to choose between religion and country, that’s not who we are as a nation,” said Major Kalsi when he told his remarkable story to the New York Times. “We’re better than that. We can be Sikhs and soldiers at the same time.” African-Americans fought to desegregate military units. Women fought to overcome combat prohibitions. Under your leadership, LGBTQ people successfully fought the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Now, we follow the lead of the Sikh Coalition and SIkh Americans across the nation –  to call for an end to the presumptive ban on devout Sikh soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces. As the Sikh American community heals from Oak Creek – the largest hate-based mass shooting in recent U.S. history – now is the time to end a policy that undermines their status as equal Americans. May all patriotic Americans – regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion – be able to serve the nation they love.
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  • Open a Civil Rights Case For Trayvon Martin
    The verdict is out, but our fight for justice is far from over. As people of many faiths and beliefs, we stand with the NAACP to ask the Department of Justice to open a civil rights case for Trayvon Martin. Join us in building a groundswell of #Justice4Trayvon.
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  • Justice for Sylvester "Jahsyl" Smith
    62 year old Vietnam Veteran and community activist Sylvester "Jahsyl" Smith has been a Rastafarian for nearly 40 years. After serving his country in the Vietnam War, he started religiously growing his hair and this year his dreadlocks were near his ankles. Shockingly and traumatically, in May, authorities at the Indiana Department of Corrections cut off Jahsyl's dreadlocks against his will. Knowing Jahsyl is a Rastafarian, authorities violated his First Amendment Right to Freedom of Religion. For many Rastafarians "shall no razor come upon his head...he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow." (Numbers 6:5). Now, Jahsyl is on a hunger strike for the cutting of his dreadlocks, but authorities in Indiana will not inform the family of his health status, and he is not allowed visitors. Jahsyl is a 62 year old man who went to college, served his country and his community. He was charged with criminal recklessness, but his crime was protecting his teen daughter and self on his property. What would justify authorities cutting his dreadlocks and degrading him, his religion, and his culture? After this traumatic experience and violation of his First Amendment rights, Jahsyl needs access to his family, clergy, and attorney. Please sign the petition to call on Warden Jim Wynn to give us peace and justice for Jahsyl.
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  • Tell the FBI: Track hate crimes against Sikh Americans
    The FBI currently doesn't track hate crimes against Sikhs, as it does for many other groups. The Sikh identity of the 6 Sikh Americans killed in Oak Creek will not appear as a statistic in the FBI’s reports. How can we effectively respond to a problem we're not measuring? This is our chance to advocate for real policy changes to combat hate in America. The FBI is finally meeting June 5th to decide whether or not to track hate crimes against Sikh Americans. To make sure they do the right thing, they need to hear from us. The alternative? After Oak Creek, I met with the local Police Chief Edwards, who showed me the FBI Hate Crime Incident Report sitting on his desk, still blank. "There is no box for me to record the 6 homicides at the Sikh gurdwara," he said. "How can we combat a problem we're not measuring?" Because of our action together in the wake of Oak Creek, and the work of our partners all over the country, the Justice Department promised to explore whether the FBI should track anti-Sikh hate crimes in mid-October. This is living proof: when we the people find bold new ways to call for love and respect, not just in the halls of power but in our schools, houses of worship, and communities, we can be heard. And when our government responds, we can build an America fully committed to civil liberties. Because I dream of a day when we see a turbaned Sikh on the street and think – not "foreigner" or "terrorist" but "American." That will be the day that all people, in all our diversity, are truly embraced in America. We long for that day. We fight for that day. And I believe working together in the Sikh spirit of Chardi Kala, everlasting hope and optimism, we will see that day. *We are proud to work with the Sikh Coalition and the Sikh American Legal Defense Fund on this important effort.*
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  • Pastors Need to Preach and Teach About Systemic Racism and Implicit Bias
    Dear Clergy Colleagues, Especially during times of injustice and conflict, we celebrate every sign of God’s grace among us. The killing of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. at the hands of police has rocked Hoover and the surrounding area, so we were glad that an interracial group of clergy met on December 5 to worship and affirm their common faith. But we are also aware how often well-meaning Christians have turned to acts of charity to avoid acts of justice, or even used charity as a screen for supporting the status quo. Charity soothes the conscience, while prophetic proclamation pricks it. Collecting money to care for employees affected by the protest is an action that draws attention to the effects of protest, but not the effects of systemic racism that gave rise to protest; perhaps you could also collect money to pay for bail for protesters? We need to speak plainly, because lives are on the line: We know that many people who are making derogatory, inflammatory statements about the protests, who talk about running over protesters with their cars or turning fire hoses on them, are members of Christian congregations. We know that the kind of counterprotest violence that took Heather Heyer’s life in Charlottesville, Virginia is possible here. We have a series of questions that beg for a pastoral and prophetic response. First, how are you helping your congregations understand the perspective of the protesters? How are you de-escalating violent and racist rhetoric? Are you reminding your congregations that nonviolent protest stands at the heart of our faith traditions? That even Jesus turned over tables in a sacred space? Are you helping them empathize with those who constantly feel the effects of systemic racism? Second, how are you helping them to understand the history of the place in which they live? What public decisions and policies that shaped Hoover were driven by racism? You are probably familiar with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written as a response to clergy who blamed protesters for being “divisive.” In the years since his letter, Jefferson County has divided into over thirty different municipalities, a fracturing driven by redlining, white flight, and other forms of systemic racism. The first attempt to incorporate Hoover happened in 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was passed, in order to fight the integration of schools. While many lament “divisiveness” and “polarization” (which are often code words for protest), are you preaching about the divisiveness and polarization of systemic racism? And third, how are you helping them understand the times? Alabama Appleseed recently released a report showing that although white and black people use and sell drugs at about the same rate, black people are four times more likely to be arrested for it in Alabama. Nearly every family in your congregation has been affected by drugs. Are you preaching about the huge racial disparities in the ways our black siblings are affected by policing and the criminal justice system? Have you said the names of victims and preached against the rise of white nationalist violence against people of color? You may already be doing these things. If so, we thank you. We ask these questions because the people we pastor are directly affected by them. Some of us clergy have our own necks on the line, too. If you are not already bringing people together in your congregation in worship or small groups to address the sin of systemic racism and white people’s role in eliminating it, those of us in Faith in Action Alabama stand ready to help you do it. Faithfully Yours, Rev. Dr. David L. Barnhart, Jr. Pastor, Saint Junia United Methodist Church Co-chair of Birmingham Hub, Faith in Action Alabama Rev. Dr. Sondra Coleman Presiding Elder, Birmingham District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Rev. Cat Goodrich Pastor, First Presbyterian Church Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton Presiding Bishop, Fifth District, Central Methodist Episcopal Church Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson Pastor, Mount Moriah Baptist Church Rev. Adam Mixon Pastor, Zion Spring Baptist Church Rev. Dr. A.B. Sutton Pastor, Living Stones Temple Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons Associate Pastor, First United Methodist Church
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  • An Open Letter to Doug Jones
    Please know that just as we campaigned for you, we want to work with you to ensure that the voices of all Alabamians, particularly those who have historically been marginalized, are represented during your tenure in the Senate. Again, congratulations on a very hopeful victory. Let’s continue working together to take the next step to uplift all Alabamians. Sincerely,
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  • Tell the UN: Act to stop racist voter suppression in the US
    Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to take part in their country’s government, that civic structures should reflect the will of the people they govern. The United States, at present, stands in clear violation of the Declaration’s mandate for universal and equal suffrage. President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission sought last week to obtain the personal information of all U.S. voters. This request was widely decried as not only unnecessary — given voter fraud’s virtual non-existence — but also as a likely pretense to further suppress voting blocs that are unlikely to support Republican candidates. Such attempts at disenfranchisement would not be unprecedented. 33 states have passed voter suppression laws that disproportionately affect poor, African American, and Latino voters. Moreover, in the 2016 election there were almost 900 fewer voting sites when compared to 2012. An Associated Press analysis suggested such policies, on top of race-driven gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could have given Republicans as many as 22 unearned seats in the House of Representatives Moreover, black and brown Americans are disproportionately affected by voter suppression efforts, a shameful reincarnation of tactics employed during our nation’s era of racial segregation and Jim Crow. Unfortunately, while our Justice Department has long fought efforts to deny voting rights, it has dramatically changed course under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In February, for example, the Justice Dept. dropped its objection to a racist Texas voter suppression law — one a federal judge later ruled unconstitutional. More recently, In June the Justice Department sent states a letter intended to push state voting commissions to remove more voters from their rolls. Since we can no longer expect our Justice Department to act on behalf of the disenfranchised, we turn instead to the international community, that you might condemn these crimes. Do not let American democracy continue in its drift towards oligarchy without censure. We implore you to send the strong message that equal and universal suffrage is not an optional commitment, but a fundamental right for all people.
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