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 Sheet, Sermon 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.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
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:
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
from U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
The pages that follow document the often difficult march forward of human freedom around the world. Significant progress is being made in some places, but in far too many others governments fall short of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ vision of a world where people live “free and equal in dignity and rights.”
A week after the European Union called for proposals from organisations in Zambia working on human rights, including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, the Minister of Home Affairs, Edgar Lungu, stated in an interview that the EU was promoting same-sex marriages in Zambia – sparking a storm of homophobic bigotry and hate-speech.
Read full article http://www.osisa.org/lgbti/blog/sowing-poisonous-seeds-zambia
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first religious LGBT delegation to meet with a U.S. sitting president in 1979. She is currently a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The White House announced a forum to review progress on the fight against human trafficking, a cause to which President Barack Obama proclaimed his commitment in his groundbreaking speech in September of 2012. One partner group is the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which released a report called, “Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery” on 10 April 2013. (Full Report)
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and member of the Council, said, “Today, we stand against the sexual or economic enslavement of any human being. We are abolitionists from all religions because we share the belief that each human being is a creation of God.”
The report states:
There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe. … Victims of modern-day slavery include U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, children and adults, who are trapped in forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation, with little hope of escape.
Trafficking in persons is estimated to be one of the top-grossing criminal industries in the world, with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year. The extraordinary reach of this crime is shocking—with cases reported in virtually every country in the world…
“With over 77% of victims being persons of color and the targeting of homeless youth, 40% of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, our mandate is clear,” said Dr. Wilson. “Prejudice makes people vulnerable to hate, to violence and to being enslaved so we must challenge prejudice wherever it is.”
The report made 10 recommendations ranging from scaling up the fight against slavery throughout the world, minimizing purchase of slave-produced goods, anti-trafficking work by government agencies, ad campaign, hotline, national summit, call to action and “tool kit” for religious groups on what to do.
“All MCC congregations and faith leaders understand that it is our stories that change hearts and minds. We are walking a path toward freedom and must bring others with us. When anyone is enslaved, we are all enslaved,” said Dr. Wilson. “When a child or worker cannot tell their story, we must tell it for them and work for their freedom.”
The report highlighted the stories of:
Statement from the Public Policy Team
Metropolitan Community Churches
For Immediate Release: 28 March 2013
METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCHES
STANDS WITH LT. DAN CHOI
AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Today, March 28, the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches proudly stands with our friend and colleague in the fight for equality, Lt. Dan Choi. He defended himself in a unique criminal trial at the federal level regarding an act of peaceful protest, as guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.
Lt. Choi has been an advocate for justice and human rights at great personal and professional cost along the way.
At the heart of Lt. Choi’s case was one of our basic rights in the United States: freedom of speech. Lt. Choi stood accused of “failure to obey a lawful order” by the U.S. Park Police for protesting in front of the White House, and was found guilty and fined.
Protesting in front of the White House has long been a public square space for free speech and assembly. On the day of his arrest, Lt Choi and 13 others were peacefully protesting against a homophobic military policy, “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell,” which has since been repealed.
According to a previous statement by Peter Tatchell , an advocate for Lt Choi:
“Generally, White House protestors are arrested and required to pay a $100 fine to a municipal court, the equivalent of a parking ticket in the District of Columbia. Instead, in this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is invoking a seldom-used federal level criminal charge called ‘Failure to Obey.’ Choi’s case is the first time since anti-Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan was prosecuted, that a protestor has been tried federally for demonstrating at the White House.”
We give thanks today that some modicum of civility prevailed and that while found guilty, Lt. Choi did not receive the kind of unusual and harsh punishment that the Attorney General’s office sought.
“I am proud of Lt. Choi” said Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Chief Programming Minister at Sunshine Cathedral and former member of the U.S. Navy. “Dan has stood as an example of what it means to serve his country proudly and with distinction. I am personally touched by his witness and conviction to stand for what he believes in, a better and just society for all.”
Today we offer this prayer, taken from the Book for Worship for the U.S. Forces, for Lt. Choi and all who serve and have served faithfully in the armed services: “Lord, make us instruments of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Amen.”
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches,
The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Member, The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.
For more information:
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
MCC Public Policy Team
From the Office of the Moderator’s Public Policy Team
Metropolitan Community Churches
For Immediate Release: 27 March 2013
HISTORIC SUPREME COURT HEARINGS
ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY
IN THE UNITED STATES
History was made on March 26th and 27th as the Supreme Court of the United States held its first hearings on Marriage Equality. Metropolitan Community Church clergy, congregations and leadership were there providing a meaningful witness in support of Equality and Justice for all people. The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide said, “I am so proud of MCC’s witness at the Supreme Court, with so many others! I am proud of our Public Policy Team and all our churches, pastors, and members who participated in so many rallies and prayer vigils both in our nation’s capital and around the country! We will win this fight.”
On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, the Court heard arguments both for and against California’s controversial Proposition 8, which stripped away marriage rights for same gender couples in that state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged those who sought to deny same gender couples marriage rights on the basis of procreation with the question, “Suppose a state said that because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be constitutional?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg picked up on the theme, asking whether someone serving a life sentence in prison should be prevented from marrying because there is no possibility of them becoming a parent. Another part of the hearing focused on whether the four private individuals seeking to uphold Proposition 8 – originally five before one pulled out – had the authority to bring the case to the Supreme Court after the California state government decided not to defend the measure.
“What I heard today made me optimistic that we soon will see further progress. The questioning strongly suggested that the justices either will rule that the proponents of Prop 8 did not have the right to appeal the trial court’s ruling that the initiative is unconstitutional – which should again permit same-sex couples to marry in California – or will outright find Proposition 8 unconstitutional. While it is always hard to know for sure, there did not seem to be five votes to uphold the measure,” wrote Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director for Lambda Legal.
Wednesday’s hearing focused on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which deprives same gender couples of more than 1,100 federal rights that come with legal marriage. At the close of the hearing, most analysts agreed that the court appeared ready to strike down DOMA. Under the law, federal tax, Social Security, pension and bankruptcy benefits, along with family medical leave protections and other provisions do not apply to gay and lesbian couples legally married in states that recognize such unions. A decision is expected within the next three months.
“The founding principle of MCC ~ that we are all who we are by the grace and design of God ~ has become the rallying cry for people across the land seeking marriage equality and, perhaps equally important, seeing the connection between marriage equality and every other movement for equal access and equal treatment under the law. The victory of this moment is that a wide spectrum of humanity came together to stand for our common human dignity and rights. That victory will lead ultimately to the justice marriage equality represents,” said The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair of MCC’s Public Policy Team.
“Regardless of the outcome, what we have witnessed during these two days cannot be put back into a closet or a box. Love wins today and every day,” said Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Marriage Equality Director for MCC’s Public Policy Team. “We will continue to be vigilant in the days pending the high court’s decision, and we will not lose an opportunity to move this fight for equality forward at every level with every opportunity we have.”
“MCC started this battle over 40 years ago,” concluded The Rev. Elder Wilson. “We offered the first public weddings for same gender loving couples in the United States and our Founder filed the first lawst seeking legal recognition of our relationships. We have demonstrated on courthouse steps and marched through the streets, celebrated our victories and mourned our losses and kept moving forward. No one knows what the outcome of the Supreme Court hearings will be, but this I trust: Justice will prevail! And whether it’s today or next June or many Junes from now, we will win the right to Marriage Equality for the sake of God’s people everywhere.”
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches,
The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair, and The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Member
and Director of Marriage and Relational Equality Issues.
Contact: The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Director for Marriage Equality
Statement of Faith on
Women’s Reproductive Health, Rights, And Justice
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
“[R]eproductive health addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life. Reproductive health, therefore, implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this are the right of men and women to be informed of and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of their choice, and the right of access to appropriate health care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.” World Health Organization
“Reproductive justice is a framework that places the lived experiences of women at the center of the debate and recognizes that they must have the social, economic, and political resources to be healthy, have healthy families, and live in healthy communities.” Cynthia R. Milsap
Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) affirms faith in fundamental human rights, the inherent worth and dignity of all human persons, and freedom and equality for women throughout the world. The sacred texts that we hold most dear are a biblical witness to the theological truth that all women are created in the image of God, and thus, are worthy of human dignity as children of God. We recognize that there are systemic injustices that rob women of their dignity and impede the free exercise of a range of choices that may improve their lives and lives of their children and families for the better. We believe that government and public policy must address the broader socioeconomic barriers to women’s social, political, physical, spiritual, and economic wellbeing. Accordingly, we embrace the principles of the reproductive justice movement, which affirm “people have the right to have children, people have the right not to have children, people have the right to raise their children in safe and healthy environments, and people have the right to express their sexuality without oppression.” We join with women, activists and organizers, nonprofit service agencies, and faith communities of every tradition in urging the federal government to provide and maintain adequate funding and support for research and development, prevention and treatment in matters affecting the health and quality of lives of women, including affordable health care insurance, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer, safe and effective contraceptives, and other methods of pregnancy prevention, maternity care, menopause and chronic illnesses unique to or prevalent among women.
MCC affirms that all people are entitled to the rights and resources that equip them to make their own decisions about their bodies, their sexuality, and their well-being, including the inalienable right of women to control their bodies. We call on all levels of government and civil society to honor and respect those rights. Further, we call on local, state, and federal governments to correct the conditions that underlie the high rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion through responsible sexuality education, affordable family planning services, and high-quality, accessible medical care; and to provide women with access to reproductive health care and information related to reproductive health care regardless of their ability to pay. Because all women have dignity, they are entitled to the best medical care and advice possible. They are entitled to society’s assumption that they, alone, are capable of making the best choices around their reproductive health care. We believe that one of the ways women may express their dignity is in their having and exercising control over their bodies when it comes to questions of reproductive health care. It is not up to government, civil society, or organized religion to instruct them on what their choice should be. We honor that tradition by calling on all levels of government to ensure that all women have the right to choose their reproductive health care options and the means to exercise those options at their sole discretion.
MCC opposes all efforts by federal, state, and local governments to create barriers to or roll back advances in reproductive health care options and access to them. We oppose all efforts throughout the world, and in the United States in particular, to revert to systems of back alley care that preceded the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade and its equivalent throughout the world. We affirm the rights of women to consult with their medical professionals. We oppose any effort that would substitute God, clergy, doctors or nurses with lawmakers and politicians. We affirm the right of all women to consult with the God of their understanding and the medical professionals of their choosing when making decisions about their own reproductive health care. Women should be able to engage fully their faith on questions of moral direction and consult their doctors for their health care without sanction or interference by government or any other institution. Women’s reproductive health care decisions are, perhaps, the most private ones they make concerning their bodies. That must be respected by the law and civil society.
MCC calls on all people of faith and every facet of civil society to exercise love, grace, compassion, and understanding for women with respect to their human rights and dignity. MCC resolves to dedicate prayer and human capital to eliminating conditions around the world that compromise a woman’s right to choose and impede every woman’s ability to enjoy lives of social, political, physical, spiritual, and economic wellbeing. With God’s help, may it be so.
 World Health Organization, Health Topics: Reproductive Health, February 4, 2012
 Cynthia R. Milsap, “Women’s Reproductive Justice: A matter of social justice and a call to care about the least of us,” Ecclesio.com, September 24, 2012.
 Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Congressional Briefing: Faith Support for Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice, March 11, 2013; Ross, Loretta J., “The Movement for Reproductive Justice: Six-years Old and Growing,” Collective Voices 2009: 11:4; Leonard, Toni M. Bond, “Laying the Foundation for the Reproductive Framework,” Collective Voices 2009: 11:4.
Pope Francis! Pope Francisco! When I heard his name, I thought, “What an auspicious beginning!” His name alludes to St. Francis Xavier, founding Jesuit scholar, but it is St. Francis of Assisi, renowned for service to the poor and his love for all God’s creatures, that Pope Francis is claiming. We pray that ministry to and with the poor become the hallmark of his legacy.
Read the full article on the Huffington Post