• 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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    Created by Rev. Noel Andersen
  • 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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    Created by ISAIAH Minnesota Picture
  • 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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  • People of Faith Stand with Sandra Bland’s Family to Demand Justice
    On the morning of July 13, 2015, Sandra Annette Bland was found dead in her jail cell at the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, TX. The video of Sandra's brutal arrest confirms she was subject to a violent, racist and traumatic encounter with the police. And though we still don’t know what happened next, one thing is clear: a traffic stop for a failure to signal should not lead to death. Since Sandra’s death, clergy and others have been keeping a daily vigil outside the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and County Jail. The lack of transparency surrounding both Sandra’s death and arrest has led to a national outcry demanding #Justice4Sandy. We want people to know that Sandy still speaks; her voice can’t be silenced. But over the past week, opposition to our peaceful vigil has escalated – and we are being harassed by law enforcement. First, the space where we gathered was barricaded. Then the tree providing shade for our vigil were cut down. We continue to receive death threats and were told by Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith to “go back to the church of Satan that you run.” As people of faith and moral courage, we condemn these acts and stand with the Bland family in their pursuit of justice for Sandra. Specifically we’re demanding the Department of Justice: 1) Open an investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding Sandra’s arrest and death. 2) Call for the immediate termination of Officer Brian Encinia who unlawfully arrested Ms. Bland. 3) Uphold the right of people of faith to peacefully assemble and protest free of intimidation, harassment, and fear. OUR VALUES The Black Lives Matter movement awoke our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. As people of faith and moral courage, we have a responsibility to stand in the gap of this broken system that has taken the lives of so many people. Amplifying stories like Sandra’s is one step in building a world where Black lives matter, and all of us can live in safety and peace. We invite people of faith to support the Bland family’s demands for justice for Sandra, and defend our ability to mourn and vigil.
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    Created by Rev. Hannah Bonner
  • Tell Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to drop charges against #BlackLivesMatter protesters
    In December of 2014, over 3,000 people of all ages, races, and religious traditions gathered at the Mall of America to proclaim that Black Lives Matter; to proclaim an end to the "business as usual" economic policies which oppress and impoverish; and to proclaim that the terrorization of people of color through police violence and mass incarceration must stop. The gathering was a beautiful expression of non-violent protest and was filled with clergy, families, activists and artists who sang, preached, spoke-out and engaged in a powerful die-in. As protesters laid their bodies on the floor in symbolic death and solidarity with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, and the thousands more lost to police brutality, I stood with other clergy, encircling the peaceful protesters, and prayed. With hands lifted heavenward, I prayed that our economy (and the Mall of America which so powerfully represents it) would stop using the bodies of Brown and Black people to enrich the few. I prayed that the hundreds of police who surrounded us wearing bullet-proof vests, riot helmets and carrying weapons could see, especially in this season of the birth of the Christ child, the truth about the humanity and vulnerability of Black and Brown lives. I prayed that somehow I might continue to find the courage to put my white, woman’s, clergy body in the places that Jesus would have put his body—in solidarity where people are harmed. But instead of receiving our multiracial, peaceful ritual as a witness for justice, the Mall of America and the City of Bloomington responded with police in military and riot gear, shutting down the Mall for a period of time. “What started as a demonstration of Dr. King’s vision of the 'beloved community,' became a reminder of what Dr. King warned could destroy our nation: the triple giants of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism,” said Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of the protesters charged. The Mall of America and the City of Bloomington augmented their militarized response by infiltrating meetings and surveilling social media to find the organizers of the protest and charge them with multiple offenses, including trespassing—an action that even former prosecutors have called a misuse of power. Instead of protecting the powerless from the powerful-- the mandate from our faith traditions and, indeed, the core ethical responsibility of our legal system--Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson has used her great power to buttress the powerful against those who hold far less power. On August 5th, in response to a defense motion, the most serious of the charges were dropped against the organizers. But there remain offenses which still require costly legal fees to fight. We demand that City Attorney Sandra Johnson drop ALL the charges against the #MOA36. OUR VALUES This die-in and the prayer that surrounded it were my Advent and Christmas practice. They were my way of marking the reality that God seeks to be born into real people’s lives and real people’s suffering. When Black and Brown lives still don’t matter enough to be paid a living wage, or kept out of the school to prison pipeline, or be spared a fatal bullet from a police officer’s gun, then people of faith of all races need to witness to the fact that Black Lives Matter—even in the rotunda of the Mall of America. HOW IT WILL BE DELIVERED To highlight the need for an end to business as usual and a new economic way of life that honors Black and Brown lives, we will personally deliver these signed petitions to City Attorney Sandra Johnson during the Labor Day commemoration.
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    Created by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel
  • Tell ICE: Stop Deportation of Jewish Homeschooling Family
    No mother should be forced to flee her homeland in order to homeschool her children because of anti-semitic bullying. Yet, Petra Albrecht was not free in Germany to homeschool her children because Germany’s outdated laws have banned homeschooling since World War I. German families who choose to homeschool their children face legal action, including prison, the loss of custody of their children and fines. Petra had chosen to homeschool her youngest child Jayson because he was experiencing anti-Semitic bullying in school, in a country where a least one-fourth of the population remains openly anti-Semitic even post World War II. She lost her parental rights and was forced to flee to the U.S. But here the family has come across more hardship. Petra and Nicole were picked up by Immigration Enforcement and have been in U.S. immigration detention for 11 months, in separate facilities. Jayson was sent back to Germany alone, and is being held in an orphanage in or near Berlin, though he had an open asylum case. The German government refuses to tell the family his exact whereabouts, and the U.S. government refuses to release Petra and Nicole. OUR VALUES To be Jewish is to be an immigrant. The Albrecht family continues a history of Jewish migration that reaches back to the Old Testament and our exodus from Egypt – stories we retell on holy days. That’s why one of Judaism’s central teachings is to “welcome the stranger” as you would a friend. We’re calling on all people of faith and moral courage to stand with Petra, a mother separated from her children, and demand immigration enforcement officials release and reunite her with Jayson and Nicole. In his last letter to his family before being extradited to Germany, Jayson wrote, "I promise you that we will be together again soon..."
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  • People of Faith Stand with Planned Parenthood
    People of faith cannot stay silent as women’s health and their reproductive decisions are once again politicized and attacked. Armed with misinformation and a disregard for women’s moral authority, some political and ideological groups have launched an offensive against an institution that provides critical medical and reproductive care to women nationwide. These attacks against PPFA and its affiliates attempt to undermine not only women’s health but also their moral agency. As people of faith, our voices can sound a clarion call for justice, women’s moral autonomy, and nationwide access to reproductive health services. Add your voice to the chorus of people of faith calling for continued federal funding for PPFA, an end to playing politics at the expense of women’s health, and a culture-wide recognition of the morality of women’s reproductive decisions. Stopping federal funding to Planned Parenthood would deny access to birth control, pap smears, STI prevention, and cancer screenings for millions of women. For many women, Planned Parenthood is the only affordable, accessible healthcare provider in their community. Planned Parenthood does not receive federal dollars for abortion care services. Preventing unintended pregnancies, providing sexuality comprehensive sexuality education, screening women for cancer, and ensuring women’s reproductive health – this is the life-saving work for which PPFA receives federal funding. To stop those funds would be to put women’s health in jeopardy nationwide. Many have seized this political moment, launching a campaign to defund Planned Parenthood. Some have even threatened another government shutdown if their legislative attempts to defund Planned Parenthood fail. Playing politics to restrict or deny access to family planning services is morally wrong. Recent attempts to defund Planned Parenthood have sought to stigmatize abortion and marginalize women’s moral authority. Individual women make their reproductive health decisions, including the decision to have an abortion, with serious reflection, consultation with loved ones, insights from faith and values, and a deep consideration of specific circumstances. The real life stories of women demonstrate the morality of decisions about abortion. Assertions that deny women’s authority to make moral decisions about their reproductive lives seek to stigmatize women who choose to have an abortion. When you sign this petition, you'll be invited to the Religious Institute’s network of more than 15,000 people of faith.
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  • Sign the Faith Community Letter to President Obama on the Addiction Crisis
    Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is an insidious public health crisis, impacting more than 85 million Americans. For too long, too many people have remained silent. The time is now to end that silence, and we urge the Obama Administration to join with our movement on October 4, 2015 when the UNITE To Face Addiction Rally will take place in Washington, DC. As faith community leaders, we support this effort because: WE WITNESS daily how the lack of understanding about recovery and addiction prevents individuals from living fulfilling lives. WE RECOGNIZE that urging individuals to speak out publicly about their recovery – and to encouraging families to share about their loss – will remove the shame of addiction. WE COMMIT to expanding the range of recovery ministries, programs, and resources that allow people seeking help to set their own goals and build on their strengths as individuals. WE SPEAK with a unified voice in a movement dedicated to developing comprehensive, long-term solutions to the devastation of addiction. WE VIEW the inclusion of a diverse representation of faith traditions as a key to solving our nation’s addition crisis. The groundswell for change requires hands on involvement at the basic unit of all faith traditions: the congregation. As faith community leaders, we are ready to make a difference. With the help of you and your Administration, we can ignite a growing movement to solve our nation’s addiction crisis.
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  • Say No to Hate! Sign a letter of support to Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer in Georgia
    Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer was desecrated by a spray painted hate message that quoted Leviticus 18:22 and threatened the church with burning. “We are clear this is not just vandalism; this is life-threatening hatred. When people who cite chapter and verse to send others to hell, they are usually prepared to personally send you there,” said Global Moderator Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson. “It is sad that we have to remind people that hate is not a Christian value.” “As an African American woman, I know that hate is hate. Whether it is the shooting of the Charleston nine, burning of churches, or spray painted threats on church doors, the intent is to silence us with fear for our lives,” said the Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, MCC Director of the Office of Emerging Ministries. “We will not be silent! Silence will not protect us. It will only embolden those who use guns, torches, and spray paint because they have not opened themselves to the power of love.” Send your love by adding your name, and if you can go the extra mile, make a donation for the repairs and the security system at: http://www.gofundme.com/mccofourredeemer
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  • Tell Congress Religious Liberty Doesn't Mean LGBT Discrimination
    The religious liberty upon which our nation was founded has allowed our country’s diverse religious landscape to flourish. Recently, however, what we have seen promoted as defending religious liberty too often reflects one particular religious perspective that does not at all respect that diversity of faith and belief, or the intent of our Founders. We believe that the First Amendment Defense Act does not respect the spirit of religious liberty—nor does it reflect fundamental values of treating all people with fairness and equality—and we therefore strongly oppose this legislation. Further, though people of faith are not a monolith and all are not in agreement on whether their faith sanctions LGBT relationships, we cannot in good conscience support legislation that favors one religious viewpoint over another and in the process discriminates against LGBT people, single mothers and unmarried couples. The religious freedom of individuals and organizations, including clergy and houses of worship, who object to same-sex marriage are already protected by the First Amendment and federal law—and we, as clergy and faith leaders, continue to stand by the right of others to hold beliefs that may differ from our own while recognizing that for many of us, supporting LGBT individuals and families is a principle of our faith. Rather than protecting the First Amendment, this legislation actually undermines true religious liberty. The religious liberty on which our nation was founded guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs — but it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others or to infringe on the religious beliefs of others. By opening the door to unprecedented taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers and unmarried couples, this legislation does nothing to protect our rights as people of diverse faith traditions and it has the potential to do considerable harm in the name of religion. For example, were this bill to become law it would: • allow an organization to accept federal funds to run a homeless shelter or drug treatment program but then turn away from that program LGBT people or anyone who has a sexual relationship outside of marriage; • allow hospitals to refuse dying patients visitation from their spouse or designated support person; and • permit a government employee to deny services they have a duty to provide, including Veterans or Social Security benefits to a surviving member of a same-sex couple. We are also troubled that this bill is so broad it could even prevent the federal government from enforcing longstanding laws designed to combat discrimination and promote equality. For example, it would let commercial landlords violate fair housing laws by refusing housing to a single mother based on the landlord’s religious beliefs and allow businesses to violate family medical leave laws by refusing to let a gay or lesbian employee care for a sick spouse. As people of deep faith committed to a country that supports diverse, robust, and healthy religious expression and in the spirit of equality and justice, we urge you to oppose the First Amendment Defense Act.
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    Created by Stosh Cotler Picture