Thousands to Create Domestic Jewish Agenda

May 8, 2007, 6:15 pm | Posted by

Independent Jewish groups, blogs promote online forum; Presidential candidate given opportunity to offer solutions to grassroots Jewish priorities

(NEW YORK CITY, May 8, 2007) — More than a dozen independent Jewish groups today launched an online campaign to engage thousands of Jews in shaping a domestic Jewish agenda for the 2008 election. After publicly presenting the agenda and urging presidential candidates to respond, the coalition will run full page advertisements in Jewish newspapers explaining the agenda, publicizing candidate responses, and noting those candidates who choose not to respond. This groundbreaking effort is the first time unaffiliated Jews will shape a Jewish public affairs agenda.

Mik Moore, the editor of jspot.org, said the campaign was developed in response to two phenomena. “First, most Jews are unconnected to the Jewish organizations that speak to presidential candidates in their name,” said Moore. “Second, despite a strong interest in domestic issues among Jews, Jewish organizations in recent years have focused much of their attention on international issues.”

Representing a new phase in efforts by Jewish Funds for Justice to develop an engaged Jewish netroots, the campaign gives all Jews a voice and a vote in how they want to be represented as a community on domestic issues. Starting Tuesday, May 8, thousands of Jews will go online to choose five of ten pre-selected issue areas:

• Child Care

• Civil Rights

• Education

• Environment

• Health Care

• Housing

• Immigration

• Katrina/Rita

• Seniors

• Wages

After two weeks, the votes will be counted and the top five preferences will be presented as a domestic Jewish agenda.

A letter from the partner organizations and all participants will be sent to each of the currently eighteen presidential campaigns, requesting a written response explaining how the candidate as President would address the challenges represented by each issue area. The campaign responses will be posted on jspot.org and other websites to provide a public forum for evaluation by participants and others. Three weeks after the letters are sent to the candidates, a full page advertisement will be published in Jewish newspapers explaining the agenda, encouraging commentary on the candidate responses, and noting which campaigns had and which had not responded.

The initiative was created by jspot.org, the online action center of Jewish Funds for Justice, a national, publicly-supported foundation dedicated to combating poverty in the U.S., and the injustices underlying it. Partners include Hazon, Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, Jdub Records, Jewish Student Press Service, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Jews United for Justice, Jewschool.com, Moishe/Kavod House Boston, Progressive Jewish Alliance, The Shalom Center, The Tribe, VelveteenRabbi.com, and Workmen’s Circle/Arbiter Ring.

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Christians Launch Ad, Grassroots Campaign Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

May 7, 2007, 3:37 pm | Posted by

(Washington, DC, May 7, 2007) – Evangelical leaders from across the ideological spectrum today launched an ecumenical national grassroots and ad campaign calling for comprehensive immigration reform that is consistent with biblical values. Ads announcing the campaign ran in Roll Call and CongressDaily today to coincide with the launch. Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) will place ads nationally and locally in newspapers and mobilize at least 200,000 letters, tens of thousands of calls, and hundreds of lobby visits to Members of Congress by the August recess.

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform will mobilize churches and faith groups across the nation with a particular focus in Florida, Arizona, Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania – states where CCIR will be collaborating with the New Sanctuary Movement, an effort to show the human face of the U.S. immigration crisis, launching May 9. The campaign will include local newspaper and radio ads, letters (more than 50,000 letters have already been written), phone calls, lobby meetings, opeds, and letters to the editor.

“We are coming together today because the Bible tells us again and again about the need to care for the stranger in our midst,” said Jim Wallis, Founder and President of Sojourners, and author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. “Compassionate immigration reform is also a critical step toward eradicating poverty in America.”

“Despite differing theological and doctrinal perspectives, groups sharing a common Judeo-Christian heritage are uniting to challenge our lawmakers to create an immigration policy characteristic of a faithful people: compassionate, just, respectful of human dignity and valuing family bonds,” said Rev. Dan Soliday, CEO, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Inc.

The organizations and individuals that make up Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform are uniting around a shared set of common moral and theological principles, including:

• All people, regardless of national origin, are made in the “image of God” and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6).

• There is an undeniable biblical responsibility to love and show compassion for the stranger among us (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Leviticus 19:33-34, Matthew 25:31-46).

• Immigrants are our neighbors, both literally and figuratively, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and show mercy to neighbors in need (Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:25-37).

• Respect for the rule of law, but also an obligation to oppose unjust laws and systems that harm and oppress people made in God’s image, especially the vulnerable (Isaiah 10:1-4, Jeremiah 7:1-7, Acts 5:29, Romans 13:1-7).

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform seeks legislation that is consistent with these biblical principles – legislation that protects U.S. borders while establishing a viable, humane, and realistic immigration system. “We propose that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American commitment to the three formative pillars of our nation: the rule of law, our faith value system and the pursuit of the American Dream,” said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America’s largest Hispanic Evangelical organization, serving 10,700 Hispanic evangelical churches with 15 million members.

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform supports comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes:

• Border enforcement and protection initiatives that are consistent with humanitarian values while allowing the authorities to enforce the law and implement American immigration policy;

• Reforms in our family-based immigration system that reduce the waiting time for separated families to be safely reunited and maintain the constitutionally guaranteed rights of birthright citizenship and the ability of immigrants to earn naturalization;

• An opportunity for all immigrant workers and their families already in the U.S. to come out of the shadows and pursue the option of an earned path towards permanent legal status and citizenship upon satisfaction of specific criteria;

• A viable guest worker program that creates legal avenues for workers and their families to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights and due process fully protected and provides an option for workers to gain permanent status independent of an employer sponsor; and

• A framework to examine and ascertain solutions to the root causes of migration, such as economic disparities between sending and receiving nations.

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform’s biblical and legislative principles are included in the coalition’s Joint Statement of Principles (see it with signatories here), which have been signed by a coalition Christian organizations, churches, and high profile leaders, including, Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Sammy Mah, World Relief; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Ron Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action; Jim Wallis, Sojourners; Noel Castellanos, Christian Community Development Association; Tony Campolo, The Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education; World Evangelical Alliance; We Care America; American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church (USA); United Methodist Church; Mennonite Church USA; and Church World Service.

Also speaking at today’s launch press conference were coalition members Rev. Derrick Harkins, Pastor, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, Washington, DC and World Relief Board Member and Juan Hernandez, President, Hispania and one of the foremost experts on U.S.-Mexico immigration reform who has been described as one of the most brilliant men in the world (Fortune 2001) and one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the U.S. (Hispanic Business Magazine 2001).

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We Believe Ohio Puts Prayer into Action on National Day of Prayer

May 2, 2007, 4:59 pm | Posted by

“Day of Prayer in Action” Includes Meetings with More than 20 State Reps and Senators

Clergy and lay leaders of We Believe Ohio will put their prayers into action at the Statehouse tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, to call for passage of a moral budget. Meetings are scheduled with 22 State Representatives and Senators — including 8 Democrats and 14 Republicans, most in positions of leadership — as well as Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Governor Ted Strickland’s office.

Because the state budget reveals of the values and priorities of Ohio, clergy and lay leaders from across the state, including a bus load from Cleveland, will gather in Columbus to fulfill their duty, right and responsibility as people of faith to advocate for a budget that is just and compassionate. Specifically, We Believe Ohio will ask legislators to:

• Resolve long-term funding inequalities in public education by maintaining the Governor’s proposal to increase the foundation amount (basic aid) by 3% per year, to increase poverty-based assistance by 22% over the biennium, and to target parity aid to 60% of the districts most in need, as well as the House-passed budget’s increases in funding for early childhood education — because every child in the state of Ohio is entitled to have the opportunity to receive a quality education.

• Lift the cap on the Housing Trust Fund — because We Believe Ohio acknowledges God’s call that we care for the poor, the wayfarer and the stranger.

• Raise parents’ eligibility for Medicaid to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level, allow uninsured children in families with incomes over 300% of the poverty level to buy into Medicaid/SCHIP on a sliding fee scale, and allow children aging out of the foster care system to keep Medicaid coverage until age 21 — because our Creator desires health and wholeness for all people and quality healthcare is a God-given and constitutional right.

Statewide clergy leaders of We Believe Ohio are available for comment. Please contact Katie Barge at kbarge@faithinpubliclife.org or 202-481-8147 to arrange interviews.

WHAT: “Day of Prayer in Action”

WHO: More than 75 clergy and lay leaders of We Believe Ohio.

WHEN: The National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 3, 2007

10:30 AM: Prayer and Preparation, including expert briefings and lobby training (First Congregational Church, 444 E Broad Street in downtown Columbus)

12:30 PM: March to the Statehouse

1:00 PM—3:00 PM: Meetings with State Representatives and Senators inside the Statehouse

WHERE: First Congregational Church and the Statehouse

We Believe Ohio is a coalition of clergy and lay leaders that launched in 2006 to unite diverse religious voices to achieve social justice. We Believe Ohio considers the inclusion of religious traditions and perspectives critical to the creation of informed public policy, while respecting the Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. We Believe is committed to acting and speaking in public ways on behalf of the poor, the voiceless, and the unrepresented.

www.webelieveohio.org

We are called as people of faith and loyal Americans to be united in dialogue and action to say:

YES to justice for all; NO to prosperity for only a few; YES to diverse religious expression; NO to self-righteous certainty; YES to the common good; NO to discrimination against any of God’s people; YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy; NO to crossing the lines that separate the institutions of Religion and Government.

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center for faith leaders sharing a call to pursue justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization.

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Major Religious Coalition Advocates Sweeping Farm Bill Reforms

April 23, 2007, 10:23 pm | Posted by

Church leaders urge Congress: Reform Farm Bill to Reflect American Values

As Congress begins the work of reauthorizing the U.S. farm bill, sixteen Church and faith-based organizations have come together as the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill to urge major changes in U.S. agricultural policy aimed at reducing hunger and poverty and promoting the livelihood of farmers and rural communities, in the U.S. and around the world.

“Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee.

The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which includes Christian denominations and major faith-based organizations, has developed a statement of legislative principles for farm-bill reform (see below). Members of the group currently are in the process of visiting congressional offices and sharing those principles.

“As people of faith who are also constituents, we must let our members of Congress know that we support broad reforms in the farm bill,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We are advocating for farm policy that strengthens our rural communities and better supports farmers of modest means, people trying to put food on the table in the United States, and struggling farmers in developing countries.”

Members of the Religious Working Group support a farm bill that strengthens investment in communities in rural America; ensures all Americans an adequate and nutritious diet; provides better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means; and conserves the land for present and future generations. Group members also are urging Congress to address the negative impact current U.S. agricultural and trade policies have on people living in impoverished countries around the world.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. government has made unprecedented, bipartisan commitments to address the deadly poverty that kills one person every three seconds in our world,” said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. “Reforming U.S. agricultural policy to help farmers in poor countries sell their crops is a way to follow through on that moral commitment while also improving the financial livelihoods of farmers in our own country.”

The Religious Working Group also urges critical reforms to address poverty and human need in the United States through initiatives like the Food Stamp Program, the United States’ first line of defense against hunger.

“Our nation’s lawmakers have a historic opportunity in 2007 to pass a farm bill. Let us work together for a bill that strengthens the livelihood of rural communities, helps lift people out of hunger and poverty, and safeguards the integrity of God’s creation for generations to come,” said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The faith communities represented in the group believe 2007 represents a critical moment in U.S. agricultural policy, and will be working with congregations throughout the country to carry the voice of reform to the halls of Congress.

“Farming ought to be regarded as a sacred calling to take care of the land and to bring forth the food and fiber that sustains the community. The time is now to advocate for a dramatic reform of U.S. agricultural policy so that rural communities in the United States and in the developing world can survive and prosper,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service.

Principles

(Email kbarge@faithinpubliclife.org to request full statement)

The 2007 farm bill should:

· Increase investments that combat rural poverty and strengthen rural communities

· Strengthen and expand programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States

· Strengthen and increase investment in policies that promote conservation and good stewardship of the land

· Provide transitions for farmers to alternative forms of support that are more equitable and do not distort trade in ways that fuel hunger and poverty

· Protect the health and safety of farmworkers

· Expand research related to alternative, clean and renewable forms of energy

· Improve and expand international food aid in ways that encourage local food security

Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center for faith leaders sharing a call to pursue justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization.

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Over 50 Faith-Based Actions Urge Congress to “Step It Up on Global Warming” This Weekend

April 12, 2007, 6:58 pm | Posted by

People of faith around the nation concerned about the catastrophic effects of global warming will rally this weekend at more than 50 events to urge Congress to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. The faith-based events are part of the Step it Up campaign, the largest day of citizen action focusing on global warming in our nation’s history, and emblematic of the growing creation care movement.

Events are being held in churches and synagogues from Tennessee to Hawaii, New Mexico to Mississippi, and Illinois to Colorado. Rallies have been organized by churches, synagogues, faith-based organizations and individual people of faith from all walks of life who faithfully agree that the time has come for our elected officials to take bold and immediate steps to combat global warming.

Here are just a dozen examples of faith-based actions taking place across the country:

• Partnership for Earth Spirituality and New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light will co-sponsor a rally and light bulb exchange in Albuquerque, NM where people will walk through local neighborhoods to offer residents compact fluorescent bulbs in exchange for incandescent ones.

• Church of the Crossroads in Honolulu, HI will host a “Teach in On Climate Change” followed by a rally at a major city intersection.

• Catholics for the Climate in Jupiter, FL will host a town hall meeting on the science of global warming and the religious and moral significance of the issue.

• OC Interfaith Coalition for the Environment will deliver letters to each mayor of each city in Orange County, CA requesting support for programs to reduce our carbon footprint.

• People of faith will gather on the church steps of University United Methodist in downtown Chapel Hill, NC to witness to their calling as stewards of Creation.

• A Bar Mitzvah will double as a Step It Up Rally in New Hartford, CT.

• Local pastors, scientists and activists will discuss caring for God’s creation at Yorkville Congregational Church in Yorkville, IL.

• Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN will sponsor a “Faithful Response to Global Warming” worship service and rally.

• Earth Keepers, in Marquette, MI, will mobilize their network of 130 churches from nine different faiths across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

• The homily at all four masses at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Hattiesburg, MS will address global warming; there will be hands-on displays of ways parishioners can conserve and generate energy.

• First Plymouth Congregational in Denver, CO will hold a People of Faith Step It Up Rally to demand strong climate legislation, and to strengthen congregations in their ongoing work for the healing of creation.

• Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York, NY will hold a climate-protection-infused Shabbat morning service.

LOCAL CONTACTS:

Peter Sawtell, “People of Faith Step It Up” in Denver, CO at the First Plymouth Congregational: ministry@eco-justice.org or 303.715.3873.

Carl Lindquist, “Earth Keepers” in Marquette, MI: carl@superiorwatersheds.org, 906.228.6095.

Robert Bates, “Catholics for the Climate” in Jupiter, FL: rbates@scripps.edu 203.962.3412.

Participants in every event will be photographed displaying their message: “Step It Up Congress! Cut Carbon 80% by 2050!” The photographs will be sent to Washington, DC so Members of Congress can see for themselves that their constituents are demanding bold action.

“The groundswell of support for this effort is incredible. This is truly a viral grassroots movement, organized mainly through word of mouth, email outreach among friends, and the online community.” said Step it Up Organizer, Bill McKibben. “The enormous participation in this movement is a wake-up call to legislators from across the country. Their constituents are urgently demanding that America get on the path towards reducing carbon emissions before it is too late.”

“Climate change is moral values issue,” said Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life, an organizing and communications resource center for faith leaders. “The robust participation of churches and synagogues in Step It Up 2007 is more evidence of the vibrant creation care movement.”

For more information please visit the Step It Up campaign website: www.stepitup2007.org

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