• 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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  • Walmart wages violate our core moral values
    As people of faith, we urge Alice Walton to heed the call of the prophet Isaiah, “Maintain justice and do what is right.” (Isaiah 56:1) We stand with workers like Jasmine Dixon from store number 3533 in Denver. Jasmine has two young sons, but struggles to feed them because she is only paid $11.95 per hour. Jasmine has to skip meals and relies on food stamps and food banks to feed her kids because she works at Walmart. We stand with workers like Mary Watkines, who organize because "It is hard for me to understand how a company can do this to people: my coworkers work hungry while stocking food all day. I have coworkers who have to sleep in their car in the parking lot because they can't afford an apartment. Others are parents who work all day only to go home to children who are hungry.” It is immoral that Walmart workers and their families go hungry every day. Alice Walton, we call on you to recognize your moral obligation to end the pain of hunger by ensuring that your workers can feed themselves and their children. We stand with Walmart workers launching a 15-day Fast for $15. Together with allies, workers are lifting up the call for $15 an hour and access to full time work at Walmart-- conditions that would allow workers to feed themselves and their family. It is a brave effort to turn what has often been a source of private shame for workers into a demonstration of public outrage. Will you stand with Walmart fasters by signing on to this letter to Walmart board member Alice Walton calling on Walmart to meet its moral obligation to our communities?
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  • Stand with Catholic Church Workers!
    In recent years, many Catholic workers have been unjustly terminated or deprived of fair contract renewals. These firings have typically targeted those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), those who are in relationships not recognized by the Church, those who support women’s equality in Church and society, and those who have made decisions about family life in the sacredness of their conscience. These unjust terminations are not only spiritually, emotionally, and financially devastating for the individual, but they also impact students, parishioners, family members, colleagues, and others, often diminishing their level of trust and respect for the Church.
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  • Pope Francis-Reinstate Fired Nun
    Sister Letitia "Tish" Rawles, a faithful, committed Catholic, has served as a Catholic sister for 47 years: 22 with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, and 25 with the Sisters of the Precious Blood. She has also felt a call to the priesthood since her childhood. In April of this year, facing serious illness, she followed God's call and her conscience and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Since Sister Tish's ordination, she has faithfully served the sick and dying, performing prayer services and administering last rites at her nursing home. When the Sisters of the Precious Blood discovered that she was following her call to the priesthood, she was dismissed. Pope Francis has promoted a "Church of Mercy, which he states "excludes no one". He has shown mercy to controversial priests across the political spectrum, allowing formerly dismissed priests to say Mass, and schismatic groups to grant absolution. The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and Roman Catholic Womenpriests ask Pope Francis to live the Church of Mercy by overturning all excommunications. This action will allow Sister Tish and all women called to the priesthood to serve their communities in peace.
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  • Join Archbishop Durocher and Urge the Synod to Consider Greater Roles for Women in the Church
    Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a “more widespread and incisive female presence” in Church. One Canadian Archbishop, Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, is taking that call seriously by proposing that the Synod on the Family, which is currently under way in Rome, reflect on the possibility of bringing more women into leadership and decision making and to open the way for female deacons. Ordaining women deacons would make for “a more widespread and incisive female presence” in many aspects of Church life and ministry. Women deacons would be able to preside at baptisms and weddings as well as proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass. Having women ordained to serve in these roles would help bishops meet many of the Church’s ministerial needs in the face of the present priest shortage. Additionally, the presence of women in these roles would bring an urgently needed female perspective to our public worship and reflection on the Scriptures. Ordaining women to the diaconate would not be new. Recent scholarship has shown that women were ordained to the diaconate in the Church in the West for 1200 years and to the present in the East. Women deacons number among ministers named in the Bible and manuscripts of medieval texts used by bishops include prayers and rituals for ordaining women to the diaconate. It is time to restore that tradition. Women are ready to serve. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, 80% of trained, paid lay ecclesial ministers currently working in the Church in the United States and 58% of students currently enrolled in formation programs for ministry are women. In those dioceses throughout the country that have restored the permanent diaconate, the wives of men who became deacons were required to attend the same formation programs. All of these women constitute a large pool of potential ministers who could be readily – if not immediately—available to serve in the diaconate and other decision-making roles in the Church. We urge the Synod on the Family to consider greater roles for women for the good of the Church.
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  • Bring back beloved Iowa pastor and community member Max Villatoro
    Six months ago, it was with heavy hearts that we received word that Pastor Max Villatoro, a beloved father, husband, pastor, and community member was deported and had landed in Honduras. Although we have mourned Pastor Max’s absence from his family, friends, and community, we will not give up. Our struggle to keep the Villatoro family together continues as we work to reunite Max with his family and community. Through generous donations, we have been able to send Max’s children to Honduras to visit their father and to support the family as they await Max’s return. Advocates in Iowa and DC continue to put pressure on government officials to reverse Max’s deportation order, but we can’t do it without you. For six months, the Villatoro family has been forced to live thousands of miles apart, separated by our nation’s immoral and unjust immigration system. As people of faith, we cannot allow this tragic situation to go on. We must continue to tell Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that six months is too long -- it’s time to bring Pastor Max home! Because of our shameful immigration system, Max’s children have been left without a father. Gloria, his wife, has been left to support her family and raise her children by herself. And the community as a whole has been left to deal with the loss of a true leader. Max should never have been deported away from his family and community. The last six months have been too long -- let’s join together and bring Max home. Thank you for continuing to stand with us. In solidarity, – Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office and Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, Iowa -- Pastor Max's Story: Pastor Max was detained early in the morning on Tuesday, March 3, by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as he stepped outside his family's home. He wasn’t given a chance to say goodbye to his wife and four U.S. citizen kids – Anthony, Edna, Angela, and Aileen. Max is the pastor of the Iglesia Menonita Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City. He has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Max was originally targeted for deportation because of an immigration identification related charge from 1999. His detention and deportation is absolutely devastating to his family, his church and the community where he has been a leader for years. Pastor Max is a model of what it means to be a servant leader in his community. He has worked for years to strengthen Iowa City and to care for his neighbors. Each day he demonstrates incredible compassion, faith and character. In February, President Obama said that ICE officials would be held accountable for deporting individuals who qualify for relief. As a pastor, community leader and father of U.S. citizen children, Max clearly presents no public safety or security threat and therefore should qualify for relief through the President’s recent immigration executive order. And, even though a federal judge has temporarily delayed some of the President’s immigration actions, ICE guidelines state that immigrants like Max should not be a deportation priority. Max should not have been deported before he had a chance to qualify for relief.
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  • Dear Presidential Candidates: #WeMakeAmericaGreat
    As people of faith and moral courage, we believe all people are part of one family, and that we need to act together to build a world that respects everyone’s dignity. We reject the messages of candidates whose platforms, language, and campaigning exclude, discriminate against, and perpetuate violence towards members of our communities because of their citizenship status, gender, race, or sexuality. Many 2016 presidential candidates have chosen to build their campaigns on fear. Their use of xenophobic, racist and derogatory language has activated nationalist and white-supremacist groups throughout the country, inspiring further hate speech and violent hate crimes against immigrants and people of color. More so-called “moderate” presidential hopefuls have failed to stand up against these dangerous ideas. Some have defended the racist term “anchor babies” to describe infants born to undocumented parents, recommended we track immigrants like FedEx packages, and suggested we send air-strike drones to the U.S.-Mexico border. Our Values As people of faith and moral courage, we are called to welcome the sojourner and love our neighbor. We are appalled by the ugly, divisive, and cowardly tactics from candidates running for the most powerful office in our country. The United States was founded on the moral principles of liberty and justice for which civil rights leaders have struggled to make a reality for generations. We can’t move backwards to policies that resurface segregation. Instead we must move forward, with moral principles that value the diversity of all people and make America great. This includes immigrants, both new and established, and a range of identities in gender, faith, sexuality, race, and ethnicity that enrich our communities and strengthen the values we hold as people of faith and people of good conscious. Our vision of a better and more just world means calling on all political leaders to recognize the inherent value of all people, regardless of citizenship status, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. Please sign this petition if you are ready to dump the divisive language and policy proposals pushed by extremist candidates, so that together, we can make America great!
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  • Tell Goff Public: Stop Promoting For-Profit Prisons
    The mass incarceration of vulnerable people in our country is a profound injustice and must stop. Jesus taught his disciples to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive the debts of others." (Matthew 6:12) Minnesota has the second lowest prison population in the nation, yet has the second highest growth in incarceration rate. As a result of this trend, our prison population is overcapacity and state officials are considering investment requests to open a new private prison facility in Appleton. Our current prison system in Minnesota unjustly and disparately impacts people of color. African Americans make up 35% of prisoners despite being just 6% of the state’s population. Rather than working to heal this racialized injustice and invest in reforms to keep people out of prisons, Swift County has hired Goff Public to promote the opening of a for-profit prison owned by Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) - the largest and oldest private prison owner and operator in the U.S. which has extracted nearly $1 billion in profits over the past 5 years. CCA’s prisons have been dogged by allegations of maltreatment, neglect, and abuse. As just one heinous example, just this past July in Texas, 250 immigrant children were given the wrong dose of vaccine in a CCA facility. This dehumanizing prison system which profits off incarceration of human beings is a deep and profound violation of the sanctity of human life. Minnesota can do better; Goff Public can do better; we can do better than solve the prison overcapacity problem by simply building more prisons, especially prisons making a profit off the vulnerable in our society. Minnesota has no place for a company like CCA, or any company that seeks to profit off incarceration. Therefore as people of faith, we call Goff Public to cease and desist their efforts to promote the CCA facility in Appleton MN, or any for-profit incarceration enterprise.
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  • Pope Francis: America needs your faithful message of care for the Earth
    Pope Francis, your first visit to America comes at a critical time. As you have powerfully stated, many people, including some “committed and prayerful Christians,” tend to “ridicule expressions of concern for the environment,” while “others are passive.” Many of the same people, including candidates for our presidency and elected officials, are stirring old embers of racial and religious prejudice and fear in an effort to get attention and votes. When we, as Americans of many faiths, think of our children and grandchildren, we feel the urgency of this moment even more, because, as you say, “the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” We affirm that the cries of pain we feel are interconnected - from the demonization of immigrants, to racial animus, to economic inequality, to ecological destruction -- and we hope that your visit can help ignite a moral (r)evolution that shows us a better path. Multi-faith leaders are developing a plan to help congregations around the country translate your call into action, and we will gather to announce that plan at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, the same day you address Congress. Many others are hosting vigils and prayer services to welcome your message of hope and inclusion. Thank you for your visit, Pope Francis. May God guide and empower you to speak the truth to those in power.
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  • Pope Francis, urge the world's bishops to keep our parishes open
    Around the world, our bishops have increasingly responded to the priest shortage by closing, merging or clustering parishes. According to canon lawyer, Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD, "The parish reconfiguration process used by dioceses . . . can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God's people but the church as an institution." In the United States • Parishes have been merged or closed in Philadelphia, PIttsburgh, Boston, Cleveland and many other urban and rural places. In New York City, the Archdiocese recently merged or closed more than 70 parishes, often in the face of staunch opposition by committed parishioners. When the Pope visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School, he will learn that the parish was tragically closed in 2007 amid protest. In the following years, two funerals, one for Carmen Gonzalez and the other for Carmen Villegas were held on the sidewalk when the bishop refused to open the doors of the parish. Today loyal parishioners still gather and hold prayer services trying to keep their faith community alive. All of these mergings and closings are a source of tremendous pain and suffering for those who have shared a common Eucharistic life for generations with significant numbers walking away from the Church and never returning. Further, services to the poor offered by these parishes have been, too often, interrupted or extinguished. The Leadership Team of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is calling for a reset of the pastoral strategy that relies on parish closings and mergings. It sees the closing of any parish not requested by the members themselves as invariably wounding the Body of Christ. It leaves casualties among the people of God rather than healing. It withdraws the church from various ‘peripheries.’ Such steps betray Pope Francis’ call for the church to function as a field hospital for the marginalized. Other options must be identified and implemented, including the ordination of married viri probati. In Australia • Father Ian McGinnity, Chairman of the National Council of Priests points out, “In Australia, which is a vast land with the tyranny of distance, many rural communities do not have resident priests and only have access to the Eucharist on a monthly basis. In our populous urban areas, parishes have had to be amalgamated due to the shortage of priests, which has not only placed additional burdens on an already overworked pastor, but also has subsumed some churches' unique identity and community.” In Austria • Father Helmut Schüller, spokesman for the Pfarrer-Initiative Österreich, points out that the Catholic Church is at a crossroads and that those in leadership must provide the necessary priests or develop new forms of community leadership. He notes how Bishops' conferences are keeping to their defensive administrative strategy of merging independent parishes into vast, impersonal parish associations stating, "That is pretty much the most unimaginative thing one can do." In Germany • Father Wolfgang Gramer Rottenburg-Stuttgart representing the Deutsche Pfarrer-Initiative remarks, “In Germany I can see clearly that our priest numbers are declining every day. But I also recognise that there is a real chance that a Christian parish will discover the way of the Holy Spirit and see new forms of living the gospel – either with or without a priest. We still possess many members with special gifts, and we must find ways of allowing these gifts to flourish in the service of the community." In Ireland • Father Tony Flannery, founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, states that “the problem we have in Ireland is clustering of parishes, leading to added pressure on aging priests, and inevitable amalgamation, and formation of bigger, more impersonal, units" In Switzerland • Dr. Markus Heil, Deacon and Chairman of Pfarrei-Initiative Schweiz notes, “We have different models of clustering parishes. In the beginning these clusters looked reasonable, but the longer the process went on, the smaller parishes in the cluster felt increasingly neglected. At the same time they began to wonder if they were really part of a future strategy, or whether the real plan was to allow them to starve, merge and disappear. As they are not aware of any clear future plan it is difficult to organise and mobilise. In the end, they just disappear."
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  • Tell Congress: People of Faith Support the Iran Nuclear Deal
    As Christians, we feel called to speak out for the possibility of peace. We live by God’s call to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14). The Iran Nuclear Deal is proof that adversaries can negotiate and arrive at workable solutions without resorting to armed conflict. It is vital to support this agreement so that the nations of the world will have a pathway forward to avoid the spectre of nuclear war. As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world. This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons. We welcome people of all faiths to stand with us for peace, urging Congress to support the international agreement with Iran and reject legislation to undermine the deal. ABOUT THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL The July 2015 diplomatic agreement with Iran will dramatically shrink and impose unprecedented constraints on Iran's nuclear program. In exchange, the international community will begin to lift sanctions on Iran. It also establishes the most robust monitoring and inspection regime ever negotiated to verify Iran’s compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program. This agreement helps de-escalate tension in a region that is already suffering the effects of war and violence in ways unimaginable to most of us in the United States. It is also a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy to take countries from the brink of war and resolve concerns peacefully. There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it. Rejection of this deal would be a rejection of the historic progress our diplomats have made to make this world a safer place. The stakes on this matter have never been higher. That is why more than forty national organizations, including more than a dozen faith-based groups led by the National Council of Churches, wrote a letter earlier this year urging lawmakers to vote in support of this deal. The groups noted that this "will be among the most consequential national security votes taken by Congress since the decision to authorize the invasion of Iraq.” Read the letter signed by over 100 leaders of faith and moral courage: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/pages/iran-letter-sign-on This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).This agreement moves us further away from the possibility of war and another nuclear-armed nation.
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