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April 19, 2015

White House Official to Join EAD 2015 as Banquet Speaker

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice (EAD) is pleased to announce that White House official, Roy L. Austin, Jr. will join EAD participants as keynote speaker at the closing Banquet Dinner of EAD's 13th annual national gathering on Sunday, April 19th at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA. The theme for the gathering is"Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation." The national gathering is from April 17-20, and the Sunday banquet is on the eve of EAD's Lobby Day where participants will take a message to The Hill concerning criminal justice reform and immigrant detention.

In March 2014, Austin joined the White House Domestic Policy Council as Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. In this position, Austin coordinates the formulation and implementation of policy covering criminal justice, civil rights, housing, labor, human services and initiatives such as Promise Zones. Austin is also a member of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force.

Faith Groups Challenge Fifth Circuit Court on President’s Immigration Actions

Nineteen Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant faith-based organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Obama Administration's executive actions on immigration with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The amicus brief, also known as a “friend of the court” brief, supports the Administration’s appeal of Texas Judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction that has temporarily blocked deportation relief for close to five million undocumented immigrants. The amicus brief details the disservice that the injunction poses not just to immigrant communities but also to faith-based organizations and the public at large.

Today’s filing with the court broadly supports the Administration’s fully constitutional use of prosecutorial discretion through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application processes.

Aid Agencies Plot New Gaza Course While Politicians Talk Negotiations

US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Samantha Power testified on Wednesday that, “The United States believes that a two-state solution is vital to ensuring the preservation of a Jewish and democratic Israel, and we will continue to work to achieve that goal,” before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. 

When questioned by subcommittee members about statements from White House officials suggesting that the US is reevaluating its position regarding Israel in the UN, Power would not rule out US support of UN resolutions regarding Israel-Palestine but also said, “We will look to see what will advance Israel’s security and what will advance peace in the region” and “our objective as an administration is what can we do to defuse tensions, what will it take to get those negotiations back on track.”

President Obama Submits Report To Remove Canada From Terrorism List

On April 14, 2015, President Obama submitted a report notifying Congress of his intention to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. This report to Congress is required 45 days prior to the country’s actual removal.

It justifies the removal and certifies that the Cuban government “has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months, and has provided assurances that it will not support such acts in the future."


The President’s action is a huge step in the right direction, but more remains to be done. Click here to email to thank the President.

World Bank Announces Package of Aid and Loans to Ebola-Affected Countries

As the Spring International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings open, the World Bank announced $650 million of new grants and concessional loans to the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. About $220 million will be aid in the form of grants and the remainder will be in the form of highly concessional loans. 

Currently the three countries owe a combined $518 million to the World Bank. Liberia owes $105 million, Guinea $186 million and Sierra Leone $227 million.

“We urge the World Bank Group to consider bolstering their commitments with a new debt relief package for the impacted countries,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. “We applaud the new aid for the affected countries and hope that the World Bank can come up with some rapid response plan to address this kind of crisis much faster in the future.”

Nearly Twice as Many Women as Men Work in Occupations with Poverty Wages

On Equal Pay Day, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released new analysis finding that women earn less than men in almost all of the 116 occupations for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes weekly full-time earnings data for both women and men. In at least 109 of the 116 occupations, including almost all of the 20 most common occupations for women, women made significantly less than men. There is only one occupation—‘health practitioner support technologists and technicians’—in which women have exactly the same median weekly earnings as men, and one—‘stock clerks and order fillers’—where women earn slightly more than men.

Soaw Delegation To Mexico June 2015

From June 21 to July 1, 2015, a SOA Watch delegation will travel to Mexico to explore firsthand the impacts of Plan Merida and the US financing of the Mexican security forces. 

We will meet with family members of victims of state violence, organizations working for justice and human rights, journalists tracking military human rights abuses, and social movements seeking to create alternatives and dignity in the face of intense repression. 

 We will also look at the underlying US interests in in Mexico as well as communities organizing to defend their land and natural resources. Click here for more on the delegation. 

Action Alert: Speak Out Against Unfair Trade

Now is the time to speak out against Fast Track. The Fair Trade Project needs your voice and businesses, like Starbucks, to speak out on behalf of small-scale farmers and working families

Fast Track gives the President authority to negotiate and sign NAFA-like “free” trade agreements without a full debate in Congress or constituent input.

Despite a history of broad opposition, some members of Congress, under the influence of corporate lobbyists, are gearing up to introduce Fast Track again this week.

April 5, 2015

EASTER BLESSINGS!

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery to the sight of the blind, to liberate the oppressed, to proclaim the Year of the Jubilee. (Luke 4:18-19).

He was revealed in flesh and vindicated by the Spirit. . . . (1 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. . . . (Philippians 2:5).

The Disciples Center for Public Witness wishes you, your family, your congregation, and all your friends and loved ones a most blessed Easter.

May the resurrection-power of the living Jesus and his everlasting passion for justice be in us and flow through us as we become more faithful examples and agents of "wholeness in a fragmented world." Christ is risen indeed! Allelulia!

CHARLES HARVEY LORD, Founder of DJAN, 1924 – 2015

DJAN founder Harvey Lord entered more fully into God's eternal life on Good Friday. Please pray for all his family, friends, and loved ones as we all mourn his death, remember his life, and celebrate his homegoing.

A memorial service at University Church of Hyde Park in Chicago is scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2015. So please save the date. More details will be available soon.

You may read or provide tributes to Harvey here.

To make a contribution to the Charles Harvey and May Sweet Lord Justice Action Fund, please go to here.

Disciples Take Action To Move 2017 General Assembly

Last Thursday, the governor of Indiana signed into law Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) over the protests of business leaders as well as leaders of the Christian Church.

After the law was signed on Thursday, March 26, 2015, the moderator team met followed by a meeting of the Administrative Committee by conference call. The General Board convened on a conference call on March 31, 2015 and unanimously voted to seek another venue for the 2017 General Assembly. (Message to the Church) Further discussion will occur at the General Board meeting in April.

At Least Ten Religious Groups Have Come Out Against Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Liberty’ Laws

By Jack Jenkins

Controversy continues to surround a recent string of state bills supposedly designed to emulate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), but which opponents say pervert the 1993 law in ways that make religion a weapon to discriminate against others — namely, LGBT people. Lawmakers across the country are facing staunch criticism for introducing similar “religious liberty” bills, but the backlash has been particularly heated for the governors of Indiana and Arkansas, both of whom have responded to national outcry by calling on their state legislatures to “fix” their state RFRAs to ensure they cannot be used to deny services to LGBT people.

EDITORIAL: Why I Think My Church Is Upset About Indiana's RFRA

By Rick Lowery, Ph.D.

My church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is moving our 2017 General Assembly out of my hometown Indianapolis in response to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), recently signed by Governor Mike Pence. This is painful for our church and for my family.

Since my wife is general minister and president of the church and we are residents of Indianapolis -- she was baptized here, went to school here, and we were married here -- I've been giving a good bit of thought to this the last few days. I'm a Bible scholar and minister, not a lawyer or judge; but I've studied the history of RFRA and think I understand what's at stake.

EDITORIAL: Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

By Jim Wallis

For the past several days, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has found himself at the center of a political firestorm over his state’s adoption of a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Many believe that Indiana’s law went too far, including many in the faith community, because it could have opened the door for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Pence has repeatedly denied this was the intent — and early Thursday morning, Indiana's Republican leaders announced a deal that they say would make it clear no one will "be able to discriminate against anyone at any time." Read the changes here. The new anti-discrimination language has already drawn a positive response from some of the original law’s critics.

EDITORIAL: State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts Threaten True Religious Liberty

By Sally Steenland

The current debate about religious freedom is already shaping laws and policies that will affect each one of us. Many of these laws and policies are harmful and will have far-reaching consequences that affect the everyday details of our lives—from our ability to shop at certain businesses to the cost of our health care—that even the supporters of these laws are likely to regret.

That’s because the laws and policies in question go too far. They promote a kind of religious freedom on steroids, a muscular bullying that aims to get its way regardless of the harm or cost it may inflict on others.

April 4, 2015

EDITORIAL: A Return to the Status Quo: Indiana’s So-Called RFRA Fix

By Sarah McBride

Indiana legislators recently announced their much-anticipated fix to the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. The amendment was prompted by a national outcry from businesses, faith communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans and their allies in response to the discriminatory consequences of the bill, which could nullify existing municipal sexual-orientation and gender-identity nondiscrimination protections in Indiana. With events quickly developing in the state, it is important to know exactly what the proposed fix would and would not do.

Washington Update: Unemployment Rate for African Americans Is Higher Than Prerecession Levels In 28 States

By Lecia Imbery

For many, 2014 was a good year to get a job. By December 2014, the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.6 percent, the lowest it had been since June 2008. Nearly 250,000 jobs were being added every month. The gains in job growth were especially important for African Americans, who had the largest increase in the share of adults and with job, according to a new paper from Valerie Wilson at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Despite these gains, however, the unemployment rate for black workers (10.4 percent in Feb. 2015) is nearly double the national unemployment rate (5.5 percent) and more than double the unemployment rate for white workers (5.1 percent). Another paper released last week by Wilson and EPI shows that black unemployment levels are higher than pre-recession levels in at least 28 states. In fact, the unemployment rate for black workers was 11 percent at the end of 2014 – higher than the national unemployment rate at the height of the recession and 2.4 percentage points higher than the black unemployment rate before the recession. This great graphic shows the huge differences in unemployment rates between whites and blacks by state.

Iran and Nuclear Weapons: Remarks By the President of the United States

Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, reached a historic understanding with Iran.

If fully implemented, this framework will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, making our nation, our allies, and our world safer.

For decades, Iran has been advancing its nuclear program. When I took office, Iran was operating thousands of centrifuges -- which can produce the materials for a nuclear bomb -- and was concealing a secret nuclear facility. I made it clear that the United States was prepared to find a diplomatic resolution, if Iran came to the table in a serious way.

But that didn't happen.

So we rallied the world to impose the toughest sanctions in history, profoundly impacting Iran's economy. Sanctions couldn't stop Iran's nuclear program on their own, but they helped bring Iran to the negotiating table.

Black Unemployment at Outrageously High Levels

By Valerie Wilson

After a year of solid job growth in 2014, the forecast for 2015 is for modest improvements in unemployment. The national unemployment rate is projected to fall from 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

This issue brief examines how unemployment rates, employment-to-population (EPOP) ratios, and long-term unemployment (defined as out of work for six months or more) of whites, Latinos, and African Americans changed nationally and by state between 2013 and 2014, and projects unemployment rates for the fourth quarter of 2015.

EDITORIAL: The Iran Nuclear Agreement is a Good Deal for the World

by Scott Ritter

The deal recently concluded between Iran and the so-called "P-5 plus 1" nations (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) is designed to prevent Iran from being able to rapidly acquire fissile material in quantities suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. According to President Obama, the agreement is a "good deal" that "shuts down Iran's path to a bomb." The devil is in the details, of course, which won't be finalized until June 30, but at first blush the deal emerging out of Switzerland accomplishes that which it was intended to. Critics maintain that Iran will be able to readily defeat restrictions imposed by the deal in order to realize its nuclear aspirations. The key to any agreement will lie in the verification measures implemented to ensure compliance. But the fact remains that the technical framework put in place by this deal severely constrains Iran's ability to enrich uranium which, while falling short of an outright ban on enrichment (something Iran would never agree to), more than meets the goals and objectives set by the United States and the other nations involved in the negotiations.