May 23, 2015

EDITORIAL: #MalcolmXDay: 20 Quotes Relevant To The Movement Today

By D.L. Chandler

Malcolm X remains one of the most important figures of the American Civil Rights Movement, and his transformation into a vocal human rights activist added to his already impressive legacy.

The man later known as el-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz came to relax some of his fiery politics that defined the earlier part of his time in the spotlight, and yet that same passion remained even as he began to embrace a comprehensive approach to racial harmony.

With the current situations across the nation regarding disparity in how police treat people of color and similar injustices, Malcolm X’s words still hold resonance in modern times. From Ferguson to Baltimore, African-Americans are reminded that incidents in those respective cities are part of a systematic condition that renders Black people targets of various forms of mistreatment.

EDITORIAL: Who Said It: Fox News or Jesus?

By Jim Wallis

During a broad conversation on how to overcome poverty at Georgetown University last week, President Barack Obama made a few comments about how Fox News talks about poor people. Here’s what he said:

“ … over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction. … I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad … They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative … very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.

Fox’s response to the president was outrage that he would single them out and accuse them of demonizing the poor. Jon Stewart captured Fox’s reaction on his show last week. One example was Stuart Varney’s reaction to Obama’s remarks, claiming the network only looks at and critiques the programs, not the people, characterizing the hosts as the “honest messengers.”

Nearly One in Four Children in the U.S. is Served by the Federal Child Support Program

By Deborah Weinstein

In Idaho, the proportion of children relying on Child Support Services is even higher – 28 percent. Many in the state learned that the hard way this week, as Idaho’s state legislature held an unusual special session to take up legislation to prevent the state from losing access to federal child support collection resources.

Why did Governor Otter have to call this special session? Because the legislature failed to pass child support legislation required by federal law before it ended its regular session in April. If the state did not reverse its decision, it would be out of compliance with requirements for participating in the federal child support system. That would mean the 102,100 custodial parents and 155,000 children in Idaho using the federal system to collect the support owed would lose that help. In 2014, participation in the federal child support program resulted in $193.5 million going to Idaho families with children.

Rabbi Lynne Landsberg to receive the Thornburgh Family Award

The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), will present the Thornburgh Family Award to Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg in recognition of her years of service on behalf of people with disabilities. Rabbi Landsberg will receive the award at an interfaith service at First Trinity Lutheran Church, Washington, D.C., July 26, 2015, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by President George H.W. Bush.

Established by AAPD this year during the 25th anniversary year of the ADA, the Thornburgh Family Award recognizes a religious leader who exemplifies the spirit of the ADA as demonstrated by Dick and Ginny Thornburgh’s efforts to expand opportunities for people with disabilities.

Jerusalem Day and Nakba Day — Impacts of War

Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day on May 17, just two days after Palestinians marked Nakba Day. While Nakba Day, “Day of Catastrophe,” remembers the displacement of Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and is marked with rallies and marches calling for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem Day is a religious holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and Israeli control over East Jerusalem following the June 1967 war. Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day with an annual march through the Old City. Each year Israeli Border Police are deployed in an attempt to prevent clashes between marchers, some of whom chant racist slurs such as “Death to Arabs” and throw trash at Palestinians, and Palestinian demonstrators chanting “Free Palestine.”

CALL TO ACTION: Speak Up for Affordable Housing

Congress has left Washington, DC for the Memorial Day recess. Your Representative likely will be at work in his or her home district for the next week. Many will be participating in public events like parades, picnics, and town hall meetings. Please use this opportunity to talk to your Member of Congress directly and urge him or her to protect the National Housing Trust Fund and fully fund HUD programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives could consider their appropriation bill for housing programs as early as the week of June 1. The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill that was passed in committee on May 13 includes significant cuts to essential housing programs and redirects all funding that had been dedicated to the National Housing Trust Fund. Read more about the THUD bill in this article from Memo to Members.

Ideas For Marking Torture Awareness Month

Film Screening: We are pleased to announce two new films that will be available by June 1 for your use during June and beyond. "Breaking Down the Box" is a 30 minute film that examines the mental health, racial justice and human rights implications of torture in U.S. prisons and jails. "Faithful Responses to the Torture Report" is a short film that explores how the faith community is responding to the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the CIA torture program. Sign-up for a copy of one or both films.

23 Hour Fast for a #TortureFreeWorld: Pick a day during June to join in a 23 hour fast for human rights. Read more and sign-up to participate.

Education Table in Fellowship Hour: At your congregation's coffee hour or before or after services, you can set up a table with information to educate members about solitary confinement, the Torture Report, and more. Check back by May 20 for updated resources.

URGENT ACTION: Tell Congress to Support Ending Family Detention

Maria Rosa fled Honduras with her 9-year-old son, Yoandri, to escape brutal domestic violence. Yet, when they arrived at the U.S. border seeking protection, they were subjected to a different kind of cruelty. Maria and Yoandri were locked up in the family detention center in Karnes, Texas with hundreds of other women and children. They thought they would never make it out—her son was miserable, Maria got very sick, even the tap water was undrinkable. Her son threatened to jump off the roof if they had to stay incarcerated any longer. Finally, after six long months in these traumatic conditions, Maria and her son were granted asylum and released. However, thousands of mothers and children that remain locked away in Karnes and other detention sites are fighting for dignity and protection.

JOB OPENING: AAUW Seeking Grassroots Advocacy Manager

Summary Description: The Grassroots Advocacy Manager develops and implements the association’s national voter education and “Get out the Vote” campaigns and coordinates grassroots advocacy activities in the states to grow membership ranks.

JOB OPENING: FPL Hiring a Latino Outreach Program Director

Faith in Public Life is a national strategy center for faith leaders working for social justice and the common good. FPL is seeking a Latino Program Director to build and lead a robust program that engages Latino clergy in both progressive policy advocacy and civic engagement.

FPL’s Latino program has two main components: 1) mobilize and amplify Latino faith voices around progressive immigration policies, and 2) to spearhead a ‘Faithful Voter’ GOTV program in Latino churches and other faith-centered groups in the Latino community.

May 14, 2015

EDITORIAL: It's All About Race

Michael Holzman and Eric Cooper

Many are trying to spin the events following last month's tragedy in Baltimore. From the black mother who pulled her teenage son out of the street, hitting him "upside the head" in the literal fashion, to the state's attorney who brought charges against several police officers for the killing of Freddie Gray, they want to assure the public that what has happened in Charm City is "not about race."

Wrong. It is, and remains, about race.

Some hoped that Baltimore would be different, because the city has a black mayor and a black police chief and many black police officers. It also has an African-American CEO of the school district, who had been the superintendent in Milwaukee, another troubled city.

EDITORIAL: A Time For Justice

Rev. Jennifer Butler

As unrest swirled in the streets of Baltimore, with police firing tear gas and rioters burning stores and cars, courageous faith leaders marched down the streets to restore calm and mediate the situation. In the days that followed, churches provided safe space, spiritual care and food for young Balitmoreans. Pastors, rabbis and imams worked with civic leaders, youth organizers and gang members to begin the process of peace-building. It was cause for hope.

The question now is what will be done to alleviate the anguish, poverty, racism and injustice that plague this separate and unequal city.

EDITORIAL: Roadmaps To Opportunity And Budget Roadblocks

Lecia Imbery

“These budgets massively disinvest in the country, and then they shred the social safety net… That is actually a recipe for putting a lot more people into poverty and eliminating opportunity.” – House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

I listened to Rep. Van Hollen make this comment when he was speaking at Roadmaps to Opportunity, an event held last week designed to explore policy ideas aimed at expanding opportunity for low-income children and their families.

Several of the speakers highlighted some of the current problems America faces. Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, focused on our nation’s struggling children.

ANALYSIS: Black Spring

Christina Coleman

Just moments after Marilyn Mosby announced charges against the six police officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, one of three co-founders of the liberation movement Black Lives Matter discussed the recent unrest in Baltimore, likening it to the 2010 massive protests against state violence in Egypt, Libya and other regions dubbed “Arab Spring.”

But Baltimore’s protests, often categorized as violence or riots without context, are America’s “Black Spring,” Alicia Garza explained.

So what is Black Spring? Against a backdrop of heavily armed National Guard troops and armored vehicles, Garza broke it down for NewsOne.

ACTION ALERT: Stop 20 Week Abortion Bans

In an ongoing attempt to limit on access to abortion, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a 20 week abortion ban on May 13, and such bans continue to be proposed in state legislatures across the country. The Religious Institute and other faith organizations have signed on to a letter against these bans. Excerpts from the letter are below.

"Our religious values also compel us to advocate for policies that empower the most marginalized in our communities. Whenever bans or other severe restrictions to abortion are enacted, those most negatively affected are women without the financial resources to access safe care elsewhere."

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress Not to Defund Juvenile Justice Programs

A House Appropriations Subcommittee Proposal has just been raised to defund federal juvenile justice programs through zeroing out Title II of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). This would have a tremendous impact on the states’ ability to carry out vital activities and services in their juvenile justice systems, including among others, protecting youth against incarceration with adult inmates and efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.

The Committee is scheduled to consider this bill tomorrow morning, Thursday, May 14.

ACTION ALERT: If the TPP Will Benefit Us, Why Can't We See It?

President Obama is pushing hard for Fast Track, the bill that will allow him to continue to negotiate and finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in secret. He maintains that it will benefit everyone, not just large, multi-national corporations, but if that is the case, why can't the public and expert analysts see the text?

Take action now to tell President Obama to show us how the TPP will benefit the 99%.

In the mean time, Senate can shut down Fast Track. Senators may take a procedural vote this week that would cut off debate on Fast Track. Call your Senator today and ask them to vote No on Cloture and No on Fast Track. Call the switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and get connected to your Senators.

ACTION ALERT: Urge Congress to pass H.R. 1232!

Over the past two weeks, the world has once again seen the true face of state-sponsored violence in the U.S. The April murder of Freddie Gray - a 25-year-old black man in Baltimore, Maryland - while in police custody, has renewed resistance movements throughout the country and has yet again unmasked the historic and systematic racist police violence against Black communities. The increased militarization of local police in the US has turned communities into war zones, and civilians resisting police repression into "enemy forces".

As a grassroots movement committed to justice and accountability, we must resist the "Drug War" and other excuses to clamp down on dissent in the U.S., too. We ask that you join us in pushing back against the militarization of U.S. law enforcement. Earlier this year, Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) reintroduced a bipartisan bill to demilitarize police. HR 1232 - the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act - is one step towards resisting the further militarization of police forces - who are using the equipment to stifle fundamental freedoms, especially in traditionally marginzalized communities.

Jewish Liberals, Progressives Congratulate the Vatican on Recognizing the Palestinian State

Jewish liberals and progressives reacted with enthusiasm to the announcement today that the Vatican will recognize the Palestinian State.

Rabbi Michael Lernner, editor of Tikkun Magazine: a Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, the most prominent voice of liberal and progressive Jews and our non-Jewish spiritual progressive allies, released the following statement on May 13:

"Many liberal and progressive Jews congratulate the Vatican on the important step toward peace it took yesterday in announcing that it will recognize the State of Palestine.

"We have rejoiced in the many steps that Pope Francis has taken to take seriously the biblical injunction to pursue justice and to protect our global environment. Now he has entered a highly contested arena with the courage he has shown on other issues.

New Report: Charter Schools Rife with Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) released a report this week that should give serious pause to any state or city that's considering expanding their charter school programs. The report found $200 million of taxpayer funds has been used fraudulently or wasted by charter schools in 15 states, and because there is so little oversight of these schools, the number is likely even higher. Such rampant waste, fraud, and mismanagement clearly demonstrates that at the very least, charter schools need to be held accountable for their use of public funds.

The report discusses the numerous types of fraudulent or wasteful behavior they discovered. They found cases of charter school operators using school funds for personal gain, operators using funds to support their other businesses, charter schools lying about enrollment numbers to acquire more state funds, and lying about the services they provided. Beside these more egregious acts, some charter school operators simply couldn't manage their schools effectively. As states currently don't require these operators to have any significant background in education or non-profit management, the operators can control schools without any of the experience necessary to do so productively.