Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices (sppos) in the ELCA Advocacy Network this month. Full list and map of sppos available.
Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc
Christine Mangale, Director
LOWC co-hosted a mini-series of events over the summer focused on the rights of migrants and refugees. These events included:
- “Confronting Anti-Blackness in Global Migration” with Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)and ELCA. The event was held on May 30 at the Church Center for the UN; Rev. Lamont Wells and LOWC staff presented. Event was held during the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD), which was in its second session at the United Nations.
- “Commemoration of the World Refugee Day” (June 8), virtual event co-hosted by the NGO C, including the LWF (who is co-chair of this committee).
- “World Refugee Day- Renewing Passion and Reclaiming Resilience” Freedom Dreams from the Margins Event held on June 20 at the Church Center for the UN. This event was co-hosted by Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC,) ELCA, LWF and Ecumenical Women.
High Level Political Forum updates
The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the voluntary reporting mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme of the July 10-19, 2023 session of the HLPF was, “Accelerating the Recovery from the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and the Full Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels.” The session reviewed in-depth sustainable Development Goals: 6 on clean water and sanitation, 7 on affordable and clean energy, 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, 11 on sustainable cities and communities, and 17 on partnerships for the Goals.
ELCA/ LWF was represented at the HLPF by staff of the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York, staff of ELCA World Hunger, ELCA Advocacy office in Washington DC and a young adult delegation from the United States. Unfortunately, a LWF delegate from Liberia who works on the “waking the giant” initiative was denied a visa to enter the US for these meetings. Visa denial in the US is a rapidly increasing reality faced by civil society groups and organizations engaging with the UN.
The SDGs are at their halfway point in their 15-year mandate and at their current course they will not be achieved in any context. Rapid acceleration is required to meet any of the targets under each of the goals. The LWF has a unique opportunity to push this agenda forward; especially giving its links to climate and human rights policy areas. Further support from a potentially reaffirmed mandate from the LWF assembly in September 2023 is a big opportunity for accelerating and amplifying this area of our work together.
Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org
Regina Banks, Director
Movement in CA Legislature
The California legislature is reconvening from their summer recess, so the final push to get remaining bills across the finish line has commenced. The Lutheran Office of Public Policy, California (LOPP-CA) is working with our partner coalitions and organizations to pass legislation covering issue areas spanning affordable housing, worker and family protections, and environmental justice. Of LOPP-CA’s priority bills, two remain moving through the process. Those bills are SB 4 (Wiener), Affordable Housing on Faith and Higher Education Lands Act, and AB 249 (Holden), school lead testing and clean up. SB 4 was passed by the California legislature on September 8, and is expected to be signed by the governor soon.
Another bill, AB 660 (Irwin), which would have required food date label reform, was made into a 2-year bill, so it will be considered in next year’s legislative session.
State Budget Summary
Key efforts were impacted by the budget this year, which was unavoidable given the $31.5 billion shortfall. Funds have been shifted to bonds or delayed to future years. The tax credits for low-income households didn’t make it this year (though, there is still hope for some of that within SB 220). Environmental issues took a hit, and a lot will be riding on a climate bond. However, a lot of programs were also spared, and funding increased in some critical areas, such as flood resilience. Other bills that will require appropriations of some kind are still moving, but any major piece of spending legislation will face difficulty.
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org
Peter Severson, Director
Two Propositions on Fall Ballot
Coloradans will be voting on two statewide propositions this fall:
- Proposition HH is a measure to use some of the state’s surplus revenue – as defined by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) – to provide property tax relief to homes and businesses instead of doling out the excess funds as income tax reductions or refunds.
- Proposition II would allow Colorado to retain in excess tobacco tax revenue dedicated to preschools that has been collected under Proposition EE, which was passed by voters in 2020.
- The Blue Book estimated $186.5 million would be collected, but $208 million was actually collected; TABOR requires the amount in excess of the initial estimate to be refunded to tobacco retailers and the tax rate lowered in subsequent years unless Prop II is approved.
Lutheran Advocacy will be producing a Voter Guide with information about each of these propositions in the coming weeks. Look for our guide to be available online and in print soon!
Proposed Evolution of Lutheran Advocacy Office
The leadership of the Rocky Mountain Synod ELCA and the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado are currently in conversation about creating a joint Lutheran-Episcopal advocacy office for Colorado. Such an office would represent a new phase of evolution for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado, which has been advocating in our state since 1984.
The proposed office would advocate on behalf of both denominations’ theological and social teaching and would be accountable to (and supported by) congregations from each. Keep an eye out for more information about this dynamic proposal in the coming months.
Lutheran Advocacy Minnesota (LA-MN) – lutheranadvocacymn.org
Tammy Walhof, Director
Forum on Sacred Settlements (or Sacred Tiny Home Communities
How do we cultivate communities for those experiencing homelessness? What is the “Communities First” model? How are we called to support Sacred Settlements in Duluth?
These were questions explored at a well-attended forum Sunday, Aug. 13, at Trinity Lutheran of Duluth. People of many denominations and nonprofits gathered to explore the research-based model, and learn from the experiences of the Settled staff, advocates, friends, and the Sacred Settlement at Mosaic Community (St. Paul).
The Northeastern Minnesota Synod Assembly has passed a resolution endorsing the Sacred Settlements concept, supporting the legislation, and committing to both learning about homelessness & exploring the creation of Sacred Settlements. This forum was the next step for Duluth Community.
Minnesota Court Strikes Down Tenant Protection
Eviction actions by landlords follow tenants for years, making it difficult to find new housing. We have worked with the Homes for All Coalition since 2019 to ensure that such a mark does not remain on the tenant’s record if they win the court judgement. It passed the legislature in 2023 as part of a broader tenant reform package.
However, we learned that this provision was recently ruled unconstitutional, with the court claiming it is “contrary to the rules of public access.” The disappointing ruling came as a surprise to Homes for All, and the legislative bill authors, as we did not know it was being challenged. We are now exploring what kind of word changes might be acceptable.
Hunger Network in Ohio – hungernetohio.com
Deacon Nick Bates, Director
August Special Election
In early May, Ohio politicians voted to create an August special election to end majority rule in Ohio in hopes that a low turnout would allow them to sneak this issue past voters. With more than 3 million Ohioans showing up (38% voter turnout) Ohioans voted to protect our right to hold political corruption in check.
Issue 1 would have blocked citizen-initiated referendums by increasing signature requirements, eliminating a 10-day window to fix technical mistakes, and would have allowed 40% of voters to silence the will of 60%. Ohioans came through and defeated Issue 1 by a 57%-43% margin – protecting Ohio from more political corruption and cronyism.
Our right to the ballot is essential for our advocacy work to fight for a day when all shall receive their daily bread. Read more about Issue 1 in this Op-ed by Deacon Nick Bates that was published in the Columbus Dispatch less than two weeks before the election.
Service Learning Camps
Throughout the summer, the Hunger Network joined Service-Learning Camps through the Northwestern Ohio Synod and taught about advocacy and our Church’s role in creating systemic change. The foundation of Service-Learning Camps is that “learning is just as important as the service.” During these sessions, Hunger Network led the youth in a light-hearted and fun simulation with deep lessons that connect to the root causes of poverty – including racism, classism, wealth disparity, and many other issues. We had a lot of fun hearing the reflections of young people in our church and are excited to see them lead our communities toward a world where all shall receive their daily bread!
If your youth group is interested in participating in our simulation, please contact us at Nick@hungernetohio.com and we can set something up!
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) – lutheranadvocacypa.org
Tracey DePasquale, Director
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania(LAMPa) is pleased to welcome the Rev. Erin Jones as our Communications and Advocacy Engagement Manager.
Jones is an ELCA pastor serving in Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod since 2018, brings experience in advocacy, communications and ecumenical community-building justice work to the position.
“I’m beyond happy that Pastor Erin said, ‘Yes’ to this new call,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. The role itself is new, and the search was extensive, “In the process,” DePasquale said, “we were blessed to meet people with an incredible variety of gifts who are seeking to live out their faith in transformative ways. It’s a big job, requiring a challenging set of skills to find in one person.
Jones’ work will take her to Harrisburg and beyond, DePasquale said, as her work supports and equips the church’s advocacy across the Commonwealth. LAMPa staff, including an incoming hunger advocacy fellow, plan to visit with ministries in each of Pennsylvania’s seven synods in the coming months. Jones will get a running start in the role, which begins Aug. 28, as she has been serving on LAMPa’s policy council and active with the ELCA’s advocacy for years.
“I’m so excited to come on board as staff with LAMPa!” Jones said. “My faith is deeply shaped by the way I and the Church show up in the public sphere. The more engaged I am in justice work, advocating for policies that feed and house and affirm others, the more connected I feel to God’s vision of the kin-dom.” Read more.
Texas Impact – texasimpact.org
Bee Morehead, Director
Education Policy in Special Session
The Texas Legislature is in-between their 140-day regular session and multiple summer special sessions. The special session this fall will address school funding and private school vouchers. Texas Impact is preparing Texans of faith for the conversations through a new “Public School Defenders” program.
The Texas Impact Weekly Witness podcast series is hosting a legislative wrap-up series with elected representatives and an August “Houston Faith Votes” campaign. Elected officials and faith leaders will discuss the importance of civic engagement and tools for how local congregations can mobilize their communities. Bishop Mike Rinehart was one of the featured speakers.
Bishops Pen Letter
The three Texas Lutheran Bishops also penned a letter urging Texas to end the Operation Lone Star militarization of the border with Mexico. Texas Impact also hosted a webinar with authors of the Dignity Act, Rep. Veronica Escobar and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar discussing immigration reform.
Faith Action Network – fanwa.org
Elise DeGooyer, Executive Director
This summer we had our annual board-staff visioning retreat in June, hosted at one of our advocating faith communities, Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Temple (Chobo-ji) in Seattle. Our hybrid retreat allowed us to consider together the changes since FAN was founded 12 years ago, the current context that provides new challenges and opportunities for our multifaith-based movement, and possible priorities for FAN. As we discussed and prepared for this coming year, we reinvigorated our commitment to take on what will be another crucial year of advocacy.
Summer Advocacy Focus
Our policy attention this summer has included how federal legislation will impact our local communities, especially the Farm Bill and any requirements that might limit access for people who rely on Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. We look forward to welcoming our ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Tomo Duke in September to help further these efforts.
We are also planning geographical cluster meetings around our state. In each meeting, community partners will have the chance to strengthen their relationships for local and statewide advocacy and build solidarity with one another for the year ahead.
The Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin – loppw.org
Rev. Cindy Crane, Directory
Raise the Age
Republican bill authors made a draft of their bill known to the Raise the Age steering team and anticipate introducing it in September. This bill proposes returning 17-year-old youth to the juvenile justice system.
ELCA Program Director for Migration Policy, Giovana Oaxaca, advised the Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin(LOPPW) on advocacy for the Protect-Vulnerable-Immigrant-Youth-Act-of-2023,which would help ensure access to vital protections for young immigrant survivors of trafficking, abuse, domestic violence, and other harms. The act would also ease backlogs in the EB-4 category and free up visas for people such as religious workers, while allowing the children to continue life in the United States as lawful permanent residents.
We received this information in response to a request we made about advocacy for church workers to gain permanent residency more quickly. LOPPW was also in contact with Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office about individual church work.
LOPPW led two workshops on advocacy at the tri-synod youth conference including the La Crosse Area Synod (LAS), Northwest Synod of Wisconsin (NWSW), and the Northern Great Lakes Synod (NGLS) in River Falls. Many of the youth also enjoyed ELCA sunglasses from our DC office, as the above photo attests.
Hunger Storytelling Event
Rev. Walter Baires from the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin (SCSW), Cindy Dobberke from the Greater Milwaukee Synod (GMS), Meg Finerty and Rev. Kathryn Ingbritsen from La Crosse Area Synod (LAS), and Deb Martin from the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin (ECSW) were supported by an ELCA World Hunger grant to organize two evenings of advice on how to craft, record, and edit your story about hunger. LOPPW led a presentation on the second evening.