Stand with the Global Justice Institute. No discrimination! No religious exemptions!

Today we write to address the imminent possibility that President Donald Trump will sign an executive order rescinding former President Barack Obama’s executive order prohibiting discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We also share concern that President Trump will, within a few days, sign an executive order that would create a religious exemption for those who oppose marriage equality or any ordinance providing protections for LGBT people based on their religious beliefs or moral conviction.

While supporting the right to freely worship as one chooses, the Global Justice Institute absolutely opposes any and all overly broad executive orders that give individuals and organizations permission to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity as long as they maintain that to serve LGBT people violates their religious belief or moral conviction. As long as anyone can invoke their religious belief or moral conviction as a reason not to serve others, it is clear that the government is facilitating segregation and discrimination in public accommodations.

Unfortunately, such religious exemptions have a more far-reaching impact than the proponents are willing to admit. Employees in schools, child welfare agencies, and publicly-funded agencies will be allowed to refuse to serve not only same-sex couples, but also single mothers and unwed heterosexual couples, by simply claiming that they have a religious reason to withhold services. Common job duties and workplace policies that ensure that all citizens can freely access goods and services will now be overruled by an all-purpose license to discriminate. Rules and policies that apply to all people equally in the public sphere will now be subject to religious objections which unfairly target people based on their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, ethnicity, immigration status, HIV status, or a combination of these characteristics.

We strongly condemn these exclusionary practices that will take us back to a time of segregation in public accommodations, recalling a dark period in U.S. history of separate and unequal access to services. The effect is that LGBTQ people will be second class citizens, lacking equal access to public accommodations and subject to the whims of those who might fire or bar entry and deny services or health care to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We encourage all people of goodwill to add your voices in support of human equality and equal access to public accommodations by posting this statement on your Facebook pages or websites and linking to your other social media.

The Rev. DeWayne Davis
Member, Government and Policy Team
Global Justice Institute

Chelsea Manning

Held in a military prison for men and denied necessary medical and psychological treatment, the thirty-five year sentence of Chelsea Manning was commuted by President Obama on Tuesday, 17 January 2017. Thank you, Mr. President, for saving her life.

Manning confessed to leaking military incident logs and diplomatic cables, and later apologized for her offences. She had hoped to bring reform to things like the treatment of detainees held without trial.

Prior to the commutation, both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange–whose enterprise, Wikileaks, rose to global attention with the documents Manning provided access to–offered to surrender to the judicial process if Manning was released. So far, though, ‘all is quiet on the Western front,’ as neither has stepped forward to honor their offers, which perhaps points us in the direction of what is truly at stake in the case of Chelsea Manning: courage of conviction.

Manning was stationed in Iraq when she decided to try to spur a global conversation about civilian deaths and military abuses in war zones. When caught, she acknowledged her actions and faced a military tribunal. At the time, she was suffering psychologically, if not physically, struggling to come to terms with her gender identity and often, it is reported, becoming catatonic mid-sentence in conversations, which should have signaled a need for immediate care and treatment to her superiors and fellow soldiers. Instead, she continued working with no intervention.

Whatever our individual political persuasions or views on her actions, in mind and heart it seems, she believed her choices would lead to a kind of soul searching on the part of the human family.

Instead of condemning a woman who has already served a longer term than anyone else convicted in recent history of similar offenses, or a President whose compassion may well have spared her a virtual death sentence, perhaps we should use this moment to search our hearts and minds for our most deeply held convictions and ask ourselves what price we are each willing to pay to make our world a more honest, open, safe and mercy-filled place.
The Global Justice Institute

An invitation to action to combat gun violence

The first anniversary of the attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church (Charleston, South Carolina, USA).  The massacre at the Pulse Nightclub (Orlando, Florida, USA). NewtownSan BernardinoVirginia TechFort Hood.  It’s not just about the list of mass shootings being too long. There should be no list.  The Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches are inviting of people of faith, peace, and goodwill to rise up, raise their voices, and work to end gun violence.  We believe in a world where everyone should be free from gun violence.  We resolve to work toward building that world.
That the Pulse Nightclub attack happened within days of the first anniversary of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charlestown reminds us of the common link bigotry plays in gun violence.  One attack targeted the LGBT and immigrant communities and the other targeted African-Americans in their place of worship. Through our prayers and worship services, we remember the dead and honor their sacrifices, and call out the common thread of hate in all these acts.  MCC stands at the intersection of so many targeted and marginalized groups, providing a space for safety and healing.  Joy MCC (Orlando, Florida, USA) along with several other MCC congregations have hosted or participated in interfaith prayer services and gatherings that focused on the shootings at Pulse and on ending gun violence.  We hope that your community of faith will join in the effort to prevent the proliferation of guns and end gun violence.
Activism Through Worshipgunviolenceactiongroup
Our goal is to build faith communities that actively oppose gun violence through our Sunday worship, our prayer life, and our special programs.  Here are some suggestions on how you can start:
  • Visit Faiths United Against Gun Violence to find a wealth of resources for worship service including litanies, music, sermon topics, and prayers.
  • Sign up to participate in/endorse the National Vigil for Gun Violence Victims and National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend (14-18 December 2016).
  • See the liturgies that Sunshine Cathedral MCC (HERE) and Christ the Liberator MCC (HERE) used in special worship services to ground their response to gun violence, especially in the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando.
  • See the liturgy used at All God’s Children MCC to honor and memorialize the Emmanuel 9 (HERE).
  • Find additional resources (HERE) on gun violence prevention at the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Activism Through Advocacy
Tell your lawmakers to support sensible gun control legislation!  We can build faith communities that actively oppose gun violence by petitioning government at all levels to outlaw assault weapons and to appropriately regulate sales, possession, and use of guns and other rifles.  We can express our faith in our actions.  May our actions lead to an end to the sale and distribution of assault rifles, stronger regulation of gun manufacturing and purchases, an end to the violent use of firearms, and the building of safer communities.
We encourage you to take actions at these levels of government.
  • Federal:  Write your members of Congress and tell them to support legislation that helps prevent gun violence!  The Brady Campaign has a useful tool that will queue your email message to your congressional delegation and local media.  While supporters of gun control lacked sufficient votes to advance the issue, the work remains and we must not relent.  Contact your delegation and ask for their support for common sense gun laws.
  • State:  States United to Prevent Gun Violence offers a clearinghouse of state-based anti-gun advocacy organizations whom you may contact for campaign and partnership opportunities to advocate for common sense gun laws at the state level.  You can also reach out directly to the state representatives who represent your church and your members. The Brady Campaign has a score card of how your state rates in terms of the strength of its gun control and gun violence prevention laws. Use that a discussion point with your State Representatives and State Senators.  Here are other talking points to use.
  • Local:  Contact your City Council or County Board of Commissioners and call for implementing a gun turn-in or buy-back program.  These allow gun owners to responsibly get rid of their weapons. Local law enforcement takes the weapons and destroys them.  A 2015 program in Greensboro, North Carolina had over 1,000 people participate.  Ask your local officials to adopt “amnesty days” in which people can turn in illegally owned firearms with no questions asked and free any potential prosecution.
Activism Through the Internet
Consider building virtual and online faith communities that actively oppose gun violence by carrying our witness into cyberspace through the use of technology.  Here’s how you can make the most of your virtual presence:
  • Include anti-gun violence graphics, statements, hashtags, and blogs in your websites.  You can start social media campaigns.
  • Start, promote, and participate in online discussion groups.
  • “Like” or “follow” anti-gun violence groups like the Brady Campaign and theNational Gun Victims Action Council to stay informed about the issue.
  • Visit the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to stay current on all their action alerts (link here somewhere).
  • Send tweets (and encourage your congregants to tweet) messages opposing gun violence.  #gunviolence #orlando #disarmhate #orlandostrong #charleston9 #enough #sandyhook have all trended in social media in the past week.
  • Visit the Council of Elders’ fasting and prayer vigil Facebook page where they invite you to offer your own prayers and comments.
Additional Anti-Violence Resources
Overturn the Blood Ban
The Orlando massacre reminded the nation that there is still a ban on blood donations by gay men.  The unwarranted ban highlights how men who have sex with men remain unable to provide real, immediate, and meaningful help to the victims of the attack.  Federal policy prohibits us from helping our own.  The Public Policy Team, the Global Justice Institute, and Metropolitan Community Churches call on all people of faith and goodwill to actively petition the U.S. government to end the blood ban.  Our lives hang in the balance.  Read our previous statement and call to action (with resources) HERE.
May Our Activism Be Our Prayer.
We Are Orlando 2

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Conceived in 2004 by French activist Louis-Georges Tin to commemorate the decision of the World Health Organization (1990) to de-pathologize homosexuality by removing it from the International Classification of Diseases, May 17th has become a globally recognized day to raise awareness of LGBTQI lives and call attention to efforts to end discrimination and violence and promote equality.

This year, from China to the Congo and Canada, LGBTQI peoples and our allies in over 150 nations will sponsor conversations, festivities and events, as well as demonstrations and marches for an end to the criminalization of Queer life and the implementation of IDAHOBIT17May2016policies that recognize and respect the diversity of God’s creation.  The themes are Mental Health and Well Being.  The focus is designed to ensure that everyone, including those within the LGBTQI community, receive all the supports for mental health that are necessary.  This will refute the ways in which government and societal leaders wrongly characterize people of different genders, sexualities, and gender expressions as mentally ill.  The goal is to create opportunities for well being and to confront/eliminate violence and discrimination.
We join organizers in encouraging people to: 

  • Push for the depathologization of transgender identities
  • Oppose “conversion therapies” and specifically protecting young people

In Hong Kong, community activists will honor businesses that have supported LGBT equality.  Organizers will celebrate the fifth LGBTI pride event in Albania, also gathering people from Kosovo and Macedonia.  Activists on every continent will pause to remember slain LGBT journalist in Bangladesh who were hacked to death last month.

Everyone can do something to highlight LGBTQI life and our victories or address the challenges that remain before us.

The Public Policy Team invites MCC congregations around the world to mark May 17th INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA!Here are some suggestions for you, your congregation, or your ministry:

  • Host a Bible Study, preach and pray about ending discrimination and promoting peace and goodwill throughout the earth.
  • BE CREATIVE
    • Organizers encourage the use of dance and the arts in hosting the events.
    • Use music, host a flash mob, busk, hold street performances, be improvisational.
  • Advocate for full equality.
    • Add your community’s support to a local legislative drive to promote equality and safety for all youth.
    • In the United States, contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative and encourage them to move the Safe Schools Improvement Act to end bullying against Queer youth out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.
  • Host a gathering and invite your neighbors, family and friends to the movement for equality in your location and make them aware of what volunteer or organizational opportunities are available.  Invite a local activist group to speak or provide resources.

Every word offered, every event celebrated, every step taken, every prayer lifted up can and will make a difference for God’s LGBTQI peoples and a world at peace with its own diversity.  You can inspire others around the world by sharing what you do.  Send your stories and photos to the Public Policy Team at mccadvocacy@mcccchurch.net.

 

Thank you for making this world a better place.

 

IDAHOBITBanner

Take Action During National Torture Awareness Month

Plan an Event at Your Church

 

Every human being is created to reflect the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect. So we unite around the belief that no one should face inhumane confinement or
torture a moral issueany form of torture. We have an opportunity to join with faith leaders and activists of all stripes in calling on the U.S. government to end systems of torture and torturous confinement in the Guantanamo prison complex. While President Obama has transferred additional prisoner out of that facility, 80 are left. The days of his Administration are waning and the opportunity to ensure that Guantanamo Prison is shut down are quickly drawing to a close.
 

June is Torture Awareness Month, and the Global Justice Institute and MCC are asking our pastors, clergy, lay leaders, friends and associates to join the campaign to close Guantanamo by leading a worship service, holding a vigil, or appearing at another appropriate event wearing an orange jumpsuit in solidarity with those held at Guantanamo. We are also inviting you to ask your fellow faith leaders from other traditions to consider events and wearing a jumpsuit.  Along with the organizers, we believe that in the middle of a rancorous presidential election, this sort of highly visible public action is necessary to break through the political back and forth and make a clear statement that torture and indefinite detention without trial are wrong and Guantanamo should be closed now.

wear orange

Please ask your faith leaders if they would be willing to support this work by wearing a jumpsuit. Organizers will provide the jumpsuit.  Here are other resources you and your congregation and faith partners may use to participate in this national event:
 

 

You are encouraged to take pictures from your events and share them on social media. Use hashtags #TortureAwarenessMonth and #TortureFreeWorld.  The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) will use these to demonstrate support for closing Guantanamo to national lawmakers and the national media.  To request an orange jumpsuit, write Matt Hawthorne (NRCAT) at mhawthorne@nrcat.org or call him at 202-547-1920.

Join Faith Leaders for a Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence

The Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches are committed to cultivating a world in which peace can thrive. One of the first steps in creating peaceful places to stand against violence, gun violence in particular.  We invite you, your1-8May2016congregation, and your faith partners to join the International Action on Small Arms (IANSA).  Held annually, this week of action is a chance to raise awareness of how gun violence affects people’s lives, and to draw attention to issues such as people becoming disabled because of gun violence; lack of support for survivors or the families of victims; and domestic violence becoming far more lethal when guns are involved.
This year’s Global Week of Action will be held fromMay 1-8, and will focus on the theme “Time to End the Deadly Flood of Guns!”  This theme was chosen to raise awareness of guns flowing across national borders, into communities, into schools, and into homes.  The actions coordinate with meetings held at the United Nations to discuss small arms problems.  Organizers invite MCC leaders and congregations to participate in this week of action in the following ways:
  • Address the issue of gun violence in any services you may hold between May 1-8, even if only briefly.  We are providing background information for your reference.
  • Help educate your members about how and where to dispose of unwanted guns (see information here)
  • Print out the attached information sheets and exhibit posters and display them where viewers can learn more about the issue.
  • Personalize the Global Week of Action logo (included in this alert) and theme, and post it on your social media, and/or send it to IANSA for us to post.  Engage the theme in your own special way and share.  Use the hashtags:  #TimeToEndTheDeadlyFloodOfGuns  #GlobalWeekOfActionAgainstGunViolence

 

If you have questions or special needs, you may contact the Public Policy Team atmccadvocacy@mcchurch.net or Rose Welch with IANSA at rose.welsch@iansa.org and  00 1 703 474 4520.

Faith Leaders Combat Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse

Conference Call with White House
Friday, 15 January 2016, 1pm Eastern USA
A Call to Action for Faith Based Leaders: 
Combat Substance Use Disorders in Your Communities
 
ONDCP
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships invites all faith leaders, including the laity and clergy of Metropolitan Community Churches, to join an important webinar “A Call to Action” for faith leaders and health ministers for taking action to end the opioid epidemic and increase access to health care. The webinar will take place on Friday, 15 January 2016 from 1-2pm eastern standard time.  

 

Faith groups play an essential role in supporting health and wellness in communities across the country; we have a demonstrated history of providing spiritual, social, and emotional assistance for persons struggling with substance use disorders and chemical dependency.  Recognizing this, the Obama Administration will have selected faith leaders share their stories on how they are engaging their communities to address the opioid epidemic, building coalitions, reducing stigma and building trauma-informed congregations.  Additionally, federal officials overseeing health care and criminal justice programs will highlight several government funding and programming opportunities. They will offer strategies on how faith groups can access these programs, either directly or in partnership with state and local government grant recipients.
You may register for this event HERE.road to recovery

 

Be prepared to offer questions when you register. This will allow the presenters to address them as part of their prepared remarks. Because of the webinar format, you will also be able to ask questions live during the webinar.  The White House has asked MCC to share this information broadly, beyond our roster of clergy and lay leaders. You are invited to share this as broadly as possible, especially to our partners in recovery ministries and substance abuse disorder prevention and treatment.

 

For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net

Global Justice Institute Marks World Human Rights Day with Call to Prayer and Action

Part of our founding vision in Metropolitan Community Churches includes responding to the Biblical mandate to shape a world of just and right relationship. Over the years we, as people of faith, have preached a Gospel of equality, offered safe space and worked to address the intersections between homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, mass incarceration, poverty and economic inequality. With the formation of the Global Justice Institute, we have been able to expand our outreach and our work in these areas.

This year for the first time, as the United Nations marks the 67th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, the focus will include economic development and addressing the intersection with human rights.

The GJI has been a leader in linking economic well-being, Queer rights and the social change necessary to insure the security and freedom of human beings around the world. Our projects in East Africa, South and Central America and Pakistan testify to the change possible when people learn to work together for the common good.

This year, as we mark World Human Rights Day, join GJI in promoting peace on earth and goodwill among all by supporting our most recent project in Mtito Andei, Kenya. Bringing water to the land of our new satellite location will enable local women currently caught in the sex-for-survival trade to have the opportunity to pursue an alternative means of securing food for their families by growing vegetables on the land hosting our new building. It is a way to move the wider population from judgment to compassion and community.

And, please remember to pray daily for the work God has called us to embrace in this world. Join your brothers and sisters around the globe in praying that we might all act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.

Click here to make a donation to the water project in Mtito Andei.

Giving Tuesday

Dear Friend of The Global Justice Institute:

Tuesday, December 1, is National #GivingTuesday. The Global Justice Institute is coming together with LGBT organizations around the U.S. for a day of focused philanthropy. #GivingTuesday allows everyone to honor phenomenal success in the LGBT equality movement by investing in its future. Our work is unfinished. The Global Justice Institute (GJI) is the world’s premiere faith-based community organizing and advocacy organization dedicated to LGBT justice in the U.S. and the world. You can visit our website or check us out on Facebook  and Twitter to see our work in action. Because of your generosity, we:

 

  • Broke ground on a Global Justice Center in Mitito Andei, Kenya to provide safe space to all in need.
  • Provided ongoing funding for LGBT safe houses in Nigeria and Uganda, following the adoption of harsh, anti-LGBT legislation in those countries.
  • Marched alongside out LGBTQI siblings in the first Vietnam Pride Parade, and had talks in 15 cities across Asia.
  • Continue to forge a groundbreaking partnership in Costa Rica among HIV/AIDS service providers, LGBT-oriented homeless shelters, and a Central American refugee initiative.

 

This work can be brought to an even larger scale with  your financial support

 

people

 

The GJI is forging a better tomorrow for LGBT and allied people, fighting bigotry and violence that masquerades as “faith.” Our work stands at the intersection of faith, freedom of expression, freedom from fear and violence, social justice, liberation, and equality for all. Indeed, faith is a source of liberation (not oppression). Your generous support will not only root out discrimination, but will also sow the seeds of equality and liberation for all of God’s children, all over the world.

 

Make your secure, online donation HERE. 100% of your contributions provide program support.

 

In faith and solidarity,

RevPatSignature

Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner

Executive Director

Join the Movement to End Mass Incarceration

In her bestselling book The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander likened the U.S. criminal justice system to the Jim Crow caste system of the U.S. South, in which a class of Americans are subject to a basic political, economic, and judicial system of legalized discrimination.  Her powerful analysis inspired a new look at the impact of the mass incarceration of African-American men and people of color on communities of color, causing many lawmakers, sociologists, and activists to conclude that “mass incarceration in the United States…is a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of social control.”  Now, there is a growing consensus that something must be done to bring balance to our criminal justice system.

The statistics tell the story and highlight the challenge before us.  According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the USA has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world (794 per 100,000).  The U.S. prison population has quadrupled since 1980, increasing from approximately 500,000 to 2.2 million in 2013.  President Barack Obama has taken action to address mass incarceration, helping to shepherd through Congress and sign into lawlegislation that reduced the sentencing disparity between possession of crack and powder cocaine.  In a recent speech to the NAACP, President Obama called for lowering long mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses; investing in alternatives to prisons, like drug courts and treatment and probation programs; and rewarding offenders with reduced sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to re-offend.  The President has also advocated for “Ban the Box” on job applications for state, federal, and private employment to give ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society a fair chance to reenter society by getting and holding good jobs.  Major corporations like Target and Wal-Mart have removed the criminal history box from their job applications.  Amidst the startling statistics, there are glimmers of hope.

The United States Senate is now joining the effort.  On October 1, Senator Charles Grassley introduced S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which would permit a court to reduce the mandatory minimum prison term imposed on certain non-violent defendants convicted of a high-level first-time or low-level repeat drug offense.  It would also permit a court to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum for certain non-violent, cooperative drug defendants with a limited criminal history.  The bill would reduce the enhanced mandatory minimum prison terms associated with high-level repeat drug offenses and those where a firearm was present.   It would improve programs for non-violent elderly offenders and pre/post release programs for certain juvenile offenders.

The Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches join with all those who seek to address the problem of mass incarceration.  We encourage our lawmakers to take affirmative steps to reduce mandatory minimum prison terms for nonviolent defendants, invest in programs that help offenders become less likely to re-offend, and fund and support early childhood development and juvenile justice community-based interventions.

Here Are Some Actions You Can Take to Change U.S. Policy Toward the Incarcerated

  • Please contact your Senator today to urge them to SUPPORT S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015:
    • Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-270-0309 and ask for your Senator.
    • When you are connected to your member’s office these are things that you might say:  I want Senator ___________ to know that it is now time to reform our criminal justice system by ending mass incarceration.  Please support reducing the mandatory minimum terms for nonviolent defendants convicted of drug offenses and programs that encourage early release for good behavior.  Please support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
  • Participate in the Grassroots Faith Organizing Call on 2 December at 3pm (eastern) with Senator Durbin.  We will gear everyone up for a national call-in day (that will take place on 3 December) to support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. On Thursday, December 3rd in conjunction with the Call-in Day, we will participate with civil rights and criminal justice advocacy groups on a lobby day in support of SRCA. Contact Bill Medford (faith organizer) for the call in information.
  • Come to Washington, DC on 3 December and Lobby Congress. Organizers hope to have 50 people. The ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights are helping to fund travel for those from target states.  They will also set up the visits with Members of Congress and book the travel and hotel stay.  Contact Bill Medford (faith organizer) to express your interest.
To learn more, please see:
For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net
This statement was prepared by the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute (Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner, Chair).