July 30, 2014

SPEAK OUT! Weekly Action Alerts

Dear Colleague in Justice Advocacy,

Often the most pressing issues of our day, from tragedies at home to conflicts abroad, seem complex and unreachable. But there is always something you can do to help. Here is what you can do TODAY to let your voice be heard on some of the issues that matter most.

July 4, 2014


The Board of Governors, the Advocacy Team, and the partner ministries of the Disciples Center for Public Witness wish you, your family, your friends and all your loved ones a very Happy Fourth of July!

May the blessings of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" soon be shared more fully and more equally by all.

June 13, 2014


Vergara Decision Blames Teachers, Ignores Injustices for Students in Poorest Communities

by Jan Resseger
Senior Advisor on Public Education
Disciples Center for Public Witness

Earlier this week California Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down tenure and seniority protections for California’s K-12 school teachers.  This is the case of Vergara v. California.  The plaintiffs have said they will appeal.  According to Stephanie Simon, writing for Politico, “Judge Treu has tentatively decided to let the laws stay in effect pending that appeal… Judge Treu’s ruling is preliminary; he will take comments from both sides into account before issuing a final ruling within the next month.”
Nobody wants bad teachers in California’s classrooms or the classrooms in any other state.  On this particular issue Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, declared she agrees with Judge Treu: “He argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom.  He is right on that.”

June 2, 2014

Disciples Ministry Urges Disciples to Tell Senators: Support Sentencing Reform

June 2, 2014

Justice Advocates Support Sentencing Reform; HRM Urges Disciples to Call Their Senators

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Human Rights Ministries (HRM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) called on all Disciples committed to human rights and criminal justice reform to take action on prison sentencing reform by calling their senators on Wednesday, June 4, to voice their support for the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act. According to HRM Director Ford Rowan, "Our prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders who are there on minor drug charges, most of them people of color and poor.  Justice is not served by this unjust situation.  People of faith need to speak out, and Congress needs to act."

The Smarter Sentencing Act, which has successfully passed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and is now poised for a vote by the full Senate this month, would reduce racially disparate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. It would also allow current prisoners serving outdated sentences for crack cocaine offenses to apply for a sentence reduction.

The National Council of Churches (NCC), of which the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a member, is prioritizing the issue of mass incarceration because of its tremendous impact on American populations over the past decades. Federal prisons are crowded with people serving excessive sentences for low-level and nonviolent drug crimes. Mandatory minimums have contributed to an 800% increase in the size of the federal prison population since 1980. This expensive system continues to grow and is squeezing out needed funding for crime prevention, victim services, and reentry. The Smarter Sentencing Act is a crucial step toward stopping this damaging trend.

HRM is urging Disciples to participate in a call-in campaign on Wednesday, June 4, to encourage their senators to support this much-needed legislation. Interested Disciples can call the Capitol Switchboard TWICE by dialing 1-888-427-0484, asking to speak to their state’s senators, and urging them both to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410, and to request that their Senate leaders bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote this month. The following script has been provided:

“Hi, my name is ________, and as a constituent and member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I urge Senator ________ to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410, and ask that the senator tell Senate leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. Thank you for passing along my concerns.”

The following talking points are also recommended:
• “As a person of faith, I am concerned about the harsh mandatory minimum sentences Congress passed almost 30 years ago. They have created racial disparity in federal prisons and resulted in an 800% increase in the prison population since 1980.”
• “The bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act is an incremental sentencing reform that would reduce the excessive penalties for low-level drug offenses. I support its passage and urge you to support it as well.”
• “The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Smarter Sentencing Act, and it is ready for a vote in the full Senate. Please urge Senate leadership to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote.”

In their conversations, Disciples should be sure to identify themselves as constituents and to thank the staff for listening to their concerns.

For more information, please contact HRM Director Ford Rowan at

May 16, 2014

Over 150 Civil and Immigrants Rights Organizations Call to End ICE Holds

Today, May 16, over 150 immigrant, labor, civil rights, and faith organizations--including the DOC and Disciples Justice Action Network-- endorsed a letter delivered to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, asking him to use his "existing legal authority to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) use of ICE holds to enlist local police as so-called 'force multipliers' that amplify enforcement of unjust immigration laws."

ICE holds are requests from ICE to local police agencies to detain individuals suspected of civil immigration violations and are a key component of of the Secure Communities deportation program. These holds, as stated in the letter, "have fueled dragnet-style enforcement and record-breaking deportation levels, and
undermined public safety instead of upholding it." They have also contributed to racial profiling at the local level.

This letter comes a day after President Obama and Sec. Johnson announced they would take a "fresh look" at the Secure Communities program.

Read the full letter here.

April 20, 2014

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!

April 18, 2014

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice: for theirs is the reign of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just (1 John 2:1).

On this holy day, we join with other Disciples and all Christians around the world to pause in awe, pray in silence, and remember with genuine gratitude the saving power of God's unmerited and boundless love as it was revealed to us in the crucifixion, suffering and death of our Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Holy Week Blessings to all!

April 5, 2014


 Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary 
of the National Council of Churches

In this season when new life is emerging from cold and darkness, when the promise of Easter sings in our hearts as well as our churches, we give thanks for the overwhelming evidence of your Holy Spirit. For good friends, the laughter of children, the memories of aging compatriots, and the dreams of youth, we praise your Holy Name.

April 3, 2014

CENTERpiece: Public Education

Zombie Ideas and Conventional Wisdom: Why NYC’s School “Reform” Matters to the Rest of Us

by Jan Resseger
Special Advisor on Public Education
Disciples Center for Public Witness

Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economist and NY Times columnist, wrote a column earlier this week about myths in economics.  He calls them “zombie ideas.”  Here is how Krugman defines a zombie idea: “one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true.”   Back in 1958 in a famous book, The Affluent Society, another economist John Kenneth Galbraith called such ideas “the conventional wisdom” —”the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability.”  Galbraith continued: “The conventional wisdom is not the property of any political group…. the consensus is exceedingly broad.  Nothing much divides those who are liberals by common political designation from those who are conservatives.”

Zombie ideas.  The conventional wisdom.  Bipartisan consensus based on not much evidence and maybe even contrary to the evidence.  Sounds like today’s wave of so-called public education “reform.”

April 1, 2014

SOA Watch: Call Congress Now!

Today, April 1, School of the Americas Watch issued a call to action for activists to call their representatives in Congress to make two important asks concerning two important pieces of legislation concerning peace and human rights in Latin America.

Throughout today and tomorrow, activists from across the country will be taking to the halls of Congress visiting representatives, urging them to co-sponsor HR 2989, which would suspend and investigate the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), fomerly known as the School of the Americas. SOA Watch needs for constituents to call their representatives in Congress flooding the phone lines with support of this bill. To find your representative and their contact info, click here, or you can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative's office. A sample call script is provided here.

Also call your member of Congress and urge them to say no to HR 4229, the Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, which like the identically titled Helms Burton law (substituting "Venezuela" for "Cuba") calls for targeted sanctions against Venezuela in response to calls for intervention. Rather we should be supporting the ongoing peace and dialogue initiatives already underway and seek accurate information concerning the complex political situation.

Help promote peace building and self-determination in Latin America by lending your voice to these causes now!

March 31, 2014


Last Call for Health Insurance: It's the Last Day to Get Covered
If you don't have health insurance, today is the last day to get coverage that starts in 2014. Go right now to to sign up.
There are three ways to sign up:
  • Online. You can sign up at You can also sign up in Spanish at
  • On the Phone. You can call 1-800-318-2596, any time, any hour, and a trained representative will help you enroll.
  • In Person. You can also find a person in your community to help you at
Don't put it off any longer -- get covered now!

March 27, 2014

Scholarships and opportunities available for students and young adults in the US, Italy and Switzerland

Please see below interesting opportunities for students and young adults. Scholarships available!!
1)Scholarships still available for students to attend the World Student Christian Federation-North America and Student Christian Movement-USA Leadership Training Program in Chevy Chase, MD on April 3-6, 2014. Registration ends on April 1st

2) WSCF seeks to nominate a student to attend the Fund For Theological Education's Regional Discernment Retreat in Auburn, WA on April 25-27. Deadline ASAP

February 17, 2014



President James Garfield (1881) was a strong supporter of civil rights for African Americans. 

President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) aggressively promoted and signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Although he had opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 at the time of its passage, President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) in 1982 signed legislation reauthorizing this Act for another 25 years.

February 14, 2014

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

The Governors and the Advocacy Team of The Disciples Center for Public Witness wish you a very happy, meaningful, and love-filled St. Valentine's Day.

PRAYER: Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God, that, like Valentine, we might be ready to lay down our lives for your gospel and the vision of shalom in which it is grounded. We pray for all martyrs who give their lives for the cause of justice and peace, and we ask that we might be guided by their example, becoming more perfect witnesses to and instruments of your love. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

ALSO: Why not send a special Valentine's Day gift to the CENTER?

To give online, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Please send your most generous gift to:

Disciples Center for Public Witness 
c/o Christian Church Capital Area 
8814 Kensington Parkway, Suite 208 
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-6743

February 12, 2014

Confront Torture in Maryland Prisons

Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IHAR), a Mid-Atlantic partner of the National Religious Campaingn Against Torture  (NRCAT), is confronting the use of long-term solitary confinement in Maryland prisons by supporting bill SB0861/HB0787, now in progress in the Marlyand General Assembly. The bill would commission a third party to conduct a study on the use of solitary confinement within Maryland prisons, particularly its use with incarcerated youth and individuals with mental illness.

Long-term solitary confinement is considered to be torture under international standards of human rights. NRCAT cites that on any given day 8.5% of incarcerated individuals in Maryland prisions are subjected to solitary confinement inspite of this.

Take action and reach out to Maryland legislators in support of this measure that will provide a clear picture of the use of torture in state prisons and will provide the groundwork for addressing this issue. If you would like to offer additional assistance to the effort and learn more, please contact Suzanne O'Hatnik via IHAR.

February 3, 2014

Disciples Respond to House Republicans' "Standards for Immigration Reform"

Press Release:

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) appreciates the decision of House Republicans to take up immigration reform discussions as indicated by their January 30 release of GOP Immigration Reform Standards.  The one page set of standards outlined views on border and internal enforcement, visa and employment regulations, immigration system changes, and opportunities for youth and some others “living outside the rule of law” to “come forward and get right with the law.”

“We agree with House leaders that our nation’s current immigration system has serious problems which must be solved, and are grateful for this expression of commitment to work in a bipartisan manner to solve them.  We take this time to reaffirm our promise to leaders on each side of the aisle to continue our prayers ‘for…all who are in high positions’ (I Timothy 2)” commented Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  “However, our historic commitment to fulfill our biblical call to welcome the stranger and to live out God’s challenge in scripture that ‘the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you’ (Leviticus 19:34) compels us likewise to raise key concerns about some of the principles as stated.”

January 31, 2014

Kerry Plan Details Emerge as Israeli Coalition Wobbles

from Churches for Middle East Peace:

This week, Thomas Friedman reports in The New York Times that according to U.S. officials he’s spoken with, Kerry is planning to present, "a U.S. framework that will lay out what Washington considers the core concessions Israelis and Palestinians need to make for a fair, lasting deal." He writes, "The 'Kerry Plan,' likely to be unveiled soon, is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims, following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines), with unprecedented security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.” He also says that some settlement blocs will remain in the West Bank, but Israel will “compensate the Palestinians with Israeli territory." It will call for Palestinians to have a capital in East Jerusalem, Palestinians recognizing "Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people" and no right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel.

The ideas themselves are not groundbreaking. Variations of this formula have been known for years, but getting the parties to accept them would be historic and could move the negotiations decisively closer to ending to the occupation.

Friedman concludes that if this doesn’t work, "Israelis and Palestinians need to understand that Kerry’s mission is the last train to a negotiated two-state solution. The next train is the one coming at them."

January 19, 2014


The Disciples Center for Public Witness joins many others within our denomination, across our nation, and around the globe to honor the birthday, life, mission and vision of one of America's strongest advocates for justice and peace: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER: O God of our salvation, give us the grace and strength to keep Dr. King's dream alive, and to make his vision of the Beloved Community a central part of our lives as Christians, as Americans, and as members of the world community. We make this prayer in the name of the One who gave the vision to Dr. King and to us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

CLICK HERE to watch Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

CLICK HERE to read Dr. King's speech on Vietnam.

January 16, 2014

Religious Freedom Day

The Obama administration proclaimed today, January 16, 2014 as Religious Freedom Day to, as quoted from the President's Proclamation, "celebrate America's legacy of religious liberty, embrace diversity in our own communities, and resolve once more to advance religious freedom in our time." January 16 was chosen as it marks the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, in 1786. This statute provided the basis for religious freedom in the First Ammendment.

The U.S. Department of Justice also published a blog post about issues of relgious protection today, namely enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) passed in 2000. This act protects the ability of religious communities to build places of worship and other religious institutions, and the ability of prisoners and other persons confined to institutions to continue to practice their faiths. To see the full blog post, click here.