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July 5, 2015

Who is Working on the Fourth of July?

On this Fourth of July, as we gather with friends and family around barbecues and picnic tables across the country, we celebrate the accomplishments of the American patriots who built this country. But, as many of us are enjoying a well-deserved day off, millions of low- and middle-income workers are being required to work on a federal holiday without any sort of overtime compensation.

This is the result of outdated overtime rules that cover fewer and fewer salaried workers each year.

For years, the Economic Policy Institute has been working with and urging the Obama administration and the Department of Labor to introduce overtime reforms to give millions more workers pay for the overtime they work. Specifically, we've called for raising the salary threshold below which workers are guaranteed overtime pay. And just this week we had a major breakthrough.

5 Things Disciples of Christ Should Know From UCC Synod 2015

By Sam Lovett, Oreon E. Scott Intern for Prophetic Ministry, Disciples Center for Public Witness

The UCC joined our national mourning for those killed at Emanuel AMC in Charleston, South Carolina, and also overwhelmingly adopted two resolutions intent on dismantling racism.

Delegates voted to divest from and boycott companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine, but rejected a resolution that would have applied the term “apartheid” to the Israeli occupation.

A resolution calling for labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) failed, but an ambitious schedule for transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources by 2040 passed. The Synod also voted to urge nations who send things into outer space to stop scattering junk.

Find the rest of the list here.

New US Trade Bill Says, “Settlements = Israel”

On Monday US President Barak Obama signed into law Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that includes constraints designed to protect Israel in future negotiations with the European Union (EU). Critically, this TPA legislation includes language (“Israel or in territories controlled by Israel”) that will make the protection of Israeli settlements part of those negotiations.

Some Middle East analysts such as Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now have argued that measures to introduce such language into not only the TPA legislation, but multiple other bills moving through Congress, seeks “to codify in U.S. law the view that there is no distinction between Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories (referred to euphemistically in these bills as "Israeli-controlled territories" or "territories controlled by Israel").” According to Friedman, such bills “will not protect Israel from pressure from Europe over settlements. They will, instead, further discredit U.S. leadership and policy in the Middle East arena - an arena in which even Israel's closest allies in Europe have run out of patience with Israeli governments that talk about supporting two states but pursue actions that tell a far different story.”

CHN: Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act; Congress Continues Attempts to Take it Down

The Supreme Court’s decision last Thursday upholding the use of subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) didn’t stop Republicans in Congress from talking about their next steps to try to repeal the law (for more information on the Supreme Court’s decision, read CHN’s statement). According to CQ, several Republican leaders have indicated they’ll likely use a process known as reconciliation to try to repeal the ACA. In fact, CQ quoted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, as saying, “Now it’s clear that this is the highest and best use for reconciliation, as full a repeal as this process allows.”

Under budget resolution rules, reconciliation instructions may be given to a number of different committees requiring them to come back with legislation that would produce savings, usually by cutting spending in programs under their jurisdictions. As was noted in a previous Human Needs Report, because reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered, they can pass the Senate with only a simple majority instead of the 60 votes required in most other Senate deliberations. However, unlike the budget resolution itself, bills drafted as a result of reconciliation instructions have to be signed into law by the President and therefore are subject to a possible veto. President Obama would veto legislation that repealed or crippled the Affordable Care Act; overriding the veto would require a highly unlikely two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. (For more information on reconciliation, see this piece released last week by the Senate Budget Committee.)

ICYMI: Re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba Diplomatic Relations

It has been 54 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the termination of diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba. Today at the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama announced that the United States and Cuba would restore full diplomatic ties after half a century, starting with the reopening of embassies in each country.

Later this month, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cuba to personally take part in the formal reopening of the United States Embassy in Havana. This will mark the resumption of embassy operations since diplomatic relations were terminated in 1961. Moreover, Kerry's arrival in Havana marks the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to Cuba since 1945.

EDITORIAL: Why People of Faith Oppose Drones

By Jim Winkler

There has been much sensationalistic coverage recently about a drone strike that killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Many have succumbed to the temptation to celebrate this death without stepping back and evaluating precisely what the larger drone war has accomplished. Recently, I joined nearly 30 of my fellow faith leaders to take on that exact issue. In a world of division, it is remarkable when people of diverse perspectives can agree - particularly people of diverse faiths. That is why I am proud to have joined my friends of faith in speaking with one united voice to express our common concerns with the U.S. government's use of drone warfare.

From a range of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives, we jointly signed a letter urging the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress to halt its policy of lethal drone strikes. Despite the range of our different belief systems and ideas about warfare, we found that we shared many of the exact same questions and concerns about the drones program that led us to send this letter. Here are a few of those concerns.

EDITORIAL: The Way of Hope

By Jim Wallis

Week after week, we can take on the biggest issues we face as a society — from continuing racism, mass incarceration, inequality, and poverty to gender violence and human trafficking, climate change, ISIS — and just try to be hopeful.

Or we can start by going deeper, to a more foundational and spiritual understanding of hope — rooted in our identity as the children of God, made in the image of God, as the only thing that will see us through times like this.

I believe we should start there. Because the biggest problem we face — the biggest enemy at the heart of many of the issues we must address — is hopelessness.

And perhaps the most important thing the world needs from the faith community is today is hope.

JOB OPENING: Legislative Associate for Domestic Policy

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is seeking a Legislative Associate for Domestic Policy. The Legislative Associate advocates for federal policy change and develops tools to promote FCNL’s vision of social justice.

The Legislative Associate for Domestic Policy will focus on issues of economic and social justice in the U.S., guided by FCNL’s legislative policies, "The World We Seek," and by the priorities selected each two years by our General Committee. In our mission statement, we say that “we seek a society with equity and justice for all” and “we seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled.” These two statements lead us into our work on mass incarceration, racial justice, income inequality, poverty, employment, housing, health care and many critical elements that sustain individual, family, and community life.

July 3, 2015

INDEPENDENCE DAY BLESSINGS!













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.

July 2, 2015

ACTION ALERT: Tell DOL To Give Workers The Pay They Deserve

It feels good to be promoted to supervisor. But not if you're paid an annual salary of $24,000 and expected to work 50 hours a week — without any overtime pay.

 Millions of women are working long hours for little pay, sacrificing time with their families and struggling to make ends meet. But outdated regulations deny them the overtime protections they deserve.

 The Department of Labor just released a proposed rule that would extend overtime protections to millions of workers. This is a huge step toward fair pay for women — now it's up to us to show our support.

 Right now, overtime protections do not apply to managerial or professional workers who make more than $23,660 per year — less than the poverty threshold for a family of four. The proposed regulation would raise the threshold to $50,440, which would give millions more workers who earn this amount or less each year — disproportionately women — the overtime protections they deserve.

 Congress has raised the salary threshold just once since 1975. If it had kept pace with inflation since 1975, it would now be at about $52,000 a year. This rule is long overdue and is an important step toward economic security for women and their families.

  Send a message to DOL: ensure that workers are fairly compensated for the hours they work.

June 29, 2015

DJAN Responds to Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

DJAN Leadership Member, The Reverend Steven Baines: 

"This is a wonderful day for all our LGBT sisters, brothers and allies. Couples of all orientations now have the sanction of our government to their constitutional legal rights. We applaud the US Supreme Court for writing into law equality for all. May we give thanks and celebration for the unconditional love of God for all people."

The Supreme Court Decision on Health Care: A Joint Statement from Disciples Home Missions And The Disciples Center for Public Witness

As a community of faith, we are relieved and commend the Supreme Court for affirming the Affordable Care Act by upholding the subsidies that allow working and low-income Americans access to guaranteed health care.

We must work now with the 34 states presently forcing its citizens to rely on Federal subsidies, to establish their own insurance marketplace (exchange) to protect the rights of all of their citizens to access affordable health care.

We can do no other, as we understand Scripture commands us that addressing the general welfare of the nation includes giving particular attention to the poor and the sick.

More Responses from our Ecumenical Partners on the Supreme Court Ruling in King v. Burwell

Washington Interreligious Staff Council Health Care Working Group:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the healthcare subsidies offered in states that use the federally facilitated marketplace is a cause for celebration. Millions of people will no longer have to worry about losing the subsidies that make their health insurance affordable now that the Court has affirmed that these subsidies should be available in all fifty states. The Affordable Care Act was clearly passed to expand access to affordable health insurance to as many Americans as possible, and today’s ruling emphasizes this important principle.

Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

"The Movement of People: Human and Humane"

By Peter Makari

Whether by force or by choice, the movement of people is as old as human history. The effort to control and restrict such movement is just as old. The powerful have always sought to determine who may enter, and who may not. We have built walls to protect and defend, including the Great Wall in China against northern invaders; the Berlin Wall, the most visible symbol of the Cold War; the Separation Barrier Israel continues to build to wall off Palestinians; and the wall along the US-Mexico border, to prevent immigration from Latin America. Physical walls create and reinforce psychological barriers, stereotypes and fears.

Whether such physical structures accomplish their goals has always been debated. What is certain is that intense restrictions on movement, be they physical or legal, deny people and cultures the opportunity to interact and stimulate each other’s knowledge of the other. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, Israelis and Palestinians alike are separated by a wall that prevents meaningful interaction between peoples whose fates are intertwined. In such a situation of conflict, with interaction of communities so difficult, stereotypes are only hardened and knowing the other is near impossible.

International Monetary Fund Refuses Nepal Debt Relief

International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesperson Gerry Rice announced Nepal will not receive debt relief from a special IMF trust fund that helps poor countries when they face natural disasters. The IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust cancelled nearly $100 million in debt owed by Ebola-impacted West African nations. Jubilee USA Network, a religious development organization, advocated for the trust fund and debt relief for West Africa and Nepal. A powerful earthquake struck Nepal April 25, killing more than 8,600 people and destroying over 500,000 homes.


"This is troubling news," said Eric LeCompte, a United Nations debt expert and executive director of Jubilee USA Network. "Given the devastation in Nepal, it's hard to believe that the criteria was not met."


UN Issues Report on Gaza War; Israel Calls It Biased

A United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry on last summer’s Gaza war submitted its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Monday. The Commission stated in the report that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed abuses of international humanitarian law that may amount to war crimes. It cited the “inherently indiscriminate nature” of rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian armed groups at Israeli civilians and condemned the killing of people suspected of collaborating with Israel. Regarding the actions of Israeli military in Gaza, the Commission said “impunity prevails across the board” and asked Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.”

Sign a Letter of Support for Papal Encyclical

On Thursday, June 18th, the Vatican released the 184 page papal encyclical on climate change. A papal encyclical is a teaching document in the form of a letter from the pope that discusses a wrong that needs to be addressed. This is very significant for the Catholic church. It is also significant for Christians and all people of faith as it raises the profile of our moral obligation to address climate injustice.

Pope Francis chose as his name that of Saint Francis of Assisi who was dedicated to the poor and founded the Franciscan Order to continue his work of service to poor and oppressed people. Saint Francis is also honored for his special respect for and closeness to nature, especially animals.

Dan Misleh of Catholic Climate Covenant is headed to Rome and will be delivering a letter of support to Pope Francis from Americans for his encyclical on climate.

Senate Spending Bill Deeply Cuts HOME, Does Not Raid NHTF

The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its FY16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill on June 25 by a vote of 20 to 10. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) voted with all 16 Committee Republicans in support of the bill.

The bill would cut HOME funding from FY15’s $900 million to just $66 million in FY16. Just five years ago, in FY10, HOME was funded at $1.8 billion. The block grant program is used to provide rental production, rental assistance, and homeownership assistance.

According to HUD, if HOME were zeroed out in FY16 and not funded at the President’s requested level of $1.06 billion, there would be a loss of an estimated 38,665 affordable housing units (16,045 homebuyer units, 15,099 new or rehabilitated rental units, and 7,521 owner-occupied homes rehabilitated for low income homeowners), and 8,813 fewer families would be assisted with HOME tenant based rental assistance.

EDITORIAL: Charleston is Testing the Soul of America

By Jim Wallis

On Wednesday, June 17, a young believer in white supremacy invaded the sacred sanctuary of the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. There he murdered nine black Christians who were gathered together for their weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting. The killer had been welcomed by the African Methodist Episcopal church members to join them in prayer when he walked in, and he sat with them for more than an hour before he pulled out his gun and shot them dead at the prayer table. They were targeted and killed because they were black.

It is painfully true that in our time, in this year, in the United States, there is still no safe space for black people in America — even in their own churches. Racism is America’s original sin. It expresses itself explicitly and overtly in what we horribly saw last week in a black church, but racism continues on, implicitly and covertly, in American institutions and culture.