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Archive for the ‘External Global Justice News’ Category

Public Statement by World’s Largest Predominantly Gay Church Group Metropolitan Community Churches on the Passage of Marriage Equality in England and Wales

Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide join in the celebration of Marriage Equality in England and Wales.  After passing in the British House of Commons yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II has given her assent to the bill.  Although the monarch’s assent is a formality in the United Kingdom, it makes the measure official.  Marriages could be held in England and Wales as early as next summer.

This measure in England and Wales marks another watershed accomplishment on the long road to full equality under the law for LGBT residents. “On behalf of the friends and members of Metropolitan Community Churches, I salute all those who stood up for full equality, including marriage equality of all citizens of England and Wales,” said The Reverend Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide.

Marriage Equality supporter Sarah Jane Ramage said, “I am very happy that this legislation has passed. Many people have campaigned for many years. The Rev. Sharon Ferguson of MCC North London and LGCM was part of the equal love campaign that three years ago sought to raise the profile of the differences between civil partnerships and marriage. It is great to be celebrating the success of that and other initiatives.  I look forward to seeing the remaining inequalities affecting same sex couples and trans people removed.”

MCC’s Global Justice Chair, The Reverend Pat Bumgardner said, “We won this battle for Marriage Equality because of hard work — because of people like Rev. Sharon Ferguson, Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of North London. We won, because though ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice,’ and Marriage Equality is the just, the right thing to do AND — don’t ever let anyone tell you differently: it is the MORAL thing to do. The angels and saints of heaven are rejoicing tonight.”

“For 42 years, the denomination of Metropolitan Community Churches has been at the forefront of the marriage equality movement. Today, along with people of goodwill everywhere, we’re celebrating the marriage equality victory in England and Wales,” said The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Director for Marriage Equality of The Global Justice Institute.

This Statement prepared by The Global Justice Institute of Metropolitan Community Churches and The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries.  Rev. Pat Bumgarnder, Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Director for Marriage Equality and Relational Issues

Contact

Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches Calls for Prayer and Personal Discernment as Zimmerman Trial Verdict is Released

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches

Calls for Prayer and Personal Discernment

as Zimmerman Trial Verdict is Released

 

Earlier this evening, a jury of six women found George Zimmerman, a now 26-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

 

Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when, walking to his father’s home through a residential area in Sanford, Florida on a rainy evening , he was shot in the heart after an altercation with Zimmerman.   Wearing a hoodie and talking on his cell phone, having just purchased a package of Skittles and a can of iced tea, Martin became a symbol of young people of color across the United States who are often targeted by law enforcement, shop owners and other citizens as “suspicious.”

 

Approached and followed by Mr. Zimmerman for this reason, a physical fight ensued that would end in the death of a child, and come to symbolize our nation’s on-again/off-again struggle to accept and value its diverse citizenry.

 

As a community of largely LGBTI people of many religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, many of us know what it is like to be viewed with suspicion simply because of who we are.  Many of us still live in parts of the world where our sexual orientations or gender identities are sufficient to endanger our lives.

 

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, appealed for peace in the wake of a verdict and said that they could finally see “the end of the tunnel.”

 

The real end of the tunnel for all of us will be on that day when we stand face to face with the Creator God who made us all and pronounced all life good.  In the end, we will be invited to share one table together.  The Gospel of Matthew says people will come to that table from East and West, North and South, meaning from many directions.

 

I know the members and friends of Metropolitan Community Churches may be coming from many directions with regard to this case and all the issues it has raised, from racially motivated animosity to the use of firearms.   People around the globe suffer and struggle daily with the loss of children’s lives to violence — violence that is often times fueled by the failure to value the diversity of God’s creation.

 

Yesterday at the United Nations, another child targeted by violence, a 16 year old girl from Pakistan named Malala, spoke to the world saying that education is the key to a future of peace and good will for all of us.  Shot because she was a girl wanting to go to school in a culture devaluing its female children, she said, “They thought that the bullet would silence us,” but what really happened was that “weakness and fear died…and courage was born.’

 

I urge all of us on this night when many of us may be reacting with shock, disbelief and anger and others with support for a legally rendered verdict, to really search our hearts and minds and spirits for the ways prejudice and fear have weakened our commitment to the prophetic vision of a world where lions lay down with lambs, and little children play safely over adder’s dens.   I urge all of us as people of faith to recommit to the Biblical injunction against taking a life for any reason.   The legal standard for “self defense” can never replace Scripture’s call to love others as God loves all of us.

 

Pray with me this night for the family of Trayvon Martin who, regardless of a verdict, lost a child to fear and violence.  Pray for the day when all of us are at ease in the presence of difference and see only in each other’s faces a brother or sister in Christ.

 

+Nancy

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator

Metropolitan Community Churches

 

This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator’s Public Policy Team,

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.  For more information or to arrange further comment

contact The Rev. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Communications, at

.

Faith-Based Council Members sign-on to letter re ending human trafficking – Senate and House leadership

Dear Congressman/Senator:

 

We are writing to express our strong support for legislation that would enhance the United States anti-trafficking policy by upgrading the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau. We represent members of both the current and previous President Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As members of the current President’s Advisory Council, we studied the issue of domestic and international trafficking for most of the past year and issued a report with recommendations to President Obama.  One of the recommendations was to upgrade the Office to a Bureau.

Our April 2013 Report states: “The Council appreciates and acknowledges not only the diplomacy and monitoring carried out by J/TIP, but the level of expertise and innovation the Office brings to the anti-trafficking movement.  This Council believes that it is vitally important that the State Department’s J/TIP be elevated to a State Department Bureau, on equal footing with the Regional Bureaus and other priority issues for this Administration. Making J/TIP a Bureau would improve collaboration with the Regional Bureaus, Embassies, and international interlocutors.”

We are grateful that legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to upgrade the Office to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.  This simple redesignation, which does not involve additional bureaucracy or expense, will give J/TIP and its leadership access to the Secretary of State and parity with regional Assistant Secretaries. This upgrade is required for the issue of slavery eradication to receive the attention it requires.

As leaders of faith based and community organizations, we respectfully urge you to support this legislation, which sharpens the United States’ most precious diplomatic tool.  The men and women who staff and lead the J/TIP Office are the nation’s leading experts on modern day slavery.  While we understand that anti-trafficking concerns will sometimes be preempted by other U.S. interests, we believe that it is essential that J/TIP’s leadership have a seat at the table where key decisions on diplomacy and strategy are being developed and implemented.

We respectfully urge you to support H.R. 2283, “The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith in the House and S._____, companion legislation in the Senate that is sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal.

For information, please contact Allison Hollobaugh, and Joel Cohen, .

Sincerely,

 

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, Policy Link

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in American

Lynne Hybels, Co-founder, Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church

Miaohong Hsiangju Liu, Buddha’s Light International Association

Maria Nagorski, Executive Director, Fair Chance DC

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice-President, Rabbinical Assembly

Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Elder Steven Snow, First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Susan K. Stern, Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Past President, Leadership Council of Women Religious

Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President, Mexican American Catholic College

The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches of Christ-USA

Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Nancy Ratzan, Immediate Past President, National Council of Jewish Women

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

The Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only

Faith-Based Council Members sign-on to letter re ending human trafficking – Secretary of State Kerry

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington DC

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to express our strong support for current legislation that would enhance the United States anti-trafficking policy by upgrading the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.

We represent members of both the current and previous President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As members of the current President’s Advisory Council, we studied the issue of domestic and international trafficking for the past year and issued a report with recommendations to President Obama.  One of the recommendations was to upgrade the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a Bureau.

Our April 2013 Report states: “The Council appreciates and acknowledges not only the diplomacy and monitoring carried out by J/TIP, but the level of expertise and innovation the Office brings to the anti-trafficking movement.  This Council believes that it is vitally important that the State Department’s J/TIP be elevated to a State Department Bureau, on equal footing with the Regional Bureaus and other priority issues for this Administration. Making J/TIP a Bureau would improve collaboration with the Regional Bureaus, Embassies, and international interlocutors.”

We are grateful that legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate entitled, “The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” to upgrade the Office to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.  This simple redesignation, which does not involve additional bureaucracy or expense, will give J/TIP and its leadership access to the Secretary of State and parity with regional Assistant Secretaries. This upgrade is required for the issue of slavery eradication to receive the attention it requires.

As leaders of faith based and community organizations, we respectfully urge you to support this legislation, which sharpens the United States’ most precious diplomatic tool.  The men and women who staff and lead the J/TIP Office are the nation’s leading experts on modern day slavery.  While we understand that anti-trafficking concerns may sometimes be preempted by other U.S. interests, we believe that it is essential that J/TIP’s leadership have a seat at the table where key decisions on diplomacy and strategy are being developed and implemented.

We respectfully urge you to take any action in your authority to elevate the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau.

Sincerely,

 

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, Policy Link

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in American

Lynne Hybels, Co-founder, Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church

Miaohong Hsiangju Liu, Buddha’s Light International Association

Maria Nagorski, Executive Director, Fair Chance DC

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice-President, Rabbinical Assembly

Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Elder Steven Snow, First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Susan K. Stern, Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Past President, Leadership Council of Women Religious

Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President, Mexican American Catholic College

The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches of Christ-USA

Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Nancy Ratzan, Immediate Past President, National Council of Jewish Women

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

The Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only

Supreme Court Defends First Amendment Rights Engaged in the Fight Against AIDS For U.S. Organizations

Today, six justices of the Supreme Court of the United States issued the majority  decision in Agency for International Development, et al. –v- Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. et al., finding that federal agencies mandating that organizations receiving government funding for the global fight against AIDS must hold the same opinion as the United States government to qualify for funding.

Responding  to the escalating pandemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Congress of the United States passed the “United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003,” allocating billions of dollars to fund non-governmental organizations around the globe in multi-faceted efforts to increase access to treatment, offer supportive care, train health care workers, accelerate research and reduce at-risk behaviors.   As part of efforts designed to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, at that time the fourth highest cause of death in the world,  legislators recognized sex trafficking as a factor in the escalation of the disease.

Congress charged the Department of Health and Human Services {HHS} and the United States Agency for International Development {USAID} with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the 2003 funding Act.  The agencies then developed protocol that required recipient agencies, in effect, to adopt the United States government’s position opposing prostitution and sex trafficking as a policy statement in order to qualify for funding.   Agencies of the United Nations, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Health Organization were exempted from the regulation.

The Alliance for an Open Society and others  challenged that requirement based on the first amendment right in the United States guaranteeing freedom of speech and the right to hold opinions and policies at odds with those favored by the government.

“The Supreme Court decision today,” said The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, “represents a victory for all those engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  The issue is not whether any of us who have long worked in this battle are promoting particular behaviors,  but rather our ability to reach those most in need of safe space and compassionate care. “

“The decision today prevents the U.S. government from telling people what they must say in cases where being judgmental may well determine whether individuals most at risk get the help they need in either remaining HIV-negative or managing their health status in a life-affirming way,” added The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair of the Moderator’s Public Policy Team.  “We serve in a movement of faith founded on the teachings of a man who cautioned against judgment,” she added, “and who proclaimed that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter heaven before many others.  Today, at least, they will be free to enter the offices of agencies around the globe who can offer them the information and health care access critical to saving their lives now.”

This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator’s Public Policy Team of

Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute.

For more information, contact The Rev. Pat Bumgardner .

Senate abandons LGBT couples in U.S. with failure to pass inclusive immigration reform

May 22, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to exclude same-sex bi-national couples from legislation reforming the U.S. immigration system.  Due to lack of support and threatened opposition, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) withdrew his amendment that would have allowed LGBT American citizens to sponsor their foreign-born legal spouses for citizenship, a benefit long afforded to opposite-sex married couples.  It would have corrected a wrong that needlessly divides American families and tears husbands, wives, and parents away from their loved ones each day.  Rev. Pat Bumgardner, the Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute, issued the following statement:

 

“There, indeed, is room for all.  Whether we were brought here forcefully, of our own free will, or otherwise, we all call this country home.  As people of faith, we see the innate humanity in all immigrants.  We stand with them as members of our human family.  We will not accept any system of power that seeks to divide us from one another, especially our most vulnerable.  For these reasons, we express our grave disappointment in our elected leaders in the U.S. Senate for willfully excluding same-sex bi-national families from immigration reform efforts they have underway.  As a nation, we are always stronger together.  Those who would divide us, those who would leave anyone behind should be ashamed for not living up to the ideals our nation professes.  Senators who promised to undermine attempts to pass truly comprehensive immigration reform and those who bowed to their vows are simply wrong and subject themselves to the wrong set of values.”

 

“We will continue to work with the broad coalition of immigration reform partners, grassroots activists, and our elected officials to ensure that bi-national same-sex couples, along with all other immigrants (regardless of their legal status) are included in the bill as it heads to the full Senate.  We call on all our allies in the Senate to join us.”

 

For more information on the work of the Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches and comprehensive immigration reform, see “No Strangers to God:  A Call for Sensible Immigration Reform that Supports and Reunites Families.” http://mccchurch.org/no-strangers-to-god-a-call-for-sensible-immigration-reform-that-supports-and-reunites-families/

 

 

For more information, contact Rev. DeWayne Davis at

 

This statement prepared by Kareem Murphy on behalf of the Public Policy Team,

Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute.

Observe International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17th

MCC Resources

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IDAHO_Logo[1]Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Washington Post, March 12, 2010

 

Since 2005, millions of concerned people world-wide have joined together each year for a day of action against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination, highlighting personal stories and direct action to bring equal rights to LGBTI persons in every corner of the world.  Now understood to be the “international LGBT solidarity day,” International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) has inspired more than 100 countries to engage their citizens and institutions in intentional conversations around the rights and quality of life issues for sexual minorities within their borders.  As a result, a global movement for civil and human rights for LGBTI people is fomenting unprecedented momentum for change.  But more needs to be done.

 

On May 17th, join others from all over the world in raising your voice in your church, school, and/or community against homophobia and transphobia.  This is our opportunity to bring a message of equal rights and non-discrimination to regions and countries where civil and human rights have been stifled and to build alliances with those who are willing and able to mobilize for action in a comprehensive campaign for equal rights.  Further, all of our actions against homophobia and transphobia forecast to political leaders and social and religious institutions that the demand for civil and human rights for LGBTI people will not be silenced.

 

The Global Justice Institute and MCC’s Public Policy Team join in solidarity with LGBTI persons and allies in observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and urge all members of MCC to raise their voices against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination.

 

There are many ways that you can participate:

  • Change your Facebook profile picture to the logo for IDAHO on May 17th
  • Tweet about the event and your local action using the hash tag #may17IDAHO
  • Publicize IDAHO in your church bulletin
  • Organize an event in your church, school, or community.

The resources below can help you make the most of your observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia:

Join Religious Leaders in the Call to Close Guantanamo

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Today at 10 AM EDT, C-SPAN will broadcast an important briefing on the situation at Guantanamo and how the President can move forward with closing the prison there.  We encourage you to watch it.  The briefing is hosted by Rep. Jim Moran and is sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Constitution Project, and the New America Foundation.

The situation at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center continues to deteriorate.  Eleven years after it first opened, and more than 4 years after President Obama mandated its closure, there are still 166 men being held at Guantanamo – 86 of whom have already been cleared for transfer or release.  At the moment 100 of the detainees, responding to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair over their continued detention, in most cases without charge or trial, are engaged in a prolonged hunger strike.

Last week, 38 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama and to Congress calling for the closing of the detention center.  Please add your name to theirs by also signing the letter.  The letter states, “As people of faith, we oppose torture and indefinite detention without trial because they are contrary to the inherent dignity of the human person. As the nation’s most visible and painful symbol of torture and indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay is a constant reminder of a deep moral wound that will heal only when it is permanently closed.”

Help us build support for closing Guantanamo within your community.  Here are two ways you can get involved:

Join in the 100th Day Weekend of Action
May 17th will mark the 100th day of the hunger strike. We invite you and your congregation to mark this day with a “100th Day Weekend of Action.”  Please find a time during the weekend of May 17-19 to include mention of Guantanamo in your worship service or prayers.  We also invite you to hold a prayer vigil, fast in solidarity, or organize educational and advocacy activities in your congregation.  To assist you we have prepared a Guantanamo Fact SheetSermon Talking Points and a Bulletin Insert with an Interfaith Prayer.  Go to www.nrcat/closegitmo for more information.

Add your name to the religious leaders letter
You can add your voice to the growing chorus demanding that Guantanamo be closed by signing the religious leaders’ letter.  Also, please download a petition version of the letter and circulate it in your congregation, campus or community.

If we can help you or you wish to let us know of your plans, please contact Paz Artaza-Regan .

Thank you for lifting up the importance of closing Guantanamo.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

A timeline of gay and lesbian history in Rhode Island, and nationally

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The R.I. House of Representatives Thursday approved matching same-sex marriage bills after their unanimous approval by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night. Governor Chafee signed them into law shortly afterward.

Take a look back at a timeline of events in gay and lesbian history, here and Rhode Island and across the country:
http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2013/05/a-timeline-of-gay-and-lesbian-history-in-rhode-island-and-nationally.html

ACCEPT, Romanian LGBT organization and partner to Global Justice Institute, takes on Sports and Homophobia

In Case Watch reports, lawyers at the Open Society Justice Initiative provide analysis of notable court decisions and cases that relate to their work to advance human rights law around the world.  Read more