Subject: NCC Weekly News: Religious Freedom (Part 1 of 2)

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From Jim: 
I’ve always thought religious liberty is all about believe and let believe. Even though my faith is best, you have the right to be wrong.

I saw a guy on a bridge once who was about to jump. I yelled to him, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me too! Protestant or Catholic?”

He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me too! What franchise?”

He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, you heretic!” And I pushed him over.

He was free to believe as he wished and I acted on my beliefs!

The NCC issued a statement on ‘religious and civil liberties in the United States of America” in 1955. The NCC said then that it ‘holds the first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to mean that church and state shall be separate and independent as institutions, but to imply neither that the state is indifferent to religious interests nor that the church is indifferent to civil and political issues.

“The National Council of Churches defends the rights and liberties of cultural, racial and religious minorities (pretty good for 1955!). The insecurity of one menaces the security of all. Christians must be especially sensitive to the oppression of minorities.

“The exercise of both rights and liberties is subject to considerations of morality and to the maintenance of public order and of individual and collective security. “Religious and civil liberties are interdependent and therefore indivisible.”

The Committee on Religious Liberty was under the auspices of the NCC for many years. Prior to the time I began serving as president of the NCC, the Council went through a significant restructuring and the CRL now resides with the Religious Freedom Center.

The NCC remains part of CRL as is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Secular Coalition for America, the Christian Legal Society, the American Jewish Committee, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the ACLU, the Church of Scientology, and a host of other groups. There are few committees with broader representation.

Their meeting earlier this year dealt with, for example, the Jim Thorpe case. (During the traditional burial after his death, his estranged wife interrupted the ceremony with sheriffs, etc., took his body away and sold it to a Pennsylvania village which renamed itself for Jim Thorpe. The Sac and Fox Nation and two of his sons filed a lawsuit to reclaim the body for the Nation under a federal law for repatriation of his body. The Third Circuit sidestepped the federal law saying that the application of the law would yield an “absurd” result. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert.)

The CRL also discussed cases involving church pension plans; Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky, and her claim for a religious conscience exemption from the requirement to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; and other matters. I do believe there is serious attention being paid to legislation and legal cases related to religious liberty.

In other words, there is an infrastructure of organizations keeping an eye on threats to religious liberty in legislatures and the courts. These groups stay in touch with one another despite deep theological and ideological differences and, when necessary, work together to defend religious liberty.

(continued next week)
Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Standing Rock allies call on supportive citizens across the country to pick up the pen and the phone

As thousands of religious leaders, clergy, chaplains and military veterans make plans to converge in North Dakota Dec. 4 for a day of prayer at the water protectors camp north of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, UCC allies are calling for continued advocacy in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in the form of phone calls and petitions.

The veterans 'deployment,' a show of support planned for this weekend, coincides with Sunday's Interfaith Day of Prayer, initiated by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th generation spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations. The thousands putting their bodies on the line near the reservation will be supported by a movement to mobilize people across the country to reach out to their elected representatives before Dec. 5--the date water protectors were told to leave the lands where they have been camping for months.

"This is a very serious time we are in," Chief Looking Horse said in a video call to action for the day of prayer. "I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel this is long overdue. It is time that all of us become leaders to help protect the sacred upon Mother Earth. She is the source of life and not a resource."

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Curry, ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton issue joint statement for World AIDS Day

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), have issued the following joint statement on 2016 World AIDS Day:

"As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are reminded of the promise of life that was given to us, unconditionally. Scriptures teach us that God’s gift of life extends to all of us, no matter our circumstances. In the words of Apostle Paul, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvesttime, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…” (Galatians 6:9-10).

"For many years, Lutherans, Episcopalians and other communities of faith have been engaged in efforts to provide care, treatment, prevention services, and have supported initiatives that fight stigma and discrimination towards those living with HIV. We mourn the 35 million lives lost to AIDS and, with 36.7 million people still living with HIV worldwide, our churches, our governments, and all other partners need to do more. We encourage Lutherans and Episcopalians near and far to stand in solidarity with all persons living with HIV, and to continue the difficult work of building an AIDS-free generation. We recommit ourselves to a future free of this pandemic."


The Cuban Council of Churches has received the news of the death of Co-President Fidel Castro Ruz with a deep sense of sadness

The Christian community of Cuba, particularly that centered around the Council of Churches of Cuba, has received news of the death of Commander Fidel Castro Ruz with a feeling of profound sadness, mitigated only by the conviction that he will continue living in the soul of the Cuban Nation.

As an ecumenical movement, we always feel close to Fidel for his firmness and constancy in the struggle for unity, justice, peace and love for the human being, which are the same values ​​and principles of the Christian faith.

We can only honor his legacy through the patriotic commitment to his thinking and work, in the conviction that, like him, God will comfort us and guide us in paths of justice for his name's sake, and that good and Mercy will guide us all the days of our lives (see Psalm 23, verses 3 and 6.)

"... For this God is our God forever and ever; He will guide us even further than death "(Psalm 48:14).
With gratitude for his life, forever, Fidel!

Fraternally, Council of Churches of Cuba
Joel Ortega Dopico, President Havana, November 26, 2014

John Thomas III: Making the AME's voice heard

In the midst of a changing world for both the church and media, The Christian Recorder -- the AME Church’s official newspaper -- must be a faith-based space, sharing the church’s perspective and bringing other perspectives to the denomination, says John Thomas III.

Elected in July as the 21st editor of The Christian Recorder (link is external), Thomas, 34, is the youngest editor in the paper’s history. As editor, he plans to increase the amount of news coverage about the AME Church, including its involvement in social justice issues.

“Because of the nature of the black church, because especially of the nature of the AME, I could not have a publication of the AME Church and not address issues of social justice,” he said. “Our members don’t just want to go praise God on Sunday. They want to know what we’re going to do on Monday and for the rest of the week.”

Putting an end to prayer vigils: Opinion

Jewish synagogues have been defaced with swastikas. Latina women have been threatened. Muslim women have been forced to remove their hijabs. On Veterans Day, Marie Boyle, a U.S. army veteran from the Philippines, was told to “Go back to Mexico.”

I do not want to go to another vigil. Sometime soon someone will easily obtain a gun no hunter would ever use. He will open fire in a room full of innocent people.

Clergy will organize a vigil where we read the names of the victims. We will grieve for the families of those who died. We will read scripture. We will pray for an end to gun violence.

We will give anyone paying careful attention the impression that we are not sure that God and God’s people working together can stop or even slow gun violence. The ministers will not offer concrete suggestions as to how we might prevent the next tragedy. The ministers will either be afraid of offending someone or they will not know what to suggest. Does a prayer vigil that leads to no action make us complicit?

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