Why do Lutherans get involved in politics?

How do we do God’s work in public life? What is good government anyway?

To address these questions, our church has drafted a Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement: Discipleship in a Democracy. From March 20 to May 20, ELCA members are invited to provide feedback on a draft of the message.

We want to hear from YOU, your CHURCH, and your SYNOD about this draft social message. What’s missing, what do you find insightful, where could there be greater depth?

Read the message here and leave comments here. Virtual discussions by synod are on the horizon–we’ll keep you posted.

 

This writing project was requested by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly and authorized in November 2019 by the ELCA Church Council [CC19.11.47w]. It will be considered for adoption at a June meeting of the council.

Social messages are teaching documents of the ELCA focused on particular social topics. They are intended to focus attention and urge action on timely, pressing matters of social concern to church and society. 

To learn more about the social message and the process of its creation, please see the “Frequently Asked Questions” document. 

Third COVID-19 Stimulus Package

ELCA Advocacy Office in Washington, our partners at Lutheran Services in America (LSA), and our ecumenical and interreligious partners are working feverishly to communicate our values in a now-stalled in the U.S. Senate third Covid-19 Stimulus Package. I am writing with two immediate advocacy needs where your personal voices may make a difference.

We are working to amplify priorities for LSA that can be found in their alert below at the end of this email. LSA may be preparing a special communication for you later today to help you to communicate with your members of Congress. Attached are lists of the members of Congress who particularly need to hear from us on their priorities.

Your calls to Senators and your representatives is urgently needed also for our ELCA advocacy for low wealth communities, immigrants, people who are incarcerated and those who are losing income, employment, housing and more. Our longer list of priorities is here. Top line messaging is below. The Capitol Switchboard can connect you to any of your members at 202-224-3121.

ELCA Advocacy asks that you lift up the urgency of responding now along with the following:

  • Thank you for your bi-partisan efforts in passing the previous two Covid-19 packages.
  • Economic stimulus measures should focus first on low-income and vulnerable communities. Such policies also have the strongest economic impact. Any bailouts and emergency assistance for major industries and businesses must be paired with comparable assistance for economically at risk workers and vulnerable individuals.
  • Increase and expand access to nutrition assistance to prevent families and individuals from going hungry. The CDC recommends people stockpile two weeks of food, but families living paycheck-to-paycheck cannot afford to do so. Others may face reduced paychecks because of reduced hours, and school closures will leave children without access to school lunches and breakfasts. Increase SNAP benefit levels and allow flexibility in use, one of the most effective ways to help stimulate the economy and enable stockpiling for self-quarantine.
  • Strengthen, expand and modernize Unemployment Insurance in order to provide higher benefits, account for the changing workforce (such as the gig economy), and cover workers who may lose their jobs or face new caregiving responsibilities due to the virus (such as school closures). Expand unemployment eligibility to include people whose hours have been reduced due to decreased demand, those whose wages come primarily from tips, those who have run out of sick days, and high-risk populations who need to self-quarantine to protect themselves.
  • As is done in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), any additional employment-focused relief or stimulus legislation must expressly apply to employment at tax-exempt organizations by making tax credits and deductions applicable not just to income taxes, but to the taxes nonprofits pay, such as payroll taxes. Further, Congress should also ensure that relief and stimulus legislation designed to assist for-profit businesses in the areas of unemployment insurance, employee retention, and risk insurance must also address the unique challenges and realities that nonprofits face.

COVID-19 Action Alert

Lawmakers are poised to vote on legislation to combat COVID-19. Call today to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

 

ELCA ADVOCACY   ·  MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2020

Today, the House may revote on a second emergency aid package H.R.6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act which would provide paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expand food assistance and unemployment benefits, and require employers to provide additional protections for health care workers as our communities prepare and address the spread of COVID-19.

The package comes as many of our houses of worship, ministries, businesses and communities grapple with challenging circumstances in the wake of the virus. Our commitment to love our neighbor requires that in addition to social distancing and handwashing precautions, we advocate with and on behalf of those who will suffer most from this disruption, that their needs be front center in our national response.

The House bill, though it falls short of response to other emergency needs such as providing direct funding for people struggling with homelessness, would help protect those of us in the greatest need and who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Now, Congress must quickly consider the funding request and send the bill to the president’s desk.

In times of struggle, many without adequate resources look to congregations to respond to their urgent needs. Lutheran advocates can make an important difference in calling for support for people most often forgotten in times of crisis.

Call your lawmakers today at the Capitol Switchboard – (202) 224-3121 – and ask to speak to your members of Congress. Have the names of your representative and senator ready (lookup tool at govtrack.us) to be accurately directed, and tell your lawmaker to pass the emergency aid as soon as possible – and to ensure that the most vulnerable of us are protected.

Note – Lawmakers have started discussion of a third possible supplemental package that would address the economic effects of the corona virus. ELCA Advocacy is monitoring the situation and will share updates as developments progress.

To learn more:

ELCA Resources for COVID-19: https://elca.org/publichealth

Blog: ELCA advocacy in time of COVID-19 pandemic

Census 2020: Get Counted

California is vulnerable to an undercount:

  • 29 million Californians belong to one or more groups that have been historically undercounted
  • This number is equivalent to 72% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents
  • Hard-to-reach people include renters, young men, children, African-Americans and Latinos

If there’s an undercount of the state population, California may lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as billions of dollars in federal funding for school lunches, Medi-Cal, block grants for affordable housing, and other programs with funding streams based on population.

Sources:
The Following was First Posted on February 24, 2020 by ELCA Advocacy.

Our communities are significantly shaped by census data, and Census 2020 will update these numbers for the first time in 10 years. The ELCA is an official partner of the 2020 Census to encourage the most accurate count possible.

“Funding for over 100 federal programs, many of which combat poverty and hunger and support people in need, are distributed based on population,” says the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Director of ELCA Advocacy. “An accurate count ensures that resources more justly go where they are needed most. It is also critical for representation in the political process as census information determines electoral maps.”

Undercounting is a significant issue among groups which benefit most from anti-poverty programs and from greater representation in decision-making. “Hard to count” individuals in census experience include persons residing in rural areas, young children, LGBTQIA persons, people experiencing homelessness, people who do not speak English, indigenous peoples and racial and ethnic minorities. The Census aims to count everyone regardless of immigration status, and as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, there will not be a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census.

People underrepresented in previous census counts are not strangers. They are part of our congregations and communities. As we work toward a just world where all are fed, for your neighbor and yourself – encourage your community to be counted!

End Child Poverty Advocacy Day

KCRA Coverage of the End Child Poverty rally with legislators present. For Spanish coverage, click here.

LOPP-CA joins other coalitions and advocacy groups for just under 20 lobby days a year to support justice in the public sphere. On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, we joined the End Child Poverty Campaign and many others to advocate for CalEITC expansion, the child tax credit, increased childcare slots for eligible children, and fair compensation for early childhood educators and workers.

 

2020 ELCA ADVOCACY FEDERAL POLICY PRIORITIES

In the ELCA we believe that, through baptism, God is calling us into the world to serve together. We are a church that views governments as helpful ways God is active in our world and that is energized by lively engagement in our faith and public life. When we, as ELCA members, lift our voices together to influence policies that advance the common good, we further God’s work in our world.

Shaped by the ELCA’s social teaching documents and the experiences of its congregations, ministries and partners, we advocate to end world hunger and stands up for policies that create opportunities to overcome poverty, promote peace and dignity, preserve God’s creation and promote racial justice.

You will find ELCA faith-based advocates meeting with policy makers, taking joint action with values-sharing issue partners, writing letters, making public comments, talking with neighbors, asking questions in town hall meetings — listening, learning, educating and visibly and skillfully asserting policy considerations guided by faith foundations.

In addition to faith-based advocacy organized by local congregations and synods, by Lutheran state public policy offices and by Lutheran Office for World Community representation to the United Nations, ELCA Advocacy is active in Washington, D.C. Following are policy priorities on the national horizon for 2020.

Civic engagement

Anticipating the 2020 U.S. presidential election and supporting the church’s #ELCAvotes initiative, ELCA Advocacy will continue to prioritize policy and practice that increases both government inclusion of and civic participation in our communities.

  Domestic Policy

Child nutrition programs — Restore, protect and adequately fund school and community-based feeding programs as part of the federal safety net, and oppose efforts to convert nutrition assistance programs to block grants to states which would over time diminish free and reduced-fee meal benefits.

Criminal justice reform — End mass incarceration, promote fairer sentencing and support restorative reentry programs in our communities through federal and state funding and reforms.

Civil and human rights — Safeguard and promote protections for vulnerable populations, including communities who face barriers, unjust treatment or inequalities on the basis of racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, sexual orientation or class identity.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social policy resolution “Advocating for Child Nutrition,” the social message “Human Rights” and the social statement The Church and Criminal Justice.
Domestic Policy: Housing

Budget concerns — Foster bipartisan cooperation and public support for budgeting of federal programs that fund affordable housing and assist people who are homeless.

Shelter and housing reforms — Ensure that the experience of churches and faith-based ministries informs federal reforms and public rule revisions that affect low-income housing programs.

Natural disaster impact — Support federal disaster aid resources and equitable access to recovery programs that assist communities before and after natural disasters.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” and the social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.
Environment Policy

Mitigation, Adaptation and Resiliency — Support legislation and policies that address the global impact of greenhouse gas emissions, incorporating the principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability. Impacts and related policy considerations are multifaceted, including food security threats, agricultural challenges, increased health issues, national security and the forced migration of thousands.

Sustainability — Encourage and advocate for important legislation to protect frontline communities and vulnerable populations that disproportionately experience the negative impacts of environmental degradation, including climate-related changes that exacerbate existing racial, economic, ecological and social injustices.

Creation care strengths of ELCA — Amplify ELCA experiential, educational and creation-care value resources, expressing faithful hope for the future, at this time of pressing and wide-ranging environmental concerns.

  • GO TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social statements Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice; Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All; and Genetics, Faith and Responsibility.
International Policy

Federal budget considerations — Advocate for robust support for international antipoverty, humanitarian and global health funding (i.e. HIV/AIDS, malaria), as well as funding for conflict prevention and peace-building programs.

Gender Justice — Strengthen U.S. government capacity to prevent gender-based violence, promote girls’ education, protect women and girls during humanitarian crises, and support the economic and health care needs of women and girls globally.

Peace and Diplomacy — Promote human rights and strengthen conflict prevention and peace-building activities around the world, including bilateral and multilateral initiatives.

Migration Policy

Plight of children, women and men fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America — Raise awareness of the challenges and humanitarian stories on the United States’ southern border.

Human rights of migrants — Restore, protect and promote the human rights of those fleeing violence, poverty, environmental degradation or food insecurity, to name a few causes, and urge the relevant governments and ad hoc institutions to protect migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as established under international law, by denouncing policies and practices that exacerbate the risks and discrimination these populations face.

Militarization of foreign aid — Organize against the allocation of funds to militarize the U.S. southern border and the development of practices that compromise the human rights of migrants.

Path to citizenship — Support policy that reinforces Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

  • GO-TOs — Find more in ELCA social teaching resources, including the social messages “Immigration,” “Human Rights” and “Gender-based Violence.”
How can you get involved?

Become part of the ELCA Advocacy network at ELCA.org/advocacy/signup! You will receive monthly updates on policy activity and be invited to take action at moments when your voice and experience will have an impact.

Find resources for your advocacy efforts at ELCA.org/resources/advocacy and a community with which to engage on social media at @ELCAadvocacy. Together we endeavor to live into our baptismal covenant to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

January 2020 Update

The Lutheran Office of Public Policy begins the 2020 legislative year remaining committed to the principles of economic justice, human rights, accompaniment and responsible stewardship and sustainability in service of a more peaceful and compassionate California. Our legislative and executive priorities for the year are:

IMMIGRATION/MIGRATION POLICY: We are looking forward to living into the ELCA declaration of being a sanctuary denomination in California- a sanctuary state. Our foundation is to advocate for and accompany our siblings who are immigrating to and moving through California. Education, poverty and other healthcare and human services remain a challenge for this population and we are committed to walking with them to seek equity.

HOUSING RIGHTS AND HOMELESSNESS: California is in the midst of a housing crisis that is affecting every corner of the state and wide swaths of the economic scale. We here at LOPP-CA are committed to finding equitable funding streams to encourage sustainable building of housing throughout California. Additionally, we are seeking services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

FOOD AND FARMING: California’s role in agricultural leadership is unrivaled. This affords us great opportunity to be leaders in food and farming policies that ensure just stewardship of our state’s resources to feed ourselves and the nation. If we believe that food and water are human rights- and we do- care must be taken to see that food is grown, transported and distributed equitably and with maximal attention toward care of God’s creation. We here at LOPP-CA are committed to these goals.

We look forward to continuing fruitful partnerships with ministry partners and others in civil society toward these and other goals as they serve to help us live our gospel mandates to Love Our Neighbor.

UN Update: January 2020

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

Dennis Frado, director

ELCA HIV & AIDS STRATEGY: In Commemoration of World AIDS Day (1 December each year), LOWC Program Associate Rebecca Anderson spoke on ELCA’s HIV & AIDS Strategy at a one-day Symposium (7 December 2019) hosted by the Peoples’ Community Evangelical Lutheran Church’s HIV Awareness project, in Baltimore, MD. The theme was “Ending AIDS 2030, Act Now.”

Dr. Ulysses Burley III (CEO of UB the Cure) focused his presentation on the UNAIDS Fast-track strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. 30 countries worldwide account for 89% of new HIV infections. The UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy stresses the necessity of concentrating its resources towards the most affected cities and communities within those countries most affected. This requires significant commitments from both national and international sources.

Ms. Anderson highlighted the Strategy’s recognition that “the body of Christ has AIDS… [we are] a church that is HIV positive.” The Strategy urges the Church to turn outward in compassion through a multifaceted approach of prayer, charity, advocacy and education in combatting the HIV & AIDS pandemic. ELCA, in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation, have been working with companion churches, partners, the government and civil society to “halt the spread of HIV through effective prevention, treatment and care, eliminate the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who are HIV-positive and reduce the conditions of poverty and marginalization that contributes to the spread of HIV.”

Derrick L. Weston (Director of Programs and Volunteers at HopeSprings), spoke about the faith community response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, particularly in Baltimore and Maryland. Mr. Weston shared statistics for the Baltimore area, stating that the “Baltimore-Columbia-Towson Metropolitan Region is 10th in the nation for diagnosed HIV cases and 4th in the nation for people living with HIV, with 1 in 41 people in Baltimore City HIV positive.” Mr. Weston shared HopeSprings’ best practices, bringing those affected back into a positive relationship with the church. HopeSprings offers a holistic approach and appropriate referral services when working with those affected and works together with the faith community, providing wholistic ministry training and community engagement training.

A Q&A period featured Ms. Patrice Henry (Senior Community Program Coordinator/Project LINK Patient Advocate, John Hopkins University – School of Medicine) who spoke about living with HIV & AIDS. Diagnosed late and considered ‘a miracle’ by the doctor who correctly diagnosed her, Ms. Henry spoke of her journey fighting the stigma she grew up with and her experience counselling those affected.

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: On Human Rights Day (December 10), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) hosted an event titled “Celebrating Human Rights Day: Youth standing up for human rights.” In his introductory remarks, Andrew Gilmour (Assistant Secretary-General, OHCHR) spoke about the “sustained and sometimes ferocious pushback against the entire global human rights agenda that we haven’t seen before.” The United Nations Secretary General Antόnio Guterres commended the efforts of young human rights activists, stating “they are powerful torchbearers for a better future, and we owe them all our support.” A video message was given by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who reminded viewers that “what is at stake is our freedom, our security and our environment, we must all rise up peacefully to achieve a world of rights for all.”

A panel discussion featuring youth took place, moderated by Jessica Stern (Executive Director of OutRight Action International) who emphasized the importance of UN using universal language in policies that translates into local languages. Fatou (Toufah) Jallow (23), from The Gambia, supported this, commenting on her struggle to break the silence and stigma around rape after experiencing such sexual violence, as the English word translates in her local language to “falling on someone” and does not express the gravity of the human rights violation. Feliciana Herrera Ceto, (23) a youth indigenous leader from the Ixil Region in Guatemala, was unable to attend due to her visa being denied but sent her remarks including “[Human Rights] have come at a great cost. I have been criminalized for standing up for the human rights of the indigenous/for exercising my rights to self-determination in order to keep peace in our communities. We don’t enjoy Human Rights.” Carl Smith (17) from the indigenous Yupiaq tribe in Alaska commented on the way climate change has had a detrimental effect on his traditional and cultural hunting rituals. He submitted a complaint to the Child Rights Committee alleging that climate change is violating his human rights. Alexus Lawrence (18) spoke of her childhood experience of homelessness and now advocates to change the face of homelessness, urging all to “understand your power, understand your privilege and use it.”

COMMEMORATION OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF CEDAW: On December 18, the United Nations held a commemorative event for the 40thanniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Since its adoption by the General Assembly in 1979, it has become a leading force for transformative change for women’s equality and empowerment. Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour (OHCHR) stated in his opening remarks that “one manifestation of all this is cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against women who have cooperated with the UN and the human rights mechanisms.”

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, highlighted “it is a day to celebrate…this treaty has significantly improved the lives of women over the last 40 years.” Mr. Muhammad-Bande urged men and boys around the world to understand that a woman in power is not a threat and called on all Member States to uphold the rights of women.

In the following panel discussion, Ms. Bandana Rana (Vice-Chair of the CEDAW Committee) highlighted that CEDAW has “received hundreds of state parties reports on their obligations to promote and protect women’s rights”, and has seen an increase in the adoption of “legislative and administrative reforms to eliminate discrimination and prevent gender-based violence against women.” Ms. Rana stated “we must affirm the gains we have made in advancing human rights, build on the hope of women’s mobilization and transformative actions, and take collective action to forge solidarity with other movements demanding accountability of its states and the private sector.”

INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS DAY CELEBRATION: The United Nations celebrated the resilience, human rights and dignity of Migrants worldwide on International Migration Day (December 18). The International Organization of Migration (IOM) hosted an event of music, documentary sharing and firsthand accounts of migration from the Democratic Republic of Congo to America. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ashraf El Nour, the IOM UN Office Director, highlighted that “we often forget the experiences, stories, sacrifices of individual migrants. Today we would like to celebrate the human face of migrants…Human mobility should not be prohibited or restricted, or even worse – criminalized.” Mr. Nour emphasized that migrants add value to the societies they are in and urged all to quell toxic migration narratives.

H.E. Ms. Gerladine Byrne Nason, the Permanent Representative of Ireland (pictured), commented from a global perspective that “migrants today are all too frequently treated as a threat to security”. She stated the need to engage with host countries to eradicate frequent toxic migration narratives. Ms. Nason shared 2019 migration statistics, stating in 2019 there were “25 million refugees, 3.5 million asylum seekers and 41 million internationally displaced peoples.”

A film screening of “One Way Ticket”, was showcased and the Director and two of the film’s protagonists, Mr Jean Pieere Ntegyeye and Mr. Isaiah Bahati, joined for a panel discussion around their journey from the same migrant camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo to America. Mr Gregoire Grosset, the director, commented on the interviews he conducted within migration camps and highlighted that “even when they [migrants] face[d] distress, they never complained” and that they maintained quiet dignity through their suffering.

Read International Migration Day UN News article here.

NEW LOWC FACEBOOK PAGE! The Lutheran Office for World Community has some exciting news. We now have our very own Facebook account that can be accessed here. We will share more of our work and engagement with the United Nations on this new media platform and welcome all to the page!

2020 Legislative Session Opens

The California Legislative Session begins today, January 6, 2020 and will run through August 31, 2020 with recesses throughout for members to meet with constituents in their districts.

We are looking forward to following bills in the California Senate and Assembly in four areas:

  • Hospitality: Immigration & Migration
  • Shelter: The Unhoused
  • Sustenance: Sustainable and Equitable Food & Farming Systems
  • Human Rights: Deep Childhood Poverty

We also look forward to Lutheran Lobby Day on May 20, 2020 at the Capitol building in Sacramento, where we will share our policy priorities and values as Lutherans with our representatives. All are welcome. Registration opens March 1, 2020.

This year, Director Regina Q. Banks and Hunger Fellow Nicole Newell will continue visiting and hosting advocacy trainings in congregations throughout the state. We are grateful for these partnerships and will continue to work with ELCA Advocacy, our Synod partners, CalLu, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in building a more just California.