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March 22, 2015

Special Reception and Program for Disciples and UCC


On Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 5:45 pm, the Disciples Center for Public Witness, in partnership with the National Benevolent Society, will host a buffet dinner for Disciples and members of the United Church of Christ, followed by a program on prison ministries and returning citizens. This event will take place in the Jefferson Room on the 15th floor of the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City, VA, as part of this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days. 

 RSVP very soon to Ken Brooker Langston at disciplescenter@verizon.net

 Again, for more information on the entire conference, please see www.advocacydays.org.

DJAN Mourns the Death of PRA Founder Jean Hardisty

Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN) joins other faith-based progressive organizations across the religious and theological spectrum to mourn the passing of Jean Hardisty, founder of Political Research Associates (PRA). 

"Jean was a strong leader and clear thinker who provided the progressive faith community with the information and analytical tools we needed to understand and respond to the political force known as the Religious Right," said DJAN Director Ken Brooker Langston. "With her help, and the continuing work of the organization she founded, we are all much better prepared to counter strategically the efforts of extreme right movements to manipulate religion for their own economic, social, and political purposes."

To read PRA's announcement about Jean's passing, please click here.

#TaxpayerPride Day – April 15 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Join NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, in a social media campaign that that demonstrates the benefits of pooling our resources with taxes. Showing your #TaxpayerPride is easy:

1. Choose something you are grateful your tax dollars pay for*, that gives you #TaxpayerPride.

2. Take a selfie with the thing that brings you #TaxpayerPride.

3. Post your photo to social media on April 15.

*Think you don’t pay taxes? Think again. Everyone can have #TaxPayerPride. We all pay tax–even if it is sales tax on a pack of gum. All that money goes toward a common purse for the common good. Very biblical stuff.

Last year, Groundswell did a nice feature on #TaxpayerPride which is still available here, and could easily be shared on social media.

Update from DC: Extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Health and Wholeness Ministries of the Disciples Center for Public Witness would like to provide a quick update on the latest Capitol Hill developments on the CHIP funding extension effort. While no legislative language has been released, late last week, leaders in the House of Representatives began deliberations on must-pass legislation to end scheduled Medicare physician payment cuts. We understand that as part of the negotiations over this $200 billion package language was included for a clean, current law CHIP funding extension for an additional two years through FY 2017. While action has not yet moved to the Senate, Senate Democrats have informed House lawmakers that they will not agree to any deal that does not include a four-year extension of CHIP. Four-years would align CHIP funding with the program’s authorization period, which ends in FY 2019.

EDITORIAL: Is There No Balm In Gilead?

Dr. Pernessa C. Seele, Founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

African American pulpits across our nation are standing steadfast in condemning the continuous brutality and injustice against Black lives, as it plays out on American streets and often on our nightly news. It is now time for our pulpits to also turn our eyes inward and conduct an exploratory investigation into the massive killing of character and explosive hatred that is continuously aimed at the human rights and dignity of Black gay men and women, all done in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, and our loving God.

CENTER Board Member Interviewed by Chalice Press

Chalice Press had a great conversation last week with Sandhya Rani Jha, Board member of the Disciples Center for Public Witness and author of the new book Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines. The conversation also featured special guest Anthony Smith (a.k.a. Postmodern Negro) and Chalice Press marketing director Steve Knight.

Watch the video conversation online now! Then join the conversation online via hashtag #PrePostRacial on Twitter and Facebook.

With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, Pre-Post-Racial America is a great resource for small groups to engage in conversations about race and faith. Order copies for your group now and get started!

They Were Told to Put WHAT on Their Burns?

Earlier this week, McDonald's workers filed 28 health and safety complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state agencies against the corporate office and franchisees in 19 cities.



"My managers kept pushing me to work faster, and while trying to meet their demands I slipped on a wet floor, catching my arm on a hot grill. The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.”– Brittney Berry, McDonald’s worker, Chicago.



Although McDonald's made this week's headlines, the fast food industry as a whole has been plagued with injuries. According to a report released by the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health: One-third (33%) of all burn victims say that their manager suggested wholly inappropriate treatments for burns, including condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, butter, or ketchup, instead of burn cream. Injuries like these burns are TOO common in the industry, and it's irresponsible managers suggest they treat burns with condiments.



Church World Service: After Pastor Max’s Deportation, DHS Must Offer Humanitarian Parole

Alongside members, partners, and allies (including Disciples of Christ), Church World Service (CWS) has, for the past two weeks, been working hard to keep Iowa Mennonite Pastor Max Villatoro with his family and congregation. Upon learning of his deportation, the Rev. John L. McCullough, head of Church World Service, released the following statement:

Today our nation lost a leader and man who brought so much light to our communities. Sadly this tragedy was entirely avoidable. It is unconscionable to think that a community leader, pastor and father like Pastor Max could be deported – and now faces great risk to his life.

Proposed Legislation Important To Women Needlessly Includes Provisions That Would Harm Them, Says Disciples Organization


Statement by Nancy Hunt Wirth, spokesperson for Disciples for Choice:
"First, the Senate’s attempted to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services for women who are survivors of human trafficking by inserting anti-choice language into legislation designed to help them. Now, the U.S. House of Representatives has inserted similarly restrictive language into a bill that deals with funds given to community health centers. In both cases, bills that are supposed to help women are being used to hurt them. Given that these pieces of legislation seriously affect the life and health of many vulnerable women, this is cynical politics at its destructive worse."

For more information, contact nhwirth@cox.net.

March 15, 2015

Watch President Obama’s Speech In Selma, Alabama

On March 7, 2015, President Obama delivered a speech on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the 50th Anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery.

Obama said, “There are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided…Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history—the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher—all that history met on this bridge.”

Watch Michelle Alexander’s Incredible Civil Rights/Human Rights Speech

Civil Rights advocate and legal scholar Michelle Alexander, author of the bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness presented on civil and human rights at the Union Theological Seminary March 4, 2015.

She said, “A nation founded with lofty ideals of freedom and equality but extending those ideals to wealthy white men only is the founding paradox of our nation to this day… Even now, as a black man sits in the Oval Office. For years now I have been obsessed with this paradox — not its theoretical existence but its concrete manifestation in the brutal system of mass incarceration, a penal system unlike anything the world has ever seen.”

Status of Women in the States 2015: Employment & Earnings

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released the first report of its Status of Women in the States: 2015 project, Employment and Earnings, on March 12, 2015 along with a new interactive website.

The release analyzes data points related to women’s employment and earnings, and the interactive map on the website shows a state-by-state breakdown of the wage gap, when women might earn equal wages, and more.

Later this Spring, IWPR will release additional reports in the project, including Poverty and Opportunity, Health and Well-Being, Reproductive Rights, Political Participation, and Work and Family.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Plight of Christians in the Middle East

By Brian Katulis, Rude deLeon, and John B. Craig

During the past decade, Christians around the Middle East have been subject to vicious murders at the hands of terrorist groups, forced out of their ancestral lands by civil wars, suffered societal intolerance fomented by Islamist groups, and subjected to official, institutional discrimination. The Middle East uprisings that began in 2011 have created new pressures on Christians, other religious groups, and nonbelievers. The past year has seen brutal atrocities committed against Christians and others because of their religious identity by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. These incidents underscore the gravity of the situation.

New NLIHC Report on Affordable Housing Gap Released

Nearly one-quarter of all renters in the United States have income at or below 30% of the area median income, and three-quarters of these extremely low income renters are forced to spend more than half of their income on the cost of rent and utilities due to the ongoing shortage of affordable housing. In fact, there are just 31 affordable and available rental units for every 100 extremely low income renter households, according to NLIHC’s new report, Housing Spotlight: Affordable Housing is Nowhere to be Found for Millions.

The report provides a detailed look at the housing needs of low income renter households across the country by examining the gap between the supply and demand for affordable rental units at the national and state level, as well as for the 50 metropolitan areas with the largest renter populations. No state has more than 56 units affordable for every 100 extremely low income renter households and no metropolitan area has more than 47.

Why Religious Leaders Want People To Give Up Fast Food

Pastors, rabbis, imams and other religious activists across the country are urging devotees to give up fast food this month -- but not for health reasons.

Instead they're using Lent, the 40-day period of abstention many Christians observe in preparation for Easter, as an opportunity to encourage participation in the Fast from Fast Food campaign as a show of support for fast food workers who earn minimum wage or slightly more.

President Obama Introduces "Student Aid Bill of Rights"

President Obama signed by executive order a "Student Aid Bill of Rights." These reforms are meant to protect the average college student who graduates with $29,400 in student debt. The initiative includes new rules requiring third-party lenders to inform students of alternative repayment options and a new website where students can file complaints against lenders.

"These actions to protect students are a welcome step," said Eric LeCompte the executive director of the religious debt relief organization Jubilee USA Network. "Student debt in the United States surpasses $1 trillion."

Jubilee USA Network, founded by mainline Christian Churches and Jewish Synagogues, won over $130 billion in debt relief for poor economies since the late 1990s. The organization over the last 3 years has led successful campaigns with over 100 churches and synagogues to keep federal loan interest rates manageable.

"These new rules push back the predatory groups who seek to take advantage of our students," noted LeCompte. "The future of generations depends on responsible lending and borrowing."

SPECIAL REPORT: New Reports on Students of Color in Public Schools


Two important reports released last month paint a stark picture of the challenges facing young men and women of color in our nation's public schools. Read "Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males" from the Schott Foundation for Public Education here. And read "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected" from the African American Policy Forum here.

ACTION ALERT: Our Bill to Slash Nuclear Weapons

Peace Action formed over 60 years ago as The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy to abolish nuclear weapons. We have come a long way. The world produced over 125,000 nuclear warheads and now around 17,000 remain. And that number continues to decline.

Write Congress now to move closer to abolishing nuclear weapons.

Despite President Obama’s Prague speech a few years ago proclaiming a world free of nuclear weapons, he has committed to completely rebuilding all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad – strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and nuclear-armed submarines (SLBMs) and calls for spending $350 billion over the next decade and up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Military experts agree that we cannot afford these costs and we can be completely secure with far fewer nuclear weapons.

REMEMBERING THE SAINTS: Fred Craddock, 1928-2015

Saddened by the news of the passing of the Reverend Dr. Fred Craddock, we give thanks to God for all the good (and good preaching) that he has left in the lives of Christians and those of us who attempt to speak a message of the Gospel on Sunday.

Dr. Craddock was one of the great preachers—and teachers of preachers—in our time. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he dedicated his final years to enriching the lives of the people of southern Appalachia in Cherry Log, Georgia, through programs of education, cultural enhancements, and service.

March 9, 2015 in Cherry Log, loved ones, friends, and admirers gathered to say goodbye.

5 Things To Look For In The Budgets Next Week, And What You Can Do About Them

Next week, the House and Senate Budget Committees will release and start to debate their proposed FY 2016 budgets. Lots of people are talking about what will be in them. Here are five things we think all human needs advocates need to look out for and be wary of in these budget blueprints:
  • Balancing the budget over the next 10 years. Several sources have said this is a priority for the Republicans. Reducing the deficit over time is a good idea, but many economists think balancing the budget in the next 10 years doesn’t make sense, especially when we should be taking advantage of very low interest rates to invest in rebuilding infrastructure and other job creation strategies. And it sure is expensive, costing around $4-5 trillion over 10 years. And when you combine this goal that with another priority of the majority, namely…
  • No new revenues (like from closing corporate tax loopholes or making sure the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share), achieving a balanced budget gets trickier. Throw in yet another priority of theirs, namely…
  • No reductions in Pentagon spending, and perhaps even increases, and the only way left to balance the budget is through…
  • Huge cuts to critical human needs programs. We’re not just talking about keeping in place the already deep cuts of sequestration, we’re talking about much bigger cuts like those included in the House-passed budget last year, which slashed programs and services for people with low and moderate incomes by more than $3.3 trillion dollars. Some of these cuts could be achieved through…
  • Reconciliation, Washington-speak for a process the majority could use make huge cuts to and harm mandatory spending programs (those programs not subjected to the annual appropriations process) like Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, SSI, SNAP/food stamps, and the Social Services Block Grant.