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November Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N.| California | Minnesota | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin

United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y. ELCA.org/lowc

Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training: The Lutheran World Federation in collaboration with Church of Sweden, Finn Church Aid, Mission 21, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance is holding an advocacy training on women’s human rights (26 October – 13 November 2020). The training is usually held annually in person, and this year, due to COVID-19 it is being held virtually.

Topics covered include introduction to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), tools and opportunities for engaging in preparing for parallel (also known as “shadow”) reports to CEDAW, the intersection between human rights, faith and gender, Gender-Based Violence prevention and responses, the role of men and boys in gender justice advocacy among others. LOWC is involved in the planning and facilitation of some sessions during the training. A resource for faith-based organizations on affirming women’s human rights can be found here.

General Assembly’s Third Committee Has Dialogues with Human Rights Mandate Holders: As it has done for some years, the General Assembly’s Third Committee has been having dialogues in recent weeks with various persons holding human rights mandates from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. While LOWC has been monitoring quite a few of these discussions on topics such as racism and racial discrimination, advancement of women, rights of indigenous peoples, and internally displaced persons, it took special note of the discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor S. Michael Lynk.  His report this year reviewed the situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza and focused on accountability related issues. Lynk also held a separate virtual discussion with the UN NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, of which LOWC is a member, as he has in previous years on this occasion.


California

Regina Q. Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/

Getting ready for the election: The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in California (LOPP-CA) has been working diligently to prepare for the upcoming election. The staff did work around building patience and an understanding of the process. In the weekly Advocacy in Quarantine meetings, LOPP-CA worked with constituents to talk through the timeliness of the election while holding space for further learning on the state’s Proposition.

Prop 16 Text Banking: LOPP-CA went forward this month in continuing to text bank with the Prop 16 coalition. The office has been reaching out to California voters through a texting platform called Thru Text in hopes of overturning the state-wide ban of affirmative action, something that has been in effect since 1996. There has been a committed group of parishioners and advocates meeting every Monday to push this outreach, and so far the office has reached more than 600,000 voters in the state.

Partnering with California Food and Farming Network: Continuing the office’s commitment to advocate for food and farming, LOPP-CA has begun working closely with the California Food and Farming Network (CFFN), a coalition of around 40 advocacy organizations such as food banks, legislative advocacy, farming service organizations, and partners from across both the food and farming sectors. The Network has begun its strategic process for the year 2021, centering racial justice and equity in their approach. LOPP-CA has joined CFFN for this visioning process, and has given financial contributions toward centering racial justice through committing funds to CFFN’s community Engagement process. Specifically, CFFN will be reaching out into communities of color, finding leaders and advocates within food sectors, and providing compensation for their expertise. This listening campaign will take the expertise learned and structure CFFN 2021 priorities.


Minnesota

Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy- Minnesota http://www.lutheranadvocacymn.org/

State Legislative Elections: Although the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lost some seats in the House, it retains control of the chamber. In the Senate, some flipped districts occurred, but the balance remains the same. Unfortunately, at least one of the Republicans that was ousted was one who was helpful to our housing agenda. All the main leaders from both parties and both chambers retain their positions.

Minnesota U.S. Elections: Rep. Colin Peterson was ousted from Minnesota’s 7th congressional district seat and replaced by former State Senator/Senate President Michelle Fischbach, who also served briefly as Lt. Governor when Tina Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Representative Peterson served as the long-term chair of the Agriculture Committee, a committee Fischbach hopes to serve on as it also addresses nutrition issues.

Update on Special Session #5: A carefully negotiated $1.36 billion bill including bonding, supplemental appropriations, and “tax  relief” for farmers and small businesses was finally passed when House Minority Leader Daudt let his caucus vote their conscience. Freed by Daudt, many House Republicans joined the bipartisan bill. Thanks for your hard work on the housing pieces!

Included in the bill were

  • $100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds
  • $16 million in General Obligation Bonds for Public Housing
  • A large amount for transportation including roads and bridges, some public transportation, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Bonds for public facility projects, public safety, the University of Minnesota, and other various public works, including municipal water infrastructure & solar projects
  • $31 million in a supplemental appropriation (added to last year’s biennial budget)


Ohio

Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio hungernetohio.com

Hunger For Justice Conference: On November 9th the Hunger Network sponsored the Hunger for Justice Conference featuring theological reflection on the election and analysis of what is to come so that faith leaders across the state can identify opportunities for successful advocacy!

Visit www.hungernetohio.com/summit for links to our plenary panel, theological reflection and musical reflection of what the election means to our communities


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa) www.lutheranadvocacypa.org

Shaping Hunger Policy in PA: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the quarterly meeting of the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Advisory Committee, where the state Department of Agriculture and charitable feeding organizations assessed the current response to emergency nutrition needs during COVID-19, mapped likely needs and set goals for meeting those needs in the upcoming state budget.

LAMPa Participates in Virtual Human Trafficking Rally: LAMPa participated in a Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group sponsored Advocacy Day lifting legislation that provides definitions and the offense of trafficking individuals; repealing provisions relating to patronizing a victim of sexual servitude; promoting prostitution and living off sexually exploited persons; commercial sexual exploitation; and providing for Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

Workshop presented at We Love: LAMPa Program Director Lynn Fry shared a workshop titled : Take a Stand: Advocacy & Equality in Pennsylvania at the second ELCA NEPA Synod We Love Event – Building Safer & More Welcoming Congregations for LGBTQ+ Youth and Families.

Equipping leaders and vital congregations for discipleship in a democracy: LAMPa continued to disseminate election information to congregations, synods, and leaders regarding election security, poll watching, and voter safety. DePasquale and ELCA Advocacy Director Amy Reumann presented to leaders in the NWPA Synod Bishop’s Convocation.

Responded to Legislative threats to Medicaid: LAMPa worked to successfully stop legislation that threatened Medicaid provisions and funding.

Advocacy and Faith Formation: DePasquale taught a virtual adult faith formation class at Holy Spirit, Emmaus, SEPA Synod.


Washington

The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network fanwa.org

Election Successes: WA state passed Referendum 90 for Safe and Healthy Youth, a bill the legislature passed in the 2020 session mandating sex education in our K-12 school system with age-appropriate stages. This referendum was supported by sexual assault and domestic violence advocates, as well as a broad coalition of faith leaders who signed this letter, in contrast to opposition from the “religious right.” FAN was very involved in the campaign to secure the 60% approval. We also secured funding for our Long-Term Care Trust Fund via constitutional amendment – among the first of such funds in the nation.

New Regional Organizers: We are excited to share that our organizing team is expanding! FAN is able to fulfill one of our dreams of having a stronger presence statewide by hiring part-time Regional Organizers in Western, Central, and Eastern Washington as well as two social work interns from the University of Washington. We look forward to building deeper relationships with our Network of Advocating Faith Communities (NAFCs) and local organizations statewide.


Wisconsin

The Rev. Cindy  Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

ELCAvotes: Wisconsin had a record turnout of voters! Since March, LOPPW placed major emphases on encouraging people to vote, especially absentee, and on countering misinformation. We often worked in coalition with ELCA partners and a statewide voting coalition. October efforts included interviewing a Wisconsin Elections Commission representative for Wednesday Noon Live and creating six Ballot Box FAQs videos, including one with an interview with the ACLU.

Care for God’s Creation: LOPPW’s statewide task force, so far with members from five synods, began planning a Care for God’s creation virtual advocacy day to coincide with an emerging new WI State Budget.

Trainings: LOPPW helped in organizing an advocacy webinar, co-hosted by ECSW WELCA. We also led discussions on voting and advocacy with adults and confirmands in LAS and in SCSW.

COVID-19: Participated in meeting with Lieutenant Governor on health mandates challenged by courts and possibly the legislature. I was then in dialogue with the bishops about drafting a statement, which can be found here. LOPPW also joined an interfaith group to organize an action to address the problem.

New Resource: Read our new resource, “Advocating Locally,” for information about engaging your community!

Criminal Justice: We’ve begun reviving efforts to return 17-year-olds to juvenile courts, led by our Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Kyle Minden.

Anti-Racism: We offered consultation to ECSW’s Global Missions Committee on integrating anti-racism efforts into their work. I invited Regina Banks to give a presentation at one of their meetings.

Immigration and Refugees:  We offered consultation to the SCSW Immigration Task Force and created a video to address decreasing number of refugees in U.S. for the national, “Lift the Torch of Welcome” vigil.

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October Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N. | Arizona | Colorado | Ohio |Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin


United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y. ELCA.org/lowc

UN 75TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION: The high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN was held on September 21st.  The meeting adopted a declaration acknowledging both the UN’s achievements and its disappointments, such as: “Our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism,” “Strengthening international cooperation is in the interest of both nations and peoples.” It also included twelve pledges “to ensure the future we want and the United Nations we need.”

CELEBRATION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF BEIJING WOMEN’S CONFERENCE: The UN General Assembly High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women was held on October 1st. According to UN Women, no country has achieved gender equality. There has been progress since the Beijing Conference held in 1995, but gaps remain, and in some areas these gains are threatened and even reversed. The meeting was therefore being held under the theme “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. It aimed to “demonstrate the political will and leadership that will bring about the transformative change needed to address root causes, structural barriers, discriminatory practices and social norms that underpin discrimination and inequality.” You can watch the meeting on UN Web TV.

LOWC SPEAKS TO LUTHERAN STUDIES PROGRAM COLLOQUIA 2020-2021 AT YALE: In late September, Christine Mangale and Dennis Frado spoke via Zoom with Lutheran students at Yale University as part of the Lutheran Studies Program Colloquia theme “Public Church.” The LOWC presentations focused on the church’s presence at the United Nations (UN) and the history of the ELCA’s work on human rights, including at the UN.


Arizona

Solveig Muus, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona  https://lamaz.org/

GETTING OUT THE VOTE: In the midst of racial inequity, an upcoming election, a pandemic, and a climate gone crazy, we in Arizona thank God for forgiveness and mercy, and for the miraculous ways God works in us and through us.

This month, we’re all hands on deck to get out the vote. Every faith community and advocacy group in Arizona seems to be in step; all are publicizing the importance of voting and helping in any way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Arizona has an excellent track record for successful mail-in ballot counting. Rev. Mark Holman, Bishop’s Associate for Mobility and Leadership, wrote a study resource titled “How Would Jesus Vote?” for congregational use, and a member of LAMA’s policy team created a voter volunteer recruitment packet for congregations.

Like every other state office, LAMA continues to reach out to our 85 Arizona congregations, and are encouraged that several are considering adding an advocacy component to their social ministry teams. Building our network, producing a weekly newsletter, and feeding social media keep us busy.

UPCOMING EVENTS: We are planning LAMA’s first state-wide summit on November 7, which is to be a virtual event featuring Dr. Ryan Cumming of ELCA World Hunger. Together with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center and Bread for the World Southwest, we are planning and promoting a Virtual Town Hall on November 17 featuring Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World.


Colorado

Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado https://www.rmselca.org/advocacy

BALLOT MEASURES: Coloradans will vote on eleven statewide ballot measures this fall. Lutheran Advocacy is committed to providing Lutherans and all people of faith with comprehensive and detailed analysis of each measure from our perspective. Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado’s positions on the eleven measures are available now. View them at https://www.rmselca.org/ColoradoBallot2020. Our 2020 Voter Guide with analysis and information will be available on the same site in the first week of October. Ballots will be mailed to all Colorado voters on October 9th.

THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE: The Rocky Mountain Synod met virtually for its annual fall Theological Conference from September 21-24. Lutheran Advocacy was present alongside hundreds of rostered ministers, lay professionals and other leaders to learn from expert presenters, engage in Bible study, and have in-depth discussions of anti-racism and building up God’s beloved community of liberation with all present.


Ohio

Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio hungernetohio.com

HUNGER FOR JUSTICE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: As voting begins in Ohio this month, we are all diligently working to discern the best candidates for all positions – including the Ohio Statehouse, State Supreme Court, and community leaders for school board and Township Trustees. Regardless of who wins at the local, state, or national level, our work remains the same – proclaiming God’s desire that all may be fed and have justice and peace in our communities.

Our two-hour conference will be held on zoom and feature theological reflection to help frame the election results and policy landscape moving forward. We encourage clergy, congregational leaders, judicatory staff, and people curious about hunger and poverty to attend. Register at www.hungernetohio.com/summit.

OHIO COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ANTI-RACISM SUNDAY: HNO is a proud partner with the Council and their efforts to educate and engage congregations throughout the state on issues of white privilege and racism. You can watch the Livestream online here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=620062392203248

CROP WALK KICK-OFF: HNO Director Nick Bates will be the featured speaker at the Columbus CROP Walk virtual kick-off on October 11th at noon to discuss our call to advocacy and justice around hunger issues.

PROBLEMS WITH VOTING: HNO is partnering with the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition. You can check your voter registration and find your absentee ballot at https://ohvotes.org/. You can report a problem or concern to 1-866-OUR-VOTE or view their website, https://866ourvote.org/state-information/ohio/.


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

EQUIPPING LEADERS AND VITAL CONGREGATIONS FOR DISCIPLESHIP IN A DEMOCRACY: LAMPa staff and volunteers contacted Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to assess their preparedness for the Nov. 3 election and shared the results with synod leaders to target congregations so that they could support safe access to polls in areas of need. Read more.

POLICY COUNCIL RETREAT: The Rev. Amy Reumann, ELCA Advocacy Director, joined virtually to talk about advocacy as discipleship. She invited the council to imagine how congregational leaders could engage in LAMPa’s ministry as faith formation through the practice of testimony.

HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW: Larry D. Herrold, Jr. joined LAMPa as our ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow. A member of Zion, Sunbury (Upper Susquehanna Synod), and active in hunger ministry there, he is discerning a call to ministry. Learn more about Larry.

ADVOCACY ON RENT RELIEF AND SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS: LAMPa advocates urged state lawmakers to improve and extend the application deadline for the CARES Rent Relief Program and to end surprise medical billing.

UNITED LUTHERAN SEMINARY CONVOCATION: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale shared whys and ways of connecting with policymakers as a form of loving our neighbor.

GWOH: Congregations around Pennsylvania added their voices to God’s work. Our hands. Sunday by writing letters to lawmakers addressing issues to which they have been called in service of neighbor.

OTHER WORK: Opposed legislation rolling back clean water protections; Supported use of CARES funding to stop utility shutoffs; Garnered signatures in support of waivers for school nutrition programs; Increased SNAP benefits


Washington

The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network fanwa.org


ANNOUNCING FAN’S VIRTUAL ANNUAL DINNER:
FAN’s Annual Dinner will be held virtually this year on November 15. We hope this change will allow more people from across the state to join in, expanding the traditions of our Renton and Spokane dinners! Our theme is “Rise Up Together,” which speaks to our current and future work in confronting the challenges of multiple pandemics – COVID-19, systemic racism, economic uncertainty, and environmental devastation. Learn more at fanwa.org/annual-dinner.

NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZERS: FAN is building our statewide outreach by creating a staff team of Regional Organizers! In Central Wash., we welcome Zahra Roach (pictured here) who is a Pasco City Councilmember and who worked on our Census Equity Team earlier this year. In Western Wash., we welcome Jaspreet Singh who has experience working with the legislative session in Olympia and is representing FAN at the Career and Technical Colleges coalition. More to come as we add University of Washington social work interns and a Spokane area organizer!

WORKING FAMILIES TAX CREDIT: FAN is part of several state policy coalitions – one is the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) coalition. Several years ago, our legislature passed this law to provide tax credits to low-income working families, but it has never been funded. Now more than ever in this pandemic where so many households are struggling, funding an emergency cash assistance program like this with an annual credit is critical. Another important piece to make this program more equitable is to statutorily include Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) filers so that ALL workers in our state receive this benefit. Learn more at fanwa.org/advocacy/advocacy-toolkit/working-families-tax-credit/ or budgetandpolicy.org.


Wisconsin

The Rev. Cindy  Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

WELCOME TO LOPPW HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW KYLE MINDEN:  Kyle is with us full-time for one year thanks to a generous grant from ELCA World Hunger.  He graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. in Religion and Business Administration and a Minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Kyle is passionate about solving the systemic inequities and injustices that stem from public policy at the local, state, and federal level.

VOTING: Kyle has developed two voting resources, the Comprehensive can be found at 2020 LOPPW Voting Guide, while the one-page summary can be found here: 2020 LOPPW Voting Overview

HUNGER: We made known information about people eligible for a stimulus check but who have not filed.  Kyle used the center to create this resource:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Stimulus-Payment-Outreach-Resource-1-1%20(12).pdf

As part of our project to highlight at least one hunger ministry in each synod for others to learn from, we interviewed Bill Binroth, Director of Let’s Eat Community Meals of Chassell, MI in the NGLS.  https://www.facebook.com/LOPPW/videos/377521223250082

CARE FOR CREATION: Our LOPPW statewide climate task force continues to meet.  We sent this press release as a letter to the WI Legislature:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Revised-Climate-press-release-Team-Bishops.pdf

WEDNESDAY NOON LIVE & IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION: The video of Attorney Mary Campbell, Ms. Marisol Fuentes de Dubon, and Dr. Stephanie Mitchell mentioned last month was published in September: https://www.facebook.com/LOPPW/videos/743410496506120

“LIFTING OUR VOICES DURING THE PANDEMIC”: This Zoom webinar, co-sponsored by East Central Synod Women of the ELCA and LOPPW, will be held on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 from 6:30-7:30 PM. Register here: https://www.loppw.org/evrplus_registration/?action=evrplusegister&event_id=5.

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March Update: U.N. and State Edition

U.N. | California | Colorado | MinnesotaNew Mexico | Southeastern Synod | Pennsylvania | Virginia | Washington | Wisconsin

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

Dennis Frado, director

57TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: The fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57) took place from 11 to 21 February 2019, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Priority theme this year was “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies”. The Commission’s emerging issues theme was “Empowerment of people affected by natural and human-made disasters to reduce inequality: Addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth”.

Across nine days, the challenges and inequalities of social inclusion were explored through fiscal, wage and social protection policy during high level panels and side events. A plenary on February 13 highlighted the peoples most affected during times of crisis; people with disabilities, older persons and youth and how current policies could be more inclusive and empowering through all stages of planning and implementation. An emphasis on the importance of including those with psychosocial/mental disabilities in disaster planning was also addressed, with the need for visual materials, and verbal cues during moments of natural or man-made disasters.

For further information, check out CSoD57.

UNITED NATIONS BLACK HISTORY MONTH TOUR: During the month of February, the United Nations

Ark of Return located on the United Nations Visitors Plaza. © LOWC/Rebekka Pöhlmann

offered for the first time a special Black History Month tour. Each weekday the Black history-themed tour of the United Nations included a look at the Ark of Return, a permanent memorial in honor of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, located on the United Nations Visitors Plaza. The art piece was designed by Rodney Leon, an American Architect of Haitian descent, and unveiled on 25 March 2015 to commemorate the more than 15 million African men, women and children, who were enslaved.

During the tour the visitors had the chance to learn about the contributions of people of African descent to the work of the United Nations in fields such as peace and security and human rights, with a special emphasis on decolonization. Ralph Johnson Bunche, for example, was the first person of African descent to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his efforts to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1940s, specifically the 1949 Armistice Agreements. He was also highly involved in the formation and early administration of the secretariat of the United Nations.

The tour was also organized in the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.


California

Regina Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy loppca.org

BILL INTRODUCTION DEADLINE: February 22, 2019 marked the final day for the California Legislature to introduce bills for the 2019 Legislative Session. The Senate and Assembly Desks remained open through the weekend to process the bill introductions. Nearly 2,600 bills were introduced this year, covering an extensive range of topics and subject-areas. Among the several bills introduced were no fewer than 17 that represent the End Child Poverty Plan recommendations. Many other bills were introduced with respect to LOPP-CA’s other legislative priorities of Water Justice and Immigration and Migration issues. The policy council will begin to narrow down bill priorities in the coming weeks.

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS: The Communications Committee has heard your cry: Invest in LOPP-CA’s Social Media presence! We know that you are looking for LOPP-CA on social media platforms and we are preparing to meet you there. Please visit us on Facebook at Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California. We are sharing updates, article and time-sensitive action items. Like, share and repost our content. The policy council has a goal of getting 5000 followers by the end of the year. You can help us meet our goal and stay up-to-date with the activities. Plans are underway for Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Watch this space!


Colorado

Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Colorado lam-co.org

LUTHERAN DAY AT THE LEGISLATURE: We had a successful lobby day event on Thursday, February 21.

Constituents of State Sen. Tammy Story (2nd from right) meet in her office at the State Capitol for Colorado Lutheran Day at the Legislature

Thanks to all who came out for fellowship, conversation, education and advocacy! We heard from State Senator Jeff Bridges, Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop Jim Gonia, and Colorado Center on Law & Policy attorney Jack Regenbogen. Our asks were all criminal justice related: support for automatic record sealing, “Ban the Box,” and abolishing the death penalty.

Many attendees met with their legislators and/or a legislative aide during our time at the Capitol. The next day, Bishop Jim Gonia offered the opening prayer for the House of Representatives, where he gave thanks for the vocation to public service of our state legislators. You can watch video of his remarks online here (via Facebook).

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: We have been advocating recently on bills to extend eviction notice windows for renters (HB 19-1118) and to expand the Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act (HB 19-1171). LAM-CO Director Peter Severson testified in both hearings. We expect the introduction next week of several high-profile bills on our agenda, including Paid Family Leave and Abolishing Colorado’s Death Penalty. Follow all the bills that have been introduced at http://leg.colorado.gov and be informed on issues that you care about. Stay tuned!


Minnesota

Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy–Minnesota www.lutheranadvocacymn.org

HOUSING & THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET: Gov. Walz’s budget highlights housing as a critical issue facing Minnesota, calling for investments across the housing continuum from homelessness to homeownership. We appreciate that the governor gives the housing crisis the increased attention it needs! However, we must go beyond his proposals to even do more to meet the housing needs of students, families, employers, and communities across Minnesota. State investments must also include supportive services (in Health & Human Service budget).

CLEAN ENERGY LEGISLATION: Legislation has been introduced that creates a set of renewable and carbon-free energy targets for Minnesota’s utilities to meet between now and 2050, with 100% carbon-free energy the eventual goal. It allows flexibility if meeting the targets significantly effects energy costs or reliability, and allows modification for future unknowns like new technology, environmental impacts, or obstacles to building energy infrastructure. (The bill defines “renewable” energy as electricity produced from solar, wind, small hydroelectric facilities, hydrogen and biomass. “Carbon-free” energy is defined as electricity produced without emitting carbon from sources like nuclear energy which aren’t renewable).

CLEAN ENERGY & CLIMATE ACTION DAY: Join students, neighbors, families, people of faith! Engage in opportunities throughout the day to learn, share, meet with legislators and let them know you want action on clean energy. Participate in action stations, inter-faith worship, and a rally in the Capitol Rotunda. Stay for the day or come when you can. Register at: http://bit.ly/MNEnergyDay

  • WHEN: Wednesday, March 13, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, 105 University Ave. W., St. Paul 55103


New Mexico

Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry- New Mexico (LA-MN) lutheranadvocacynm.org

2019 LUTHERAN ADVOCACY DAY: The 2019 Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico Bishop’s Legislative

Rep. Armstrong with LAM-NM Director
Advocates gather

Luncheon and Issues Briefing drew over 150 advocates from throughout the state. For the first time, over half of the attendees were from our ecumenical partners. The morning began with our Issues Briefing at the United Church in Santa Fe, one of our partner congregations from the United Church of Christ. Advocates attended briefing sessions on several issues included in the LAM-NM 2019 Advocacy Agenda. Bishop Jim Gonia shared remarks in the morning as well as at the luncheon. At the luncheon, Rep. Deborah Armstrong was recognized as Legislator of the Year for her work on health care issues. Also honored was the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice for its dedicated work to advocate for and serve the interests of the immigrant community in New Mexico.


Southeastern Synod

Hilton Austin, Director

CAPITOL VISITS: It has been an exciting month, packed with lobby days at Georgia’s state capitol. Hilton and Jordan have been able to participate in several of our partner’s Lobby days to raise awareness for a myriad of issues including environmental justice, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and Medicaid expansion.

ANNUAL GATHERING: We were humbled by a great turn out and positive responses to our office’s Fourth Annual Advocacy Gathering, titled “Walking Wet,” in Atlanta. Amy Reumann joined us for our event as the keynote speaker and left all in attendance feeling reenergized and ready to advocate both in our local communities and as a Church body. Participants were also able to enjoy fellowship time with other advocates and participate in workshops hosted by Inspiritus (formerly Lutheran Services of Georgia), Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Catherine Strate and Policy Council Member Dawn Bennett.

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES AND UPDATES: It has been a busy month with many reoccurring themes across the 3 states(Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee); Our office is currently determining our priorities for the push leading up to Georgia Crossover Day, March 7th. The Alabama legislature kicks off March 5th. In addition to helping the folks in our Synod make sense of current legislation, we are publishing legislative updates so folks can see what their lawmakers have been up to so far this session.


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

LAMPA CO-SPONSORS ADVOCACY WEBINAR: LAMPa and United Methodist Advocacy are co-sponsoring a webinar March 5 to help congregations and faith-based non-profits in Pennsylvania understand their right to engage in advocacy. Click here to register.

STAFF & VOLUNTEER OUTREACH: Tracey visited with members of the Tree of Life (LSS) sharing an informative conversation about LAMPa. Over the course of several months in 2018, LAMPa assisted a group of congregants at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church (SEPA Synod) who were interested in creating an advocacy team. They did their homework, including a congregational survey, and launched what they call the “A Team” on the Sunday she visited. Tracey also spoke at worship services. Lynn and policy council member Cheryl Burns shared a program on Advocacy and Hunger at St. Stephen’s (LSS).

JOIN US IN THE CAPITAL: Bring Your Faith to the Table — On May 19 and 20, join people of faith from around Pennsylvania for inspiration, education and participation — in worship, service, learning and advocacy. MONDAY, MAY 20 — LAMPa’s traditional Lutheran Day of Advocacy — Set a Welcome Table! features Keynote speaker Kathryn Lohre, assistant to the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Learn more and register.

SUNDAY, MAY 19 Come to the Welcome Table! and join neighbors of many faiths for service, learning, prayer, artistic expression and a community meal — all with an emphasis on strengthening what unites us. A variety of service and learning opportunities will be offered, as well as preparation for advocacy for our common home. Learn more.


Virginia

Kim Bobo, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy virginiainterfaithcenter.org

The Virginia General Assembly adjourned on February 24thafter a chaotic session. VICPP is thrilled that 2 bills passed both the Senate and the House and are now waiting for the Governor’s signature. Under current state law, jobs like shoe-shine boys, newsboys, ushers, and movie ticket-takers are exempt from the minimum wage, stemming back to the Jim Crow era. We worked with Del. Cia Price and Sen. Lionell Spruill to remove this discriminatory language from Virginia’s minimum wage law. We also worked with Del. Lashrecse Aird and Sen. Frank Wagner to pass legislation that requires employers to provide workers with a paystub. Under current state law, paystubs are optional. However, paystubs are critically important to helping prevent and deter wage theft. VICPP is looking forward to working on more aggressive legislation for the 2020 General Assembly Session.


Washington

Paul Benz, Faith Action Network (FAN) fanwa.org

FAN has had a busy month! We are right in the middle of Washington State’s Legislative session. The House and Senate are hearing and discussing thousands of bills and working hard to set the budget for the next two years.

We had scheduled our Interfaith Advocacy Lobby Day for Valentine’s day. The Seattle area experienced numerous winter storms in the beginning of the month and had more snowfall than we’ve had in more than 50 years – nearly 22 inches in just the first two weeks of February. Unfortunately, these icy roads and hazardous conditions led to canceling Interfaith Advocacy Day. We are working hard to ensure that the faith communities in our network have the tools they need to make their voices heard at the legislature in other ways. The FAN staff has been leading and speaking at educational events, attending and supporting other lobby days, and assisting faith communities in their own understanding of different bills and the legislative structure.

Legislative session is about halfway through. As we move through different votes and policy cutoffs, we are keeping a keen eye on the bills on our legislative agenda. A few of the bills we’re advocating for address:

  • Repealing the death penalty (HB 1488/SB 5339)
  • Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables through funding the Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program (HB 1587/SB 5583)
  • Revising economic assistance programs by updating standards of need, revising outcome measures and data collected, and reducing barriers to participation (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – TANF) (HB 1603/SB 5684)
  • Establishing a post-conviction review board and review process for early release for qualifying individuals who are incarcerated (SB 5819)
  • Establishing a statewide policy supporting Washington State’s economy and immigrants’ role in the workplace (Keep Washington Working) (HB 1815/SB 5497)
  • Supporting 100% Clean Electricity to make our state’s electric grid free of fossil fuels by 2045 (HB 1211/SB 5116)


Wisconsin

Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin loppw.org

ADVOCACY TRAINING/PREPARATIONS: The director, Cindy Crane, preached and led a workshop on advocacy for pastors from conferences in the Northwest Synod in Chetek. The focus was on how to talk to congregants about faith-based advocacy.

Our intern, Sarah, is gathering information about legislators on a spreadsheet that will help us in our advocacy.

LOPPW is involved in planning the People of Faith United for Justice Advocacy Day on April 11. The director is investigating a focus on water, which is one of our priorities related to Care for God’s Creation.

Kelsey Johnson, LOPPW’s hunger fellow, is working on materials based upon LOPPW’s resources to create packets for our advisory council members to present to conference deans in their synods.

Kelsey and Cindy engaged several people who expressed a passion for justice but were not signed up for our action alerts at the Greater Milwaukee Synod’s Together in Mission in Brookfield.

ANTI-SEX TRAFFICKING: Kelsey and Cindy led a workshop on anti-sex trafficking in the South-Central Synod in Boscobel. Kelsey managed an LOPPW table at an anti-trafficking event at a Catholic church in Madison. She has been in regular contact with one of our speakers from our January rally to explore writing a bill together. Cindy was in regular contact with WELCA in the East Central Synod to discuss what’s next after the rally. She was also in touch with Jen DeLeon, director of advocacy for WELCA, about how Jen can support our efforts.

ELCA: Cindy was part of a relators for DEMs meeting.

 

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Pathway to equality with justice in Universal Declaration of Human Rights

by Christine Mangale, Program Director, Lutheran Office for World Community

A fundamental document turns 70 years of age on Dec. 10, 2018. Translated into 500 languages, its 30 articles guarantee and affirm rights, freedom, inherent dignity and equality of all humankind. Its principles represent tools that have allowed individuals to claim their dignity and provided them an avenue to fight for their rights.

As Lutherans, we join in celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). We celebrate because we identify with its universal principles of justice and equality. And we celebrate because we were represented at its drafting.

GROUNDING AND ASPIRATIONS

Created in the aftermath of World War II in 1945, the United Nations (UN) was chartered to build a space for multilateralism with the aim of never returning to the scourge of global conflict and work to advance human rights. Following the UN Charter, another foundational text was created: the UDHR. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the monumental document states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (UDHR Article 1). These rights are to be respected and enjoyed by all.

The UDHR is not a stand-alone agreement. It is further substantiated with the generation of a normative framework known as “international human rights law,” which has offered a legal guidepost for countries and international organizations to universalize rules and principles of conduct that allow states to engage with their citizens and each other.

Elaborating on this framework, the UN has created demographic-specific human rights instruments which build on and reinforce each other to ensure that all people are represented and protected. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both adopted in 1966, affirm individual and state freedoms, especially freedom from violence and torture, and offer equal protection under international law.

Our author, Christine Mangale, standing in front of the United Nations building

These documents are also aspirational, identifying and stating an adequate standard of living for all humankind. These agreements include commitments by states to provide adequate basic needs like food, shelter and clothing by calling them “fundamental rights.”

LUTHERAN CONNECTION

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Nolde, a Lutheran, contributed to article 18 of the UDHR. Article 18 pertains to the “Right to freedom of thought and religion,” indicating that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest this religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

We have seen firsthand how the UDHR has served as a beacon of hope for the vulnerable and marginalized – allowing them to emerge from the shadows with confidence and in the protection of the international community. This resonates with our call to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

ANNIVERSARY INTERSECTION

Dec. 10 also marks the last day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign driven by civil society to accelerate action to end violence against women and girls. Structures of inequality are mostly unchanged, and the relationship between men and women remains unequal. There has been failure to address and challenge broader dynamics of patriarchy and inequality among men and women that result in lack of economic and social rights for women and girls. It is time to “Walk our Talk,” the theme of Lutheran World Federation over the 16 days and beyond.

TODAY

Millions of people are still suffering from poverty, hunger, conflicts, war, gender inequality and unjust systems that leave UDHR promises unfulfilled. We are witnessing a breakdown of international multilateralism, shrinking space for civil society engagement, violations of fundamental human rights with impunity, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, ongoing patriarch and gender-based violence, just to name a few. The aspiration of the UDHR is, therefore, more relevant now than ever. We celebrate how far we have come, yet we must simultaneously examine how little has changed in these 70 years.

Despite it all, as people of faith we remain hopeful. Together we have the power to #standup4humanrights, make a difference for stronger respect, greater freedom and more compassion, and overcome the challenges identified by the UDHR.

GET INVOLVED

Take the Human Rights Pledge organized by the UN and stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of human rights violations. Show love, compassion and empathy to your neighbor. Speak out against violence facing women and girls. Engage your local and national level officials, holding them accountable to international law and principles, and ensuring that they espouse values of respect, dignity and equality.

The next 70 years can take us on a pathway to the realization of the inspiring UDHR message of equality and justice. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

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Reflection on the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women

 

In March 2018, the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) brought together leaders from around the world. Established in 1946, the CSW is the principal international intergovernmental body dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The annual session is the largest UN gathering each year. This year, CSW62 focused on rural women and, specifically, two themes:

Priority Theme: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls; and

Review Theme: Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women (agreed conclusions of the forty-seventh session).

Below, guest writer Angela Marie Dejene, president of Dejene Communications, reflects on these themes, her time at CSW62, and the critical importance of narrative – “truth told well.”

Even in the United States in 2018, women still face very different challenges and live very different lives than men.

But the stories the media has told, until very recently, have rarely reflected those female narratives and the daily inequalities with which they struggle.

I am the granddaughter of South Dakota farmers, and I grew up on the prairie in Crookston, Minnesota – a farm town of fewer than 8,000 people in the far-away northwest corner of the state.

You knew you were getting close to reaching the edge of town when you started to smell the odor of rotten eggs from the sugar beet plant.

Health complaints from local mothers were ignored – it was and still is a mostly male world in the sugar beet plant and in the fields … and only the local land-grant university had a greater impact on the local economy.

The local newspaper, the Crookston Times, reflected the male-dominated agricultural industry mostly when I was young – and still does today. The front page story last Wednesday featured a meeting of the Mid-Valley Grain cooperative and showed a group shot of male-farmer members.

My grandmother held up “half the sky” on that remote South Dakota farm where my mother grew up and where I spent wonderful summers as a young girl. But where is that female narrative if I don’t find it … if I don’t tell it?

Without truth-telling narratives, there is rarely progress.

Progress for women in rural northwestern Minnesota remains bleak today:

  • According to the US Census Bureau, fewer than 1 in 4 (23%) of residents there, in Crookston, Minnesota, have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Full-time male employees make 1.34 times more than female employees in Crookston.
  • According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in isolated rural areas of northern Minnesota (the greater region surrounding Crookston) there is only 1 physician for every 3,191 people.
  • Only 4 percent of the state’s physicians are located in the northwest counties of the state, the most rural part of the state.
  • About 1 in 5 people still live below the poverty line and the largest demographic living in poverty are females ages 18-24.

But you have to dig deep for that statistic and deeper still for the story behind it. Without narratives, there is no progress.

I was raised by a single mother who worked full-time as a university professor. Still, she had to struggle to make ends meet. I remember going to the local grocery store, HUGOS, on Saturday mornings with my mom and brother, and with my mother’s purse-sized calculator in hand, we would add up the prices of each item we put into the cart. She needed to make sure she had enough in her bank account to get us fed until she got paid the following week.

I always did well in school, and fortunately, those grades and perhaps a compelling narrative in my applications helped me qualify for academic-based scholarships when I started applying for college. With the generous help of those scholarships, I enrolled in Augustana University, an extraordinary liberal arts university affiliated with my Lutheran faith, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At Augustana, I double-majored in journalism and government/international affairs and served as an editor for the school newspaper.

I’ve always had a passion for uncovering and telling true stories. When women are in charge of the narrative, policies change, communities are empowered and the lives of women and girls are transformed. I started my career as an unpaid lobbying intern in Washington, DC, advocating for health care policies that would improve the lives of women and children. I spent most of my time on Capitol Hill finding and sharing the true stories of how the U.S. healthcare system at the time was failing women, families and children.

These were stories that reported on real families, some forced into bankruptcy because a mother, a wife, or a sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and their health insurance policy had a “lifetime limit” on how much of the treatment would be covered.

These were stories of real families who relied on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for their children’s critical visits to the doctor to manage a chronic condition like asthma or Type 1 diabetes.

These were stories of real high school girls who were experiencing teen dating violence but had nowhere to turn because the local legal system had failed them.

The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law on March 7, 2013. The new law made targeted expansions to address the needs of especially vulnerable populations and help prevent violence in future generations.

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, giving millions of families new-found hope and access to affordable, high-quality health care.

Narratives – truths told well – were the empowering difference.

Stories of horror and struggle.

Stories of compassion and empowerment.

Stories of survival and success.

If we strive to find and to communicate, if we work to broadcast the truth about women from and to even the most remote of places – we fuel and ignite progress everywhere.

Narrative – truth told well – by women and about women – can advance and empower the lives of all who live on this planet.

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