Friday, March 22, 2013

A Moral Crisis - a statement by J. Herbert Nelson

This message delivered by the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, Director for Public Witness, at the Loaves and Fishes gathering on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. The gathering was organized by my faith organizations and was intended to call attention to and to protect programs that impact the poor in the United States.

A Moral Crisis

Today we are faced with a crisis in our nation. Our nation faces a moment of intense pause, which cannot simply be defined in economic terms. Our crisis is one of moral ineptness in high places. We are now in the midst of a sequester – across-the-board, indiscriminate spending cuts – that results from a weakness in moral character that has led to stalemate.  This stalemate is the struggle over our vision of our government’s responsibility to support the most vulnerable over and against funding wealthy people and multinational corporations through tax breaks. Central to this stalemate is the question of government’s responsibility to support the “least of these.”

My book of faith reminds me that Jesus declared, “Just as you have done it unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) He reminds us that righteousness is etched into the fabric of our willingness to claim residence in the lives and hearts of those whose steps falter on the highway of life. He further reminds us that the act of turning away from the needs of the poor is synonymous with turning away from the son of God. Therefore, the present moral crisis in leadership is more than budget or party ideology. This crisis, caused by our leadership in Congress, is at the core of our spiritual consciousness.

We are acting out of a posture of scarcity rather than abundance. Our resources are not scarce; they are abundant!  But we are failing to make sure they get to the people who need them most. Instead, we contemplate cuts to Medicaid, which supports the uninsured; the disabled; the amputee; the mentally ill; the trace nurse who must be in our schools for the child who needs medical attention. Or we contemplate cutting programs that feed hungry families and Head Start early childhood education for low-income children, who will otherwise not know their colors or numbers when they enter the kindergarten. In this nation, we build jail cells based on fourth grade reading levels and homelessness is pervasive in every city, village, and hamlet. How can we declare that the “haves” ought to have more while the “have-not’s” get less? This is a reverse Robin Hood plan, where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. It is destined for failure! And, we are a better people than that!

We are not bankrupt! There is enough! We must challenge this President and Congress to remember that two candidates ran for the office of President in 2012. One promised to end tax breaks for the wealthy. The other promised to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy. One promised to end corporate welfare. The other promised to end welfare for the most vulnerable of our society. We waded through the debates and made it to the general election. The nation spoke at the voting booth in overwhelming numbers to decide that the candidate who vowed to tax corporations and high-income individuals at a higher rate would serve as the President of this country. Now that the nation has spoken, there is this desire to ignore the vote of the people and return to the fiscal policies that placed us in the doldrums of despair in the first place. Now, there is the desire to place whole communities of people in desperation mode again.  

We must hold this President accountable for doing what he said he would do, while declaring to those who would push back that the people have spoken.  We must move from this current model – of government of the corporations, by the powerful and elite, and for tax loopholes – to the vision of the founders, who declared that we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. There is enough when we are responsible to whole communities with the wealth that God has provided.

We must press for the day when elected officials will be reminded that they work for the people and not for themselves. We must build bridges of hope for future generations by the way we act now. Our nation will be judged by its moral excellence in times of crisis. Therefore, let us get busy pushing for fiscal policies that matter to the people. Let us remember that the people united will never be defeated! For as you have done it unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Invites You to a Dinner Reception …


“Windows Over Washington: A Musical Soiree”
An Evening of Food, Music and Views at the DoubleTree’s 14th Floor
“Windows Over Washington”

Come fellowship with Presbyterians from around the country who are
participating in EAD & CPJ Training Day***

Enjoy great dining, exciting vistas, and musical entertainment by
Wilson Gunn’s “Justice Jazz” band! THERE WILL BE A CASH BAR,

The cost: $60; or $40 per person for EAD/CPJ Training Day participants

Saturday, April 6, 2013
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

“Windows Over Washington”
14th Floor North
DoubleTree Inn
300 Army Navy Drive, Arlington VA  22202
Transit: Pentagon City Metro Station

To register for the dinner: Click HERE
or use the form below to send in your check

***If you are not already signed up for EAD/CPJ Training Day, we invite you to join us
for those events also:  CPJ Training Day Click HERE ; Ecumenical Advocacy Days Click HERE

REGISTRATION FOR “Windows Over Washington: A Musical Soiree”
April 6, 2013
7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.












Cost: $60 per person; $40 if attending EAD/CPJ Training Day. Please include a check made payable to the Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and provide the names of your guests.

 If you no longer wish to receive e-mail from us, please click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Newest Washington Report to Presbyterians

The newest Washington Report to Presbyterians is being mailed this week.  

Scroll down for included topics in this issue.

This issues's topics include:
  • A Lenten Call: Petition to Reduce Gun Violence
  • Welcome to Advocacy Training Weekend
    • Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Day
    • Ecumenical Advocacy Days
  • Meet our Spring Interns and Emerson Hunger Fellow
  • God is Love: A Statement on Gun Violence
  • Presbyterians for Food Justice
  • Middle East Report
  • Witnesses to AIDS
  • and much more!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Invitation: What Was Washington Thinking? Webinar

From the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs:

What was Washington Thinking?!
What’s with Congress? Will they address sequestration? Will these budget standoffs continue? What can we expect next?

Join us for a special DHN webinar:
Wednesday, March 13
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT

Get the latest from Washington on the current state of affairs in Congress. Hear about what is making compromise so elusive among our elected leaders. The House and Senate are about to release their budget proposals for the next fiscal year. Sequestration has been implemented. But it doesn’t have to stay. Untangle the budget rhetoric and learn why standing with those in need is as important as ever.

* Note: Office of Public Witness staff person, Leslie Woods, is co-chair of the DHN Working Group.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

PC(USA) Joins other Faith Groups in Supporting Minimum Wage Increase

March 5, 2013

Dear Member of Congress,

As communities of faith united by our common religious traditions and values of justice and compassion, we write to you today to urge you to co-sponsor and support the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 recently introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller.

This important piece of legislation would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in three increments of 95 cents. The bill would also provide for annual increases indexed to inflation to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Lastly, for the first time in 22 years, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current low rate of $2.13 by 95 cents per year until it is 70% of the regular minimum wage.

Four years have passed since the official end of the recession, yet workers across the country continue to struggle with a sluggish recovery. Now is the time to raise the federal minimum wage. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 30 million workers would see a boost to their income if this bill passed. In addition, the Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost GDP by $33 billion and generate 140,000 new jobs, encouraging workers to spend more money in their communities and stimulate local economies.

Our common scriptures present a vision of shared responsibility, commanding that we care for the vulnerable among us and also endows the notion of work with an inherent dignity. Right now, it is imperative that our nation’s leaders keep our economy on the pathway to a healthy recovery and support low-wage workers. We believe you can do so by co-sponsoring and supporting the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

To sign on as a co-sponsor please contact Celine McNicholas ( in Representative Miller’s office or Liz Weiss ( in Senator Harkin’s office.


American Friends Service Committee
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA)
Cincinnati Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (CICWJ)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Detroit Interfaith Worker Justice
Disciples Justice Action Network
The Episcopal Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
The Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International
Leadership Conference on Women Religious (LCWR)
Let Justice Roll
National Advocacy center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church- General Board of Church and Society
U.S. Jesuit Conference

VAWA Reauthorization Moves to the President's Desk

Last Thursday, Feb. 28, the House of Representatives passed S. 47, a strong, inclusive bill to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), by a vote of 286-138.  The same bill was passed by the Senate just weeks before with a vote of 78-22. As you see, both of these votes included a strong, bipartisan showing.  This just goes to show that there are still some issues that unite us across party lines.

The VAWA reauthorization now moves to the President’s desk for signature.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill on Thursday, March 7. 

Thank you for all of your hard work to make this happen!  Please take a minute to thank your Members of Congress for this important legislation that will provide new resources and support for victims of violence.

VAWA Background:

Since its original passage in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to violence against girls and women, boys and men. More victims report domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 64%.  VAWA provides for a coordinated community approach, improving collaboration between law enforcement and victim services providers to better meet the needs of victims. These comprehensive and cost-effective programs not only save lives, they also save money. In fact, VAWA saved nearly $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years.

VAWA’s programs support state, tribal, and local efforts to address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  These programs have made great progress towards reducing the violence, helping victims to be healthy and feel safe and holding perpetrators accountable.  This critical legislation must be reauthorized to ensure a continued response to these crimes.  This particular reauthorization of VAWA also included important new provisions to improve protection and support for native women, immigrants, LGBT victims, and campus women.  Click here for more information about the new Violence Against Women Act.

And in addition to the success of an inclusive VAWA, the final bill also included the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) (S. 1301), a positive bill that is the United States’ most important tool in fighting against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  For a factsheet on S.1301, click here