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July Updates: UN and State Edition

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.

U.N. | Colorado | Minnesota | Pennsylvania | Virginia | Washington


 

U.N.

Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc

Dennis Frado, Director

The UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is was held from Tuesday, 5 July, to Thursday, 7 July, and from Monday, 11 July, to Friday, 15 July 2022, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It included a three-day ministerial segment of the forum from Wednesday, 13 July, to Friday, 15 July 2022. The high-level segment of the Council concluded with a final day on Monday, 18 July 2022.

The theme for the 2022 HLPF was “Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

The HLPF reviewed in-depth Sustainable Development Goals: 4 on quality education, 5 on gender equality, 14 on life below water, 15 on life on land, and 17 on partnerships for the Goals. In addition, 44 countries will carry out voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The HLPF is scheduled to adopt a Ministerial Declaration as the outcome of its session.


 

Colorado

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org

Peter Severson, Director

ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop Jim Gonia (left) joins Episcopal Church in Colorado Bishop Kimberly Lucas (center) and Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church Bishop Karen Oliveto (right) to walk together in the Denver Pride Parade on June 26, 2022.
Image credit: Saint John’s Cathedral, Denver

This summer, Lutheran Advocacy is working as a member of the Healthy School Meals for All Coalition to advance a ballot measure. The measure – which was referred directly onto the ballot by the Colorado Legislature via House Bill 22-1414 – will ask voters to approve covering the cost of school meals for all public school students. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government initiated a nationwide program to cover public school students’ meal costs. That temporary program is ending, and Coloradans now have the opportunity to do so at a state level in perpetuity. The program will be paid for by capping state income tax deductions for wealthy Coloradans who earn over $300,000 in annual income. The revenue generated by the tax code change is dedicated solely to the program, which will keep Colorado kids fed and ready to learn.

 


 

Minnesota

Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota (LA-MN) – lutheranadvocacymn.org

Tammy Walhof, Director

Lutheran Advocacy-Minnesota held its quarterly policy council meeting on June 3rd. We discussed the end of the legislative session and held two important elections. Sharon Josephson from the Northwestern Minnesota Synod was re-elected as Vice-President and the Rev. Kyle Hanson from the Minneapolis Area Synod was elected as Treasurer. We are grateful for the ways that Josephson and Pastor Hanson are sharing their time and talents to support the work of LA-MN, and we look forward to their two-year terms.

Hopes for a special session in the Minn. legislature have dissipated in recent weeks. This is due to partisanship, with all eyes on the November elections. Communities across Minnesota are suffering as a result of inaction this legislative session, which ended on May 23. We lament lack of action on systemic issues that harm our neighbors, ourselves, and all of creation, and we continue to anticipate how we can use our public voice to generate systemic change.)

Rachel Wyffels, Hunger Advocacy Fellow with LA-MN, recently had the opportunity to attend Community Organizing Training with the Minneapolis Area Synod. Members of Street Voices of Change and other congregational leaders from the synod gathered for a week centered on understanding and building power. Wyffels looks forward to applying this training on strategy, coalitions, and more to her future work.

Tammy Walhof is on sabbatical from June 13th to August 12th! Rachel Wyffels, Hunger Advocacy Fellow, is the primary contact person for LA-MN during this time.

 


 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

The Rev. Angela Hammer of St. Paul’s, Penryn, in Lower Susquehanna Synod, speaks at a Capitol Press Conference about hunger among seniors and persons with disabilities.

The 2022-23 Pennsylvania budget includes significant gains for education, housing and creation care, but only a modest increase for anti-hunger programs. A $1.8 billion increase in education funding makes strides toward decreasing the funding gap in what has been one of the least equitable school funding systems in the country.

“We are celebrating the progress made in closing these equity gaps, as well as the major investments in housing and creation care,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. “While we are grateful for the modest increase in anti-hunger programs, we have concern that it will not go far enough in the face of rising food prices.

“Advocates engaged in ministry with neighbors facing hunger and homelessness shared stories with lawmakers of increasing need on both fronts,” DePasquale said.

Among LAMPa’s priorities, the spending plan allocates $375 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for affordable housing construction, rehabilitation, and repairs.

“The Whole Home Repairs Program is exciting because it will help Pennsylvanians, especially seniors and persons with disabilities, stay in their homes,” DePasquale said. “It will extend the life of our aging housing stock, help build generational wealth, and increase energy efficiency. It’s a win for our communities and our environment.” Read more about LAMPa’s budget advocacy here.

Along with the budget, the legislature approved five constitutional amendments, including one that would deny any right to an abortion. Though the amendment would not ban abortions outright, it could pave the way for such a ban, which LAMPa would oppose. Read more about the amendments here.

 


 

Virginia

Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP)

Kim Bobo, Executive Director

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) finally finished the 2022 General Assembly when the governor signed the budget bill in June. The budget included an additional $40 million for affordable housing that VICPP had advocated and a partially refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that will put more money into the hands of working Virginians.

This summer, VICPP is moving forward two of its priorities that had turned into study bills in order to be prepared for the next General Assembly. One is a bill to require health professionals to get trained in unconscious bias. The other is a bill to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons.

In addition to the policy work, this summer VICPP is organizing several activities to promote justice. On July 23, VICPP led a religious fact-finding delegation to learn about conditions in the Lawrenceville Correctional Facility, the state’s only for-profit prison. On July 30th, VICPP will host a Living Wage Certification Canvass Day to reach out to businesses about living wages (in Richmond, Harrisonburg, Alexandria and Charlottesville). On August 11, VICPP is organizing a religious delegation to meet with Dulles airport workers about the need for paid sick days and employer provided health care. Lutherans are invited to join any of these social justice events. Email Kim Bobo, Kim@virginiainterfaithcenter.org to get more information on any of the upcoming events.

 


 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

Advocacy this summer has already included bills in Congress that will impact communities across our state, with an urgent need to prevent gun violence in the wake of too many mass shootings. We prayed and marched with local faith groups and Alliance for Gun Responsibility partners, remembering the victims and calling for action. We applaud the recent bipartisan gun legislation passed in Congress, while we know there will be more protections needed. We have also signed on to letters regarding federal housing legislation, immigration reform, the Child Tax Credit, and truth and reconciliation for survivors of Native American Boarding Schools.

Pictured are FAN Eastern Wash.A organizer Lauren Schubring and baby Stella, board member Rev. Jim CastroLang, and Policy Engagement Director Kristin Ang.

Our FAN Governing Board and staff issued a statement in response to the Supreme Court Dobbs decision that will restrict access to abortion and reproductive healthcare across our nation. Also, a faith leader in our network, the Rev. Doug Avilesbernal of the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches, came to Washington, D.C. on the day of Bremerton v Kennedy arguments to speak out in front of the Supreme Court to uphold the separation of church and state in the case involving a Bremerton, Wash. football coach. We have much work to do to support the religious freedoms that we value as a multi-faith movement.

During the month of June, we were able to celebrate as well. FAN had a presence at the Spokane Pride march and festival, and many of our faith communities were visible in their local Pride events. Faith communities and community groups collaborated to celebrate Juneteenth in a big way for the first time as a federal holiday. We give thanks for the ability to celebrate love, inclusion, and freedom in the midst of the hard work we all do together!

July/August Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C.
– The Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director, ELCA Witness in Society

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: July/August 2022

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL FUNDING  |  BORDER ENCOUNTERS  |  SUPREME COURT ABORTION RULING  |  USE OF LANDMINES  |  BIPARTISAN GUN LEGISLATION

 

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL FUNDING: President Joe Biden visited Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) on July 15 as part of a two-day presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. While there, the president announced a $100 million multiyear commitment toward the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), of which AVH is a member. Use the Action Alert from ELCA Peace Not Walls to urge support by members of Congress of the president’s commitment by voting to appropriate at least $100 million to support the work of AVH and other East Jerusalem hospitals.

Biden’s visit to the hospital was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to East Jerusalem. In her thank you letter to the president for his visit, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said that many “found our hope for peace with justice in the Holy Land bolstered by your visit last week in support of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. AVH is the first and only hospital to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients in the Palestinian territories and the only medical facility in the West Bank offering pediatric kidney dialysis. AVH faces ongoing cash flow problems as a result of the inability of the Palestinian Authority to pay on a regular basis the fees for cancer patients it refers to the hospital.

 

BORDER ENCOUNTERS: The tragic deaths of 53 migrants abandoned in the trailer of a semi-truck in San Antonio, Texas on June 27 was decried in a statement, which included the ELCA Southwestern Texas Synod, as a painful example of what happens when migrants seek dangerous alternatives to migrate. The ELCA continues to advocate for a dignified and humane process at the border.

The public health order known as Title 42 has been in place since March 2020, sealing away a path for most people fleeing personal danger or persecution who arrive at the southern border to legally request asylum. The number of encounters with migrants at the U.S. southwest border has continued to be high and includes migrants from around the world. Our, a nation’s policy response can strengthen the economic resiliency of the nation and neighborhoods, keep families together, and generously respond to the needs of our neighbors.

 

SUPREME COURT ABORTION RULING: Following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson, which removes the federal protections previously provided by Roe v Wade, Bishop Eaton issued a pastoral message. Several ELCA affiliated state public policy offices are working with synods to monitor and update state legislation related to reproductive health.

Faith Action Network in Washington, for example, recommitted to advocating for equitable policies regarding reproductive health in their statement. Others, like Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) have been working closely with the synod bishops in the state to keep people informed. Bishops across Pennsylvania posted on Facebook, sharing Bishop Eaton’s statement and committing to working closely with LAMPa to monitor and advocate on state policy development as updates are available.

 

USE OF LANDMINES: The Biden administration announced changes to the U.S. Anti-Personnel Landmine policy, “joining the vast majority of countries around the world in committing to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines.” In January 2020, the Trump administration reversed 2014 policy by the Obama administration that had unequivocally banned U.S. production and acquisition of antipersonnel landmines.

ELCA advocacy is encouraged by changes and will continue to monitor developments. Reporting in June 2022 following a site visit in northern Ukraine described the impression by Lutheran World Federation visitors was described as: “Landmines, destroyed infrastructure, traumatized people.”

 

BIPARTISAN GUN LEGISLATION: President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a historic gun safety, mental health, and school safety bill. Our office issued an action alert in June encouraging Lutherans to urge passage of this bi-partisan compromise. The need for future gun safety advocacy remains.

The legislation passed by strong bipartisan majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House, and it is the first major federal gun safety law to pass Congress in nearly 26 years.

 


Receive monthly Advocacy Connections directly by becoming part of the ELCA Advocacy network – http://elca.org/advocacy/signup , and learn more from elca.org/advocacy .

 

August Recess opportunity

OVERVIEW | SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES | MOMENT – CHILD TAX CREDIT  |  MOMENT – HOUSING | MOMENT – GUN VIOLENCE | MOMENT – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE | MOMENT – GENDER BASED VIOLENCE | MOMENT – ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION | MOMENT – VOTING RIGHTS

 

By design and adapted to present realities, August Recess is a congressional tradition that brings heightened opportunities to reach out to your federal lawmakers where you – and they – live. U.S. representatives traditionally return to their home districts in this month to engage with their constituents. Town Halls and in-district meetings may be available to you in this period that create windows to raise your experiences, the experiences of your faith community, and policy concerns locally.

Start by locating your lawmaker’s Web presence (govtrack.us is one place to connect). Doing a little homework by looking around at the person’s top issues and sphere of influence can deepen any encounter. If a Town Hall is listed, it may be an open forum or a virtual experience. Virtual experiences may be more constrained in question-and-answer format, but any Town Hall can be a meaningful connection point.

Alternatively, instigate a local meeting. Prepare what you want to say, with pointers from resources below. A virtual visit can be a value-added creative moment to showcase placement of your ministry in the community, building relationships and future potentials. Offering a lawmaker a chance to speak or connect with fellow constituents after a worship service or event will increase the chance of their participation.

Advocacy resources to help you plan from ELCA Witness in Society include:

Below find suggestions from our ELCA policy staff about issues that intersect with 2022 ELCA Federal Policy Priorities that are presently on the horizon. The question prompts may help you shape a timely way to use August Recess opportunities.

 


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Expand the Child Tax Credit

“Although those living in poverty are particularly visible in cities, their more hidden reality in suburban, small town, and rural areas can be just as painful. A greater proportion of people of color live in conditions of poverty. The poor are disproportionately women with their children. Systemic racism and sexism continue to be evident in the incidence of poverty.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All (p. 12)

REMARKS

Expanded provisions of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act, expired at the end of 2021. The CTC lifted millions of children in our nation out of poverty. Working families, many struggling to feed their children in the face of rising food costs and other essential needs like childcare and school supplies, experienced an economic cliff in January. Expanding monthly and fully refundable CTC creates greater stability for families, reductions in poverty and hardship, and improves children’s’ educational and health outcomes plus long-term earnings potential. All children stand to benefit from CTC expansion, but children from groups that have disproportionately high hunger rates will benefit most. Making the CTC permanent is one of the most effective ways to reach those trying to meet basic human needs with positive, wide-ranging childhood and family impacts.

QUESTIONS

  1. Expanding the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan reached families in which food insecurity and hunger are widespread. Now that it expired, what are you doing to renew and make permanent this transformative policy that so effectively reduces hunger and poverty among our nation’s children?


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Ending the Housing Crisis

“’Sufficiency’ means adequate access to income and other resources that enable people to meet their basic needs, including nutrition, clothing, housing, health care, personal development, and participation in community with dignity. God has created a world of sufficiency for all, providing us daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All (p. 11)

REMARKS

The historic shortage of housing supply in the United States has become one of the main drivers of homelessness, wealth inequality and inflation. This moment in time has led to a crisis in demand for many congregations, faith-based shelters and ministries seeking to address poverty and end homelessness in our communities. To address the root cause of these structural challenges, Congress should invest in programs that help expand the supply of housing, eliminate barriers that disincentivize development and back proven models that house people facing homelessness.

Find out your local affordable housing stats at nlihc.org/state-housing-profiles for greater context when speaking with policy makers.

QUESTIONS

  1. The cost of buying a new home for families continues to grow each year and has become one of the leading drivers of homelessness. What steps are you taking to expand the supply and access to affordable housing here in our district? (Add your local statistics to emphasize the local situation.)
  2. What policies, if any, do you support that a) help increase home ownership and b) address the historic racial homeownership gaps still present in our communities?


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Gun Violence Prevention

“Violent crime and those who perpetuate it must be stopped. The challenge is to restrain violence in ways that effectively limit it, and that do not simply repay violence with more violence.” – From ELCA social message “Community Violence” (p. 6)

REMARKS

Congress and President Biden recently passed and signed into law the first major bi-partisan gun violence prevention law in nearly 30 years. It includes incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. It also strengthens background checks for persons 18-21 seeking to purchase guns. More must be done. There have been at least 281 mass shootings in the United States in 2022 according to the Gun Violence Archive, an online archive of gun violence incidents collected from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily.

QUESTIONS

  1. What are your next steps to reduce gun violence in our nation?
  2. Already this year there have been 27 school shootings. What policies have you supported to make students safer?
  3. Do you support a ban on military-grade assault weapons like the ones used in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas?


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Energy and Environmental Justice Measures

“Processes of environmental degradation feed on one another. Decisions affecting an immediate locale often affect the entire planet. The resulting damages to environmental systems are frightening…” – From the ELCA social statement Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice (p. 4)

REMARKS

Accelerating a transition to clean energy through investments in clean energy and environmental justice will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce pollution, combat climate change and protect human health as well as the wellbeing of God’s creation. To address the climate crisis, Congress needs to enact legislation that invests in clean energy. Currently, Congress is negotiating climate investment provisions as part of a larger reconciliation package.

QUESTIONS

  1. Do you support climate investments as part of the reconciliation package currently being negotiated?
  2. What policies do you support that help invest in clean energy and environmental justice?


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Preventing gender-based violence globally

“Governments, activists and experts have amply documented the wide-ranging and long-lasting destructive effects of this violence on victims and survivors, on family and friends, and on the whole human community. It creates not only personal suffering but also losses across the country—of peaceful communities, medical care costs and economic productivity. Gender-based violence is a public health and safety crisis.” – From the ELCA social message “Gender-based Violence” (p. 6)

REMARKS

Gender-based violence increases during conflict and humanitarian crises. For example, 1 in 5 refugees or internally displaced women have experienced sexual abuse. At this time when a record number of people are living in conflict or humanitarian situations, it is crucial to ensure that U.S. government programs aimed at preventing gender-based violence in these situations are resourced and working as efficiently as possible.

QUESTIONS

  1. As a member of Congress, what can you do to help reduce gender-based violence among people living under humanitarian conditions around the world?
  2. Do you support the Safe from the Start Act of 2021? If not, can you say why you oppose it? (be ready to describe the bill in brief)


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Generous U.S. Asylum and Immigration Policy

“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will advocate for just immigration policies, including fairness in visa regulations and in admitting and protecting refugees. We will work for policies that cause neither undue repercussions within immigrant communities nor bias against them.” – From ELCA social statement Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (pg. 7)

REMARKS

According to The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, a record 100 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, a twelve percent increase in just one year. The grim milestone was passed as the war swept through Ukraine, and difficulties impacting people from Afghanistan to Venezuela were compounded by global economic hardship and deepening climate-change realities. Access to asylum is a pillar of a humane migration policy. Yet with present patchwork practice, people in the greatest need of protection will seek more dangerous, less visible ways through to safety and a better future.

In addition to having a humane migration system, we know that directing attention to factors driving migration and facilitating family reunification can more meaningfully address the reasons people flee their homes, thus reducing migration pressures. As another fundamental change, lawmakers have a chance at passing a pathway to earn citizenship for DACA recipients and others who have called the U.S. their home for many years. Immigrants with temporary status and no status like Dreamers, TPS-holders and migrant farm workers have called for permanent protections. Our nation’s policy response can strengthen the economic resiliency of our nation and neighborhoods, keep families together and generously respond to the needs of our neighbors.

QUESTIONS

  1. With many countries beginning to ease protocols that severely restrict asylum access, which especially impact LGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Black migrants, what policies and funding, if any, are you supporting that will ensure that the U.S. restores asylum and strengthens refugee resettlement?
  2. The US has a special interest in supporting individuals impacted by the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw around 70,000 arrive to the United States through a temporary mechanism called humanitarian parole. Many are well underway to rebuilding their lives, with the help of friends in communities like ours. With the understanding that congressional action will make a crucial difference in the next few months, will you support an Afghan Adjustment Act?
  3. Do you support permanent protections for immigrants, like DACA-recipients, Dreamers, TPS-holders, migrant farm workers and others with deep ties to the United States? As a member of Congress, what is your plan to break through deadlock in Congress on these protections?


 

THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Voting Rights

“The political health of our nation still suffers from the stain of antidemocratic exclusion. Efforts to restrict access to voting should be condemned and resisted.” From ELCA social message “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy” (p. 10)

REMARKS

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would prevent discriminatory practices and rules in voting from being implemented in states and localities where discrimination is persistent and pervasive, protecting access to the vote for all eligible voters, regardless of race, color or membership in language minority groups. The bill would also restore voters’ ability to challenge discriminatory laws nationwide.

QUESTIONS

  1. House members—Did you support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that was passed by the House earlier this year? Why or why not?
  2. Senate members—What are you doing to move the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the Senate?

June Updates: UN and State Edition

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.

U.N. | Arizona | California | Colorado | Kansas | Minnesota | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Virginia | Washington | Wisconsin


 

U.N.

Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc

Dennis Frado, Director

  • In a May 18 letter, bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) urged congressional leaders to support the transfer of much-needed funds to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to cover debt owed to Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem. https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/8144

 

  • The ELCA registered with Secretary of State Antony Blinken “profound shock and sadness concerning the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, the West Bank, on May 11 and the deplorable disruption of her funeral procession on May 13” through your a letter from Bishop Eaton, and called for U.S. government “specific, concrete actions against Israeli impunity when these standards are not upheld.” https://blogs.elca.org/peacenotwalls/join-bishop-eaton-in-speaking-out-about-shireen-abu-aklehs-killing/

 

  • The International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) took place in May in New York, with the participation of the ELCA program director on migration and Lutheran Office for World Community staff, joined by AMMPARO companions and global ecumenical partners. A resulting IMRF Progress Declaration announces advancements on specific targets of the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Compact) and affirms the Compact which the United States once refused to engage. The Progress Declaration makes direct reference to systemic racism, climate as a driver of migration, prioritization of regularization of status, and commitment to more meaningful consultation with migrants themselves. Still leaving much to be desired, it sets key target areas for growth for the next round of regional consultations, and the next IMRF in 2026.


 

Arizona

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA) – lamaz.org

Solveig Muus, Director

Major Grant Received! LAMA, together with its Arizona Hunger Policy Workgroup partners including Bread for the World, World Hunger Ecumenical Arizona Task-Force (WHEAT), Arizona Food Bank Network, Arizona Food Systems Network and Arizona Faith Network, received a $20,000 SPARK Grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation. The funds will be used to bring together all hunger advocates and experts in the state of Arizona in one place at one time to strategize about hunger and food insecurity across the state. The initiative is expected to produce a game plan and policy that all Arizona hunger advocates support, and each will work to promote these in the 2023 legislative session.

LAMA Goes to Washington! LAMA director Solveig Muus joined colleagues from across the country for the Bread for the World Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C. on June 6-7. Highlights were visits with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D, AZ-07), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), urging them to extend the Child Nutrition Waivers through 2023 and support S.2956, the Global Malnutrition Prevention & Treatment Act. We took in the sights, attended a meeting of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, and rubbed elbows, D.C.-style.

Hunger Leaders Network Turns One! The Grand Canyon Synod’s Hunger Leaders Network reached a milestone and is just hitting their stride! Each monthly meeting features updates from a churchwide expert as well as a local hunger partner. A special highlight was a greeting and update from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in January.


 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA)

Regina Banks, Director

The Lutheran Office of Public Policy California sponsored Lutheran Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 18th. This virtual event brought Lutheran advocates and ecumenical partners together online to advocate for measures aimed at ending deep childhood poverty in California, financial assistance for families with young children, aiding children who lost parents and caregivers to the COVID 19 pandemic, securing clean safe affordable drinking water and other issues. The event was a great success, and we anticipate that the 2022-2023 budget will include most of these important concerns at funding levels unseen in the last decade. The budget deadline was June 15.


 

Colorado

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org

Peter Severson, Director

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (seated) signs HB 22-1083 into law on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

Ballot Season coming soon: The Colorado Legislature may be adjourned for the year, but the many campaigns for Colorado ballot measures will be coming soon to a screen, mailbox, and billboard near you. We are excited to be working on a ballot measure to fund healthy meals for all public school students! More information on this & other campaigns will be coming this summer.

Bills signed into law: Several bills which Lutheran Advocacy supported this session were recently signed into law by Governor Jared Polis, including House Bill 22-1259, Modifications to Colorado Works Program, which will boost our state’s cash assistance to very low-income households and make needed modernizing updates; and House Bill 22-1083, the Colorado Homeless Contribution Tax Credit (see photo below).

March for Our Lives Service: An ecumenical Service of Lament & Prayer was held at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral on Saturday, June 11, ahead of the March for Our Lives rally in downtown Denver. Representatives from Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist and more faith traditions were present to offer lament for recent gun violence across the United States and to call for prayer and action.


 

Kansas

Kansas Interfaith Action (KIFA) – kansasinterfaithaaction.org

Rabbi Moti Rieber, Executive Director

The Kansas legislature ended its annual session on Monday, May 23. We’re very pleased that of the four vetoes KIFA worked on, three were sustained:

Senate Bill 493, which would have banned municipal restrictions on single use plastic; Senate Bill 160, which would have banned he participation of transgender girls in school sports; and Senate Bill 58, also known as the “Parent Bill of Rights,” which would have opened school districts up to lawsuit if anything was taught (primarily in the areas of race and gender) to which parents objected.

The governor’s veto on a bill that added restrictions on SNAP was overridden.

Bills that in the end didn’t pass included measures that would have expanded exemptions for childhood vaccinations, as well as a bill which would have limited mail-in and drop box voting.

The Congressional maps, which our coalition sued over, were allowed to go into effect by the Kansas Supreme Court. This surprise result ignored the findings of the district court, which found that the maps had been racially and politically gerrymandered.

While we certainly wish that our more proactive legislative priorities, such as Medicaid expansion or payday loan reform, would have passed, the fact that we (and our allies and coalition partners) were able to keep some bad bills from becoming law has to be considered a victory. We are particularly pleased with the defeat of the “Parent Bill of Rights,” which was the culmination of a six-month long effort by the “Teach the Truth” coalition – under KIFA’s leadership – to protect the right to learn the truth about American history.


 

Minnesota

Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota (LA-MN) – lutheranadvocacymn.org

Tammy Walhof, Director

End of Session…

…was extremely disappointing! An agreement was announced in the final days for a Bipartisan Framework splitting the surplus into tax cuts, supplemental budget, and reserves, but bills based on the framework failed to come to final votes. A Tax Agreement could only be passed after the other Conference Committee negotiated bills were passed by both chambers.

Energy/Climate: The negotiated bill passed in committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, and included several things we supported. However, without final passage, Minnesota risks losing its share of federal funds (matches to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act).

Affordable Housing: Housing was allotted disappointingly low funding in the framework, and no negotiated bill reached agreement before adjournment.

Homelessness & Shelter Funding: Failure to come to agreement on funding in the Health & Human Services Conference Committee meant no funding for homelessness or shelters.

Special Session? A special session is still needed! The legislature didn’t finish its work! Several bills were negotiated in good faith by both chambers and parties, but they were not brought to a final vote.

Partisanship: We were frustrated by lack of transparency this session, and more partisan posturing than normal. There is always partisan posturing, but this year the polarization was worse. Sadly, a few legislators worked hard to feed into polarization and partisanship.

We thank all our advocates for tremendous efforts played out in calls, emails, old-fashioned letters, and visits with legislators. Despite how things turned out, we hope to still see those efforts bear fruition in deals yet to be made!

Tammy Walhof, Director of LA-MN, is on sabbatical from June 13th to August 12th! She is excited to have sabbath time, travel to Iceland, and visit different parts of the state to hear how communities are already experiencing climate impacts. Rachel Wyffels, Hunger Advocacy Fellow, is the primary contact person for LA-MN during this time.


 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

I had the privilege to be with the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church in Akron in early June and was blessed with many one on one conversations with folks doing great work in their communities. The stories I heard were similar to the stories I heard a month ago at the Northeastern Ohio Synod Assembly (ELCA). If I had to summarize what I heard, in one word, it would be Anxiety. Faith leaders are confronting the anxiety of the world, and many of our siblings in faith expressed anxiety over a few key issues.

Inflation: Stock returns mean nothing to folks struggling to put food on their table. Many local pantries and community meal programs are dealing with increased demand as people are working hard but aren’t able to afford rising gas and food prices. While the pandemic might be transitioning into a new phase, it has left scars on our communities that will last for generations if policy officials don’t take action.

Addiction: For the past decade, the anxiety only has grown over the opioid epidemic in Ohio and the lack of resources to provide treatment and support for individuals struggling with the illness of addiction.

Healthcare: The lack of affordable and comprehensive health insurance, the reduction in health services for women and LGBTQIA+ are increasing the anxiety of faith leaders who are on the front lines in the battle against hunger and poverty. All Ohioans need access to healthcare services.

As the body of Christ, we have been called to serve those who are struggling today and address the root causes of the suffering by changing policies and the conditions that have created these difficult conditions for our communities.


 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

LAMPa presence in the Capitol increased as the state budget deadline grew closer. Staff participated in press events and met with lawmakers, seeking support for policies in the priority areas of hunger and poverty, housing and creation care.

LAMPa staff accompanied mothers whose families receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as they explained what a proposed cut in cash assistance grants would mean to their children and stood with families who are struggling to hold on to homes in need of expensive repairs. LAMPa is supporting a whole-home repair bill that would help people stay in their homes – part of the answer to the state’s housing crisis and a need in both old mining regions and urban centers. The repairs would also help climate goals by making homes more energy efficient. LAMPa is also advocating to lift the cap on the percent of realty transfer tax that can go into the Pa. Housing Accessibility and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) Fund to enable that fund to grow to meet challenges posed by increasing housing prices. Watch this panel discussion to learn what that would mean to communities in which Lutherans are engaged in ministry with people experiencing homelessness.

LAMPa staff also met with lawmakers in support of investments in a cleaner, healthier environment and shared the experience of Lutheran Disaster Response while urging legislators to codify and strengthen the Office of Environmental Justice.

LAMPa convened meetings of PA synod hunger leaders and green teams for legislative updates and synod report-outs.


 

Virginia

Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP)

Kim Bobo, Executive Director

The General Assembly finally finished its budget work on June 1. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy was pleased to see $40 million extra money added to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to build affordable housing, plus $120 million for affordable housing tax credits to incentivize building affordable housing. Virginia has a terrible affordable housing shortage.

Earlier in the year VICPP had won two study bills – one looking at solitary confinement and one considering requiring unconscious bias training for healthcare professionals. VICPP is now working diligently to assure that these study bills address the concerns of legislators and that we are completely prepared for the 2023 General Assembly.

On June 25th and July 30th, VICPP will host Living Wage Canvasses around the state to encourage businesses to become Living Wage Certified. For more information about this canvass, visit https://virginiainterfaithcenter.ourpowerbase.net/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=195.

Over Labor Day Weekend, VICPP will release a report on the State of Working Virginia. Consider planning a special Labor Day service that weekend to lift up concerns for workers in low-wage jobs.


 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

FAN board, staff, and faith leaders Aneelah Afzali, Elise DeGooyer, Abbot Genjo Marinello, Carolyn Stevens, and Kristin Ang attended the Alliance for Gun Responsibility press conference.

We have just finished our annual regional summits and have enjoyed the time reconnecting with committed advocates in a hybrid format. These took place in Vancouver, Yakima, Spokane and Seattle, each with a Zoom option. We listened to advocates’ input in all the categories of our work: economic justice (hunger/poverty/safety net/tax reform), criminal justice and police reforms, housing and homelessness, environmental justice, healthcare, immigrant rights, and other civil and human rights. We shared the 2022 Legislative Session victories and what our coalition partners are working toward for next year. We heard the unique concerns from communities in each region, while making the connections between their regional experiences and statewide/federal policy changes needed.

Pastor Erik Kindem of Peace Lutheran, Seattle, in a march FAN co-sponsored from Temple De Hirsch Sinai to St. James Cathedral.

Our advocacy this season has included bills in Congress that will impact Washington State communities, like the Child Tax Credit, housing bills included in budget reconciliation, and H.R.5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. And of course, in the wake of too many mass shootings, we have held vigils and marched, and called our network to act. We will continue to say #Enough until strong gun legislation is enacted.

May/June Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C.
– The Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director, ELCA Witness in Society

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: May/June 2022

HOUSING FIRST SIGN-ON OPPORTUNITY  |  OP-ED ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM  |  INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENTS  |  FEDERAL INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOL REPORT  |  UKRAINE AND AFGHAN MIGRANT UPDATES  |  BUFFALO MASS SHOOTING


The May/June issue of ELCA Advocacy Connections was prepared for distribution on May 25, 2022. While these brief updates on activity in which our ELCA Witness in Society federal staff is engaged are never an expansion of national news or a complete picture, today especially we are aware they don’t touch our corporate reflections, including on the horror of the shooting in Uvalde, Tex. and on observance of the second anniversary of the death of George Floyd. In our advocacy we continue to seek meaningful opportunities to support policies that increase gun safety. Federally at this moment, we anticipate an Executive Order today from President Biden to increase accountability and transparency in policing. The ELCA introduced in 2019 a 60-Day Journey Toward Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence which provides some resources for our prayer and action. In our work and ministry, and our individual discipled lives, may we turn to our Lord for comfort, guidance and strength, and steadfastly do all we can personally and publicly.


 

HOUSING FIRST SIGN-ON OPPORTUNITY:  Congregations and other ministries are invited to add their names by May 30 to a letter to Congress in support of the Housing First model. The letter (read in full) was organized with the National Low Income Housing Coalition (in which the ELCA is a member), and the ELCA has joined the interfaith and religious service provider letter to Congress in support of the Housing First model and opposition to policy changes that would undermine its use.

Despite a lack of investment in housing resources in recent years, the innovative uses of Housing First as an approach to homelessness have demonstrated a high statistical success rate nationally. The letter to lawmakers comes as rates of homelessness have remained nearly level – even as staggering housing costs, the pandemic, and other factors would otherwise suggest a large surge in displacement.

If your ministry or congregation wants to sign before the May 30 deadline, the signature form for the letter is found at https://forms.office.com/r/Nx8VFqk8Hb

 

OP-ED ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:  Working together, Deacon Nick Bates of Hunger Ohio and ELCA federal advocacy staff crafted and pitched a piece to a Cleveland news source reflecting on policy before Congress and compassionate criminal justice. Each of us reading ELCA Advocacy Connections can make our voices heard, together representing a strong network of prayerful, concerned citizens living out our baptism in discipled lives.

“As a Christian, I know that justice means recognizing the human capacity for growth and redemption. And as a leader in the [ELCA], I believe that human dignity is God’s gift to every person. That’s why I urge U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to support the package of sentencing reform bills currently pending in Congress,” Deacon Bates wrote. Find locations in the ELCA-affiliated state public policy office network here. Read his full opinion piece, “As a Christian, I believe in compassionate criminal justice. Ohio’s senators should, too,” from Cleveland.com. Interested in writing your own on a policy issue that concerns you in which you have experience? Use the resource “Writing a Letter to the Editor” or the video “How Do I Use Media for Impact?” for pointers.

 

INTERNATIONAL POLICY DEVELOPMENTS:  The House of Representatives passed two bills that ELCA advocacy staff has been working on: the Global Malnutrition Prevention Act and the Burma Act of 2021. Thank you for your Lutheran voices of support. Advocacy attention now shifts to the Senate side to push for passage there.

In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed to a two-month truce, agreeing to halt all military operations in Yemen and across its borders. Advocacy will continue in urging the U.S. government to stop supplying weapons, spare parts, maintenance services and logistical support to Saudi Arabia.

 

FEDERAL INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOL REPORT:  The Department of the Interior released an investigative report (5/11/22) laying the groundwork to address the trauma and legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies. The ELCA is committed to understanding the Church’s role and supporting healing for survivors, and an advocacy opportunity will soon be posted in our Action Center.

The experience of the ELCA, and of members and siblings among Indigenous people of North America, is not separate from this federal study. For example, in the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod, the Advocates for Racial Equity (ARE) group held discussions about the Saint Paul Industrial School which operated at one time as an Indian Boarding School in Clontarf, Minn. Their March 24 dialogue was a chance to look closer into what led this small town to build and operate such a program and examine the ongoing impact of Indian Boarding Schools, including “ways in which suppression keeps us from rumbling with our past.”

 

UKRAINE AND AFGHAN MIGRANT UPDATES:  The President shared his $33 billion request for more security and economic assistance for Ukraine, including the “Uniting for Ukraine” initiative. Notably, the request also includes an Afghan Adjustment Act. Attention now turns to Congress for passage.

As of April, there were over 7.7 million displaced people in Ukraine. The “Uniting for Ukraine” initiative seeks to streamline the process for Ukrainians abroad to come to the United States via a specialized parole program that lasts up to two years (more information on the Department of Homeland Security website). Ukrainians should seek information first before making travel arrangements.

Additionally, the next few weeks are especially critical for advocates to make their voices heard to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act. Use the ELCA Action Center to add your voice through a customizable Action Alert.

Of additional migration impact, a federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction to block the Biden administration from ending the mass expulsions of migrants under the Title 42 pandemic-era rule. “Migrants, advocates in the faith community and public health experts have exhaustively argued that restoring asylum and protecting public health can be done together,” writes Giovana Oaxaca, ELCA program director for migration in an ELCA Advocacy Blog post on Title 42. Our advocacy continues to pursue fair safe, and humane asylum policy in the United States.

 

BUFFALO MASS SHOOTING:  Advocacy continues to be part of our response to grief and anger again unveiled after the killing of 10 people in a racially motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store on May 14. As legislative responses surface in Congress, ELCA staff will make available outlets for our voices in the process.

“Churches have a foundational role in eradicating racism and white supremacy in society. We must take real and lasting action now—through education, relationship-building with Historic Black Churches, ongoing anti-racism education, advocacy, and self-reflection,” wrote the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a statement (5/19/22).

The bishop of the ELCA Upstate New York Synod wrote, “Let us be of one mind. We in the Upstate New York Synod and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reject racism and a white-supremacy worldview and mindset. We renounce the ways scripture has been used to support genocide, enslavement of people, oppression, and mass incarceration. We acknowledge, lament, and repent in the ways we have been complicit in a white dominate culture which supports competitive individualism, binary ways of problem solving, seeking comfort over reparations, and centering power within, thereby marginalizing the experience, voice, and thoughts of others.” Bishop Lee Miller II’s letter can be read in full here.

 


Receive monthly Advocacy Connections directly by becoming part of the ELCA Advocacy network – http://elca.org/advocacy/signup , and learn more from elca.org/advocacy .

 

Farm Bill Advocacy

This blog is an invitation into learning more about the farm bill, farm bill advocacy and ways to get involved. It expands on information in the ELCA World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge Youth Action Guide’s advocacy page.

 

The farm bill is legislation passed every five years that has a tremendous impact on hunger in the United States and globally. The current farm bill expires in 2023, so the process is ramping up – where the programs covered in the bill are debated, refreshed and ultimately passed by Congress toward being signed into law. Now is the time for our input and advocacy to shape the next farm bill with priorities that draw us closer to a world where all are fed!

These are empowering words from John Johnson, ELCA Program Director for Domestic Policy: “You don’t have to be an expert [to do advocacy], you just need to care .” Recognizing, though, that a better understanding of the policy you are advocating on will boost your confidence, let’s dig in. What exactly is the farm bill, and why is it important?

 

What is the farm bill?

The farm bill is an omnibus bill, meaning it has several different parts all joined together in a single bill. Some of the different aspects of the farm bill include:

  • Nutrition
  • International Food Aid
  • Rural Development
  • Environmental and Land Conservation
  • Research and Development

An ELCA farm bill resource was prepared in 2018 which breaks down the different components of the bill, and what the ELCA was advocating for within the bill, including honoring land claims by Indigenous Peoples. An update for 2023 will be posted to ELCA.org/resources/advocacy, but many of the basics are the same. If you are interested in a more in-depth history of the bill, “The History of the United States Farm Bill” from the Library of Congress is a great place to start and includes many archived photos.

 

Why does the farm bill matter?

The farm bill affects everyone. This policy connects to your community locally and globally, such as healthy food access for low-income families, food waste reduction, conservation practices, rural development and much more. The ELCA supports a farm bill that will promote a strong and resilient food-supply chain and provide needed nutrition through domestic and international programs. Our advocacy as Lutherans in this process will draw attention to faith-based priorities to end hunger and create a more sustainable world through this policy in our lives and the lives of our neighbors.

 

Take Action

Sign up for the ELCA Advocacy Network.

The farm bill is still in the preparatory phase. Sign up here for the network to get alerts so that you can take action at critical points during the bill’s development and find out about advocacy actions in other areas of interest.

Write your own Farm Bill prayer.

Reread the prayer at the beginning of this blog. Think about the different parts to it, and how many people are involved in bringing food to our plates. Create a list of at least 10 different jobs involved in bringing food to the table. Using the prayer as a template, write your own prayer about your community, naming people and professions involved in the process. Ask your worship leader to use it during the Prayers of the People in your next worship service. Share your prayer on social media using #ELCAfarmprayers and tag us @ELCAadvocacy.

Visit a farm.

Connect with a local farmer or rancher to talk to them about their work. You can ask them questions about how the farm bill affects them. You can use this story and what you learn when you write to your legislator about farm bill priorities. Don’t forget to thank them for their work!

Get to know your representatives.

Building relationships with your representatives is important. Use House.gov to find your congressional representative. Write an email introducing yourself and your interest in the farm bill, and ask them what their priorities in the farm bill are.

Lead a service project.

Invite your youth group or congregation to study hunger facts (like “Fact Sheet: Hunger Is a Racial Equity Issue” and other tools at ELCA.org/resources/advocacy).

Make connections to impacts of policy with a service event like a soup super, garden planting, refugee assistance or other activity.

Check to see if your congregation, synod or an ELCA-affiliated state public policy office offers activities you can join supporting justice, hunger relief or creation care – and participate (or start one!).

Connect with us.

Have questions for us or just want to connect with someone to learn more about advocacy? You can email washingtonoffice@elca.org or follow us on social media @ELCAadvocacy.

 

Devotional: Steps Forge the Path

by Sandra Roper, 2021-22 Hunger Advocacy Fellow [about the author]

Sometimes it feels like my whole life revolves around the question “what’s next?” There’s this notion that “next” is a jump, one thing to another, and that the next thing must be substantially different from the thing before in order to be “new.” I’m starting to think that’s not the case.

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

What strikes me the most about the passage from Isaiah is the “way in the wilderness” that is being created. Unlike the image of something springing forth, spontaneous and recognizable as new, a new path being taken doesn’t really look like a new path for the first few steps. Sometimes when you’re walking you realize it’s a new path, but it can be hard and confusing to find your way. Sometimes, it’s not until you look back, that you realize you’ve been forging a new path and not just wandering lost.

When I look back on the path that brought me to this year as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow, it’s easy to see the way decisions built off of each other to bring me here. At the time though, those decisions didn’t always feel purposeful or important. Quite honestly, a lot of the time I just felt lost. The past few years in particular have been challenging. Global pandemic, graduating from college and close personal loss among other things have made answering the question “what’s next?” difficult to navigate. And yet, looking back I can see how all those little decisions have built into something bigger.

Five years ago, I do not think I could have articulated how advocacy and justice are an integral part of living out God’s call to love our neighbors and our world. When I entered college, I joined a campus ministry focused on doing justice. I had opportunities and relationships that centered on deeply listening to the stories of others and walking with rather than talking over. Today, faith as a driving force for service and justice is at the center of what I do as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow.

The work that God does in the world is not always spontaneous. Advocacy is a long-term commitment to caring for our neighbors and our world. I hear the phrase “advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint” a lot from colleagues, and it is a loving reminder of endurance and hope. It is a long process of progress and setbacks and progress again. Sometimes, we need the reminder to stop and look around at what is happening.

I don’t know what’s next for me after this year, but I do know that whatever comes next in my journey after this year will continue building this new path that God is calling me towards.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandra Roper studied English and Germanic Studies in college and has worked with other faith-based organizations, including Lutheran World Federation, while she was an undergraduate. She shares communications responsibilities with the ELCA Witness in Society staff, including social media and writing duties, and supports advocacy advancement in various ways. She enjoys hiking in her free time, particularly in the fall.

May Update: UN and State Edition

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.

U.N. | Colorado | Maryland | Texas | Washington | Wisconsin


 

U.N.

Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc

Dennis Frado, Director

The Twenty-First session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) took place from 25 April-6 May 2022. The theme this year was “Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent”.

Lutherans participated virtually and in person in the two-week event with a delegation of 5 representatives from the ELCA and the United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia.

In addition to attending the official sessions, Lutherans co-sponsored side events with several Ecumenical and Interfaith partners on the occasion of the Forum on Wednesday, May 4. The first event – “Faith-based Indigenous conversations” featured Vance Blackfox, Director, Indigenous Ministries & Tribal Relations, ELCA. The second event was a multi-faith worship service under the theme “All Our Relatives Live as One”.

Useful resources:


 

Colorado

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org

Peter Severson, Director

COLORADO LEGISLATURE ADJOURNS: The Colorado General Assembly adjourned on Wednesday, May 11. The Assembly took up a number of significant priorities on Lutheran Advocacy’s agenda, including school meals, criminal record sealing, housing support, workforce development, health benefits, and basic cash assistance. Our thorough write-up of the session and our priorities will be available in the coming weeks on our website, lam-co.org.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SYNOD ASSEMBLY: The Rocky Mountain Synod met for its annual assembly in Loveland, Colorado, from May 9-11. Voting members had several opportunities to engage with advocacy efforts around the synod, including adding their voices to the ongoing listening process for a New Social Statement around Civics & Faith.

BALLOT MEASURE SEASON UPCOMING: Colorado has a generous direct-democracy provision in its constitution, meaning we get more ballot measures than most states. Follow our e-alerts and social media to learn more about our upcoming work on statewide ballot measures in 2022. It promises to be a busy season!


 

Maryland

Delaware-Maryland Synod – demdsynod.org

The Rev. Lee Hudson, Assistant to the Bishop for Public Policy

The 2022 session of the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) was in session from January 12 to April 11, and it was productive for stated ELCA policy interests. By arrangement of the Delaware-Maryland Synod Bishop, the Rev. Bill Gohl, issues of interest are addressed under the auspices of his office, especially where a constituency interest may be present. These topics include creation care, racial justice, criminal justice, sustainable livelihood, and access to healthcare. There were 12 pieces of legislation that passed where documented support was sent to the MGA, as the legislation fell within the ELCA policy base. This included:


 

Texas

Texas Impact – texasimpact.org

Scott Atnip, Outreach Director

In response to the Texas Legislature’s voter suppression efforts in 2021, Texas Impact is scheduling a series of Faith in Democracy Events across the state this summer to equip congregations with the tools necessary to help participate in strengthening election infrastructure at the local level.

Following the Governor’s decision to bus migrants from the Texas/Mexico border the Washington, D.C., Texas Impact hosted ELCA Bishop Sue Briner on the Texas Impact Weekly Witness podcast discussing her meeting with migrant families in DC. Texas Impact is in process of relaunching the popular Court and Ports Program and is currently recruiting participants to go to the border to visit the ports of entry and serve as court observers.

The Texas Impact Board of Directors is beginning a project to compile social statements from member judicatories and will be responding to the series of high profile statements being made from state government officials and federal courts.


 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

In April we formulated our plans for Spring Summits in each of four regions across our state to meet in person and on Zoom as we reconnect for justice. We are looking forward to a hybrid summit experience, to make time for conversation to reintroduce advocates to each other, learn about the work they are doing in their communities, and have strategic conversations about policy issues. Our first summit was in the Puget Sound area on May 15.

Also in April, we learned of a proposed ballot initiative to undo the capital gains tax we passed last year after decades of work. Washington has the most regressive tax system in the nation, and we work in coalition to change that. We knew the measure would be challenged, as it has already been in court and is headed to the Washington Supreme Court. Now the opposition will begin signature gathering and have until July to gather over 320,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. This would have devastating impacts on funding for childcare and early learning services in our state. We are participating in the Decline to Sign campaign, and will oppose the initiative if it qualifies for the ballot.


 

Wisconsin

Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Wednesday Noon Live: Interview with Rev. Lanny Westphal, who talks about his sister living on a farm with her Ukrainian husband outside of Kyiv. Hear about his sister’s story and how the ELCA is helping Ukraine. Click here for the interview, and also updates on the Afghan Adjustment Act and Title 42.

Care for God’s Creation: LOPPW organized a first discussion about the Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan with leaders who were active in helping to shape the plan leading the discussion at our Wisconsin Climate Table. We are beginning to discern where advocacy will be needed on the legislative and state budget levels.

Youth Advocacy: Members of our team will develop a flyer and short video about faith-based advocacy. We plan to make the materials known at the synod youth events being held in July. Each of the team members will attend one of the events.

Synod Assemblies: LOPPW will have had an in-person presence at four assemblies, leading a workshop at one, speaking briefly during the plenary at one, and having tables at all four. One of the other synods will show a short video recently created by LOPPW at their mini assemblies.

Training Volunteers: LOPPW just trained one of our volunteers to give presentations on human trafficking. She presented on Saturday, May 14 while LOPPW staff was at the East Central Synod Assembly.

April Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C.
– the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director, ELCA Witness in Society

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: April 2022

CRITICAL HOUSING INCREASES IN BUDGET  |  CLIMATE AWARENESS IN BUDGET AND BEYOND  |  RESPONSE TO MYANMAR (BURMA)  |  END IN SIGHT FOR TITLE 42  |  FAIR HOUSING MONTH

 

CRITICAL HOUSING INCREASES IN BUDGET:  Since original overdue deadline of the budget passed last October, hundreds of Lutherans contacted their members to end the inaction and include increases in critical needs such as housing aid and homeless assistance. In the final version, advocates succeeded in obtaining increases in several low-income spending accounts, including a boost of more than $4 billion in housing assistance.

This comes at a critical time as inflation costs and the shortage of available housing are meeting historic highs. In the coming days and weeks, as congressional committees prepare a bill for the current fiscal cycle, ELCA advocacy will be amplifying opportunities to take action on core priorities and principles in the federal budget.

 

CLIMATE AWARENESS IN BUDGET AND BEYOND:  President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget that includes funding to address climate change domestically and internationally with substantial increase in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

The ELCA, working with Non-Government Organizations and other faith-based organizations, began advocacy campaigns with Congressional appropriations committee members to emphasize the importance of finalizing FY23 budget by the end of September with the monies proposed in the president’s budget. The urgency of taking climate action, especially as it relates to women’s human rights, was highlighted by over 80 Lutheran delegates who took part in the sixty-sixth Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the U.N. This CSW brought together the gender and climate justice work that Lutherans have led over many years, including youth-led climate justice action around the world, by amplifying the leadership and voices of young people. ELCA and Lutheran World Federation delegates showcased the vital role that faith actors play in promoting women’s empowerment and combating violence and discrimination to achieve greater gender equality at local, national and international levels.

 

RESPONSE TO MYANMAR (BURMA):  The U.S. government has officially declared it has determined that the Myanmar army carried out actions that amount to genocide against the Rohingya people.

While the United States has already imposed many sanctions since 2016, the Secretary of State did announce that the United States will contribute an additional $1 million to the Genocide Convention for Myanmar, which was established in 2018 by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The State Department will also share their findings to support the ongoing genocide case against Myanmar military at the International Court of Justice which was brought forward by the government of Gambia.

 

END IN SIGHT FOR TITLE 42:  On April 1, President Biden announced that Title 42, a policy that has been used to categorically deny asylum seekers the opportunity to ask for protection, will be ending on May 23. The Department of Homeland Security has made many preparations for the change, including updating how asylum will be processed.

Hours after the White House’s Title 42 announcement, multiple lawmakers signaled they would support delaying critical COVID-19 supplementing funding for domestic and international needs over Title 42. A vote on this would be devastating for people who have waited for their chance to ask for refuge on the other side of the border. ELCA advocacy staff have urged lawmakers to reconsider any potential vote to delay restoring access to asylum. The court-reinstated Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), or “Remain in Mexico,” is headed to the Supreme Court (oral argument to be held in April) with far-reaching consequences for immigrant detention and pushbacks. Through AMMPARO, the ELCA is coordinating on what the impact of Title 42 will be as migrant ministries activate for the potential arrival of newcomers.

 

FAIR HOUSING MONTH:  April is Fair Housing Month, an opportunity to highlight the critical need of housing for people and to recommit support for inclusion and justice in housing – matters many Lutherans and Lutheran ministries uphold.

Over the past few years, Lutherans have submitted public comments to proposed rules and to HUD officials. – advocating for them to enforce long neglected elements of the Fair Housing Act and to address injustices in housing disparities. This comes as homeownership rate disparities and the wealth gap in housing equity has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. HUD’s current series promoting Fair Housing month, including a webinar and other resources, can be found here.

 


Receive monthly Advocacy Connections directly by becoming part of the ELCA Advocacy network – http://elca.org/advocacy/signup , and learn more from elca.org/advocacy .

 

April Update: UN and State Edition

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.

U.N. | Colorado | New Mexico | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin


 

U.N.

Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc

Dennis Frado, Director

 

The sixty-sixth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) took place from 14 to 25 March 2022. The Priority Theme was achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs; and the Review Theme was women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

Despite taking place in a hybrid format, CSW66 had high-level participation from Member States, including two Heads of State and Government, three vice-presidents, and 111 ministers. In addition, 213 virtual side events were organized by Member States and UN entities, many in collaboration with civil society. Also, more than 800 virtual non-governmental organizations (NGO) parallel events organized by civil society took place.

The Lutheran World Federation and the ELCA participated virtually in the two-week event with a delegation of over 80 members from different parts of the world, facilitated by the Lutheran Office for World Community. Delegates highlighted the urgency of taking action against the climate crisis, especially as it relates to women’s human rights and their ability to participate as equals in climate action. In addition, they showcased the vital role that faith actors play in promoting women’s empowerment, and in combating violence and discrimination to achieve greater gender equality at local, national, and international levels. This CSW66 brought together the gender and climate justice work that Lutherans have led over many years including youth-led climate justice action around the world by amplifying the leadership and voices of young people.


 

Colorado

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org

Peter Severson, Director

 

On April 9, volunteers from Urban Servant Corps, a one-year full time Lutheran volunteer program in Denver, joined LAM-CO Director Peter Severson for a visit to the Colorado State Capitol Building. 

LEGISLATIVE SESSION IN CRUNCH TIME: As the Colorado General Assembly moves into the final quarter of its 2022 session, LAM-CO is actively working on a host of bills related to our 2022 Advocacy Agenda. Among our top priorities this session:

  • HB 1259, Modifications to Colorado Works Program (Duran/Jodeh). This bill will offer badly-needed updates to our state’s Basic Cash Assistance program, which is funded through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. It will remove some key barriers to eligibility and increase baseline assistance.
  • SB 087, Healthy Meals for All Public School Students (Pettersen/Fields). The bill continues a program initiated through Colorado’s federal COVID relief funds, covering the cost of school meals for all children in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.
  • SB 099, Sealing Criminal Records (Hisey/Rodriguez). Also known as “Clean Slate,” the bill automates the record-sealing process for certain non-violent offenses, for which over one million Coloradans are already eligible.


 

New Mexico

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico (LAM-NM) – lutheranadvocacynm.org

Kurt Rager, Director

 

It’s like farming Redwood trees…  

Ruth Hoffman, the long-time director of LAM-NM now retired, would describe the work of legislative advocacy as, “farming redwood trees.” In other words, positive policy change can take years of cultivation and work to achieve. The 2022 New Mexico legislature passed several bills during the legislative session that would exemplify this. We at LAM-NM are particularly proud of our role in the success of HB-132.  

HB-132 cut interest rates on short-term loans, offered by nearly 900 store-front lenders across New Mexico, from 175% to 36%. (Twenty years ago, such loans were offered at well over 400%.) These loans target New Mexico’s most financially vulnerable and 65% of lenders are located within 10 miles of Indigenous lands. Even more devastating, these loans are typically rolled over several times.  What may have started as an emergency loan for a few hundred turns into several thousand dollars owed.  More than 15 years ago a concerted effort to reduce interest rates began.  

LAM-NM, working alongside partner organizations that together make up the NM Fair Lending Coalition, cultivated this effort over numerous sessions while confronting formidable opposition. n 2022, to amplify the voice of faith communities, a letter from denominational leaders of the NM Conference of Churches was initiated.  Individuals in congregations were invited to sign-on as well, and in just over two weeks almost 500 advocacy partners in 40 congregations added their names to the letter to legislators in support of the 36% interest rate cap. Indeed, the impact of the letter was clear as it was referenced during the House floor debate.


 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

 

Ohio continues to struggle to adopt fair maps in the state. It appears that Ohio’s congressional maps will move forward for at least the 2022 election cycle while state maps remain in legal limbo. We encourage you to follow our colleagues at Common Cause Ohio to stay up-to-date.

In March, we were excited to host our second webinar on the intersection of hunger and other issues. This time we focused on the environment and discussed policy issues in Ohio related to clean water and energy production. For too long, Ohio has under-invested in clean water infrastructure including mapping and replacing lead pipes, wastewater, and stormwater management. We also spent a half hour discussing local congregational efforts including those in Southwest Ohio at Christ the King Lutheran Church with their efforts to not only move toward sustainability but toward restoration. You can watch our webinar here!

Our next webinar will focus on criminal justice but has not yet been scheduled. Follow our Facebook page to see when future events are scheduled! 


 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

 

Budget advocacy accelerated this month as LAMPa met with coalition partners to organize around priorities and sought input from our ministries. LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale made legislative visits to seek support for increases in the State Food Purchase Program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System in the face of rising food prices. The state’s two major anti-hunger programs support lower purchase prices for Pennsylvania’s charitable food network that includes many congregational pantries. LAMPa also worked to identify champions for a proposed state-supported increase in minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for seniors and persons with disabilities.

LAMPa and coalition partners made progress on securing bipartisan support for legislation dealing with prescription drug pricing and funding for the state housing trust fund. LAMPa advocates have worked for years on the program, and it will be the focus of a presentation at United Lutheran Seminary on April 28. The presentation, which will include conversation with housing agency officials and advocates who themselves have experienced homelessness, will conclude the seminary’s spring convocation.

DePasquale met with Lutheran Disaster Response, Pa. Council of Churches, and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster regarding increases in state funding for disaster and plans to educate the next administration about disaster response.

Staff offered advocacy presentations to Allegheny Synod deans and congregations in Lower Susquehanna Synod, hosted a webinar on energy choice and community solar advocacy, met with Lutheran advocates monitoring elections legislation and continued work with partners seeking independent investigations of police use of lethal force.


 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

 

Pictured is Kristin Ang at the Transportation package signing.

We are celebrating some wonderful successes from the 2022 Legislative Session that ended on March 10. This was one of the most productive short sessions in recent memory, with transformational investments across the safety net—food, school meals, housing, and cash assistance—as well as transportation and education. By the end of session, the largest supplemental budget in history passed with $64.1 billion that will make a tangible difference for our communities, along with a 16-year, $17 billion transportation package called “Move Ahead Washington” that will reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. We were frustrated that our criminal justice and police reform bills did not move and recommit ourselves to continue working in coalition to move forward a ban on solitary confinement and other essential reforms. Other notable achievements of this session included bipartisan support for the nation’s first alert system for missing and endangered Indigenous persons, momentous victories for gun responsibility, and additional funding to support refugees arriving in our state. You can review the full list of successes and read Policy Engagement Director Kristin Ang’s recap at fanwa.org/advocacy/legislative-agenda.


 

Wisconsin

Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

 

Care for God’s Creation – Message from Governor Evers’ Office: “The Governor will today sign AB 727/SB 677, which Lutheran Office for Public Policy Wisconsin supported, related to creating a commercial nitrogen optimization pilot program, providing crop insurance rebates for cover crops, creating a hydrogeologist position, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. We wanted to make sure you knew before it came out publicly. Thank you so much for your advocacy.” signed by Camille Crary, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Governor Tony Evers

Human Trafficking: LOPPW’s director the Rev. Cindy Crane was one of the presenters at UW-Madison Law School’s Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender Society Symposium, at the recommendation of a La Crosse legislator. LOPPW presented on recent anti-sex trafficking bills.

Wednesday Noon Live: Interview with Secretary of State Doug La Follette. How some leaders tried to overthrow the 2020 election results in Wisconsin: What is at stake in the Secretary of State’s position? Click here to watch the interview.

Youth Advocacy: We held our first listening session for youth, who showed interest in climate justice, equity and racism, anti-bullying, equity and LGBTQ+ issues, and hunger and class. There is interest in holding a second session.

Raise the Age: Our coalition had its first online informational session, which included testimonies from two people with experience being sent to adult prison as youth. You can watch the video here.