from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: November/December 2023
IN TIME OF WAR: As weeks extend in the temporarily paused Isael-Hamas war, faith leaders continue to urge peace. Signed by the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, several ELCA synod bishops and others through Churches for Middle East Peace, a Nov. 29 letter to President Biden says, “We condemn all acts of violence against civilians and grieve with Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones.” It urges: “You have a unique opportunity to turn the tide of history and finally demand that the fighting stop and that the parties involved resolve their differences through negotiations and diplomatic means. Please do not miss this opportunity. Millions of lives depend on the U.S., no longer being complicit in an unjust war that has already devastated the lives of thousands of civilians. Our prayers are with you in the days and weeks to come. We ask that God give you wisdom and courage to do all you can to bring an end to the killing and the violence.”
Our ELCA advocacy continues to urge Congress and the Administration to: 1) Publicly call for a ceasefire to prevent the further loss of life; 2) Prioritize the protection of all civilians, including by urgently securing the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza and working to secure the release of hostages and prisoners; and 3) Urge all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law.
FARM BILL EXTENSION: When Congress temporarily averted a government shutdown until early next year an extension of 2018 Farm Bill programs through Sept. 30, 2024, was also passed. Representatives of ELCA Pennsylvania synods visited Capitol Hill on Oct. 26 and shared experiences and priorities regarding feeding ministries, SNAP benefits, conservation programs and other components of the Farm Bill with U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) staff and offices of elected officials. We thank federal staffers and faith-centered advocates, including bishops, rostered ministers and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania staff for this impactful effort organized with ELCA D.C.-based advocacy staff. Seeds planted by this fly-in include stronger relationships with USDA staff members, including connecting with ELCA World Hunger colleagues on new ways states and communities can provide healthy nutrition to low-income children during the summer months.
Contacting Congress on Farm Bill measures will be a critical priority for faith-based advocates as negotiations come to the fore in 2024. Our ELCA advocacy will continue to urge Congress to pass a Farm Bill reauthorization that promotes: food for hungry neighbors at home and abroad, healthy rural and farming communities, inclusion of people of all backgrounds, and creation care to feed future generations. Input from hundreds of Lutherans across the country who asked that their voices reach policy makers in the farm bill reauthorization process helped shape this ask, which is described in the ELCA “2023 Farm Bill Asks” summary.
CLIMATE-SMART FARMING FUNDING: As the Farm Bill reauthorization continues to be negotiated, members of the House Committee on Agriculture are worried about a move to steer conservation money intended for climate-smart farming into other programs. This would threaten the additional funding for climate-smart agriculture programs in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. It seems to be a hurdle toward achieving a bipartisan Farm Bill.
GENDER JUSTICE: For the first time, the U.S. government will contribute to the UNICEF/UNFPA’s Global Programme to End Child Marriage. This program was launched in 2016 to fight child marriage in 12 countries that have high prevalence rates, but the United States had not contributed funding for this work. The UNICEF/UNFPA work is separate from the bilateral work that USAID and the State Department are doing to end child marriage globally. Early and forced marriage is among types of gender-based violence identified in ELCA social teaching as the ELCA shares “rich convictions and significant commitments” to address justice for women and girls.
NOTEWORTHY LEGISLATIVE BREAKTHROUGHS: While it can appear that Congress is immobile in bipartisan immigration reform, some breakthroughs are taking place. Of note, the House has introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act which would enable Afghans with parole status to adjust their legal status;Bthe Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (H.R.1325) which is responding to the community’s support of families seeking safety by shortening the length wait-period for work authorization; and most recently, the Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023 which would help make sure that unaccompanied children receive due process and meaningful support navigating immigration proceedings streamlined through the creation of a Children’s Court. These bills are noteworthy in scope and support, and because they are responsive to concerns raised by people of faith including ELCA Witness in Society staff and other advocates.
The ELCA supported a campaign of gratitude for sponsorship of the Afghan Adjustment Act through the Immigration Interfaith Coalition, inviting tagging of lawmakers with expressions of thanks, in addition to urging passage through an Action Alert.