An April 12 “Action Alert” from the Brethren Witness/Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board highlights “several issues before Congress that truly address the need for our shared love, as exemplified by the sacrificial love of Christ, in whom we rejoice, mourn, and celebrate this Holy week.”
Saying that “the following are areas where Brethren can voice their clear conscience to congressional representatives in regards to pending bills,” the alert asks Brethren to contact their congressional representatives about the following list of current national issues:
- End the violence of the war in Iraq
- Raising the federal minimum wage
- Full funding for domestic and global AIDS programs
- Internet gambling
The full alert gives a synopsis of each issue, the names of current legislation on the issues, references to relevant Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statements, as well as contact information for the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.
The Action Alert follows:
“We send this action alert as we approach one of the most significant times in the life of our church. As we make plans to gather around tables across our denomination to re-enact the symbolic love feast, might we consider how our love can go beyond our own gathered communities.
“Congressional members are now in recess and are in our home districts for the next two weeks, returning to the nation’s Capitol on April 24. There are several issues before Congress that truly address the need for our shared love, as exemplified by the sacrificial love of Christ, in whom we rejoice, mourn, and celebrate this Holy week.
“Please take the time in the next week to contact and/or visit your representatives of congress. This is one of the most effective opportunities you have to be in touch with your elected officials and talk with them.
“The following are areas where Brethren can voice their clear conscience to congressional representatives in regards to pending bills:
“IMMIGRATION Congress went into recess without reaching agreement on this important immigration issue. Hundreds of thousands of people have marched for immigrant justice around the nation in recent weeks, supporting civil rights for millions of undocumented persons. Congress is struggling to complete comprehensive immigration reform. Please tell your Senators and Representative that you support: Providing a path to permanent citizenship; Reuniting families separated by immigration; Protecting the rights of workers; Building community rather than walls. The Church of the Brethren states that the United States Government should “…bring about a general amnesty for those people who once entered the United States as ‘undocumented aliens’ but have settled peacefully among their neighbors. These persons should be given legal status as quickly and simply as possible to assure that they will not be further exploited…” as well as have “…more careful enforcement of immigrant law, particularly against those who seek to benefit from exploitation of ‘undocumented aliens’…”. Finally, the Church of the Brethren states that the US should “…make itself an example of freedom, justice and compassion. In seeking to achieve these goals, the governments should accord immigrants and refugees proper legislation to assure full and equal protection of their human rights, such as labor rights of collective bargaining, occupational safety and health, wage and pension protection. We oppose the use of immigration policy to discriminate against others for political, religious, racial or social reasons,” (AC 82 R Undocumented Persons and Refugees).
“END THE VIOLENCE OF WAR IN IRAQ Urge your Representative to support H.R. 543, a discharge petition that requires the U.S. House of Representatives to consider H. J. Res. 55. This bill is bipartisan legislation to require the administration to develop and implement a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. Contact your Senators to oppose additional funding for the war in Iraq in the supplemental appropriations bill which comes up for a vote after the Easter recess. Make sure you raise these important points: Thousands of lives have been lost; The U.S. has spent more than $200 billion to date on the war in Iraq; It is time for the U.S. to appeal for international cooperation, not in waging war but in working with Iraqis of good will to set their nation on the course toward peace and prosperity. The Church of the Brethren most recently addressed the war in Iraq with a resolution that in part reads: “The greatest commandment fits well as our response to the conflict of Iraq. With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength we must love our God, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28). Our living witness to these words of Christ can bring places of comfort and peace in our local communities, and in our wider world, even in the midst of a time of such distrust and misunderstanding.” (AC, June 2004)
“RAISING THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE Proposals to increase the federal minimum wage from the current $5.15 /hour to $7.25/hour have yet to see action this year. Supporters in the House have introduced a “discharge petition” a parliamentary tool to force action on legislation. Senate sponsors are likely to offer the proposal as an amendment on the floor in the next few months. Contact your Members of Congress and ask them to act now to increase wages and fight poverty. For additional information on the federal minimum wage and campaigns across the country to increase state minimum wages, visit http://www.letjusticeroll.org/. This National Council of Churches program has been successful in leading many states in pushing the minimum wage issue. The 2000 Annual Conference Statement on Caring for the Poor declares, “that congregations use their experience in ministry with the poor to inform themselves of the legislative and political issues having impact on the poor and speak to those issues with their legislators at local, state, and national levels. The Biblical witness and our own experiences as a community of faith suggest that there is a corporate or societal responsibility to deal with the problems of the poor, such as the Year of Jubilee. This extends beyond personal, hands-on responses and includes advocacy on behalf of the poor.”
“FULL FUNDING FOR DOMESTIC AND GLOBAL AIDS PROGRAMS President Bush’s 2007 budget includes $18.9 billion for domestic AIDS a 7% increase over 2006. The President’s budget also includes $4 billion for global AIDS, one billion more than last year! We applaud the increase, although this budget figure is still less than the President pledged in 2003. Contact your Members and ask them to appropriate $6 billion for global AIDS and the full $18.9 billion for domestic AIDS! The Church of the Brethren has issued a nine step action plan for how congregations can best respond to this issue. In the closing lines of that statement we read: “A health crisis of enormous proportions faces the church and the world in regards to AIDS. Denial and prejudice only serve to make the crisis worse. In the face of this reality, the church and its people are called to be a community of healing, hope and compassion.” (AC, 1987)
“INTERNET GAMBLING Explosive growth of internet gambling continues unabated while legislation in Congress designed to fight illegal internet betting or wagering over the internet stalls in the Senate and advances in the House. HR 4411 – The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) and HR 4777 – The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, sponsored by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) are both slated for floor action after the recess. Urge support and co-sponsorship by your representative for these two important bills. Plans to attach the legislation to the lobbying reform bill in the Senate did not succeed. Urge your Senators to be in contact with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), sponsor of this legislation, to join the effort for successful introduction in the Senate. Gambling interests would like nothing better than to see these bills fail so they can continue to lure more and more people, particularly young people, to bet or wager over the internet. Be sure that members of Congress hear loud and clear that unregulated, illegal betting on the internet is unacceptable. At its Annual Conference in 1986, the delegate body adopted in part the following statement on gambling, that congregations should – `Take an active role in the legislative process against any form of gambling (i.e., letters, phone calls, visits, etc.). Be diligent in prayer for those in governmental authority and responsibility.’”
To find the contact information for your Senators and Representatives, go to the Brethren Witness/Washington Office website www.brethren.org/genbd/WitnessWashOffice.html, click on the “Contact Congress” link. Contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at 800-785-3246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.