African American Religious Affairs

African American Ministers In Action: Rubio-Hatch Amendments Would Weaken Immigration Reform, Hurt Children

People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action, an alliance of 1,200 clergy from across the country, slammed immigration reform amendments offered by Senators Marco Rubio and Orrin Hatch yesterday that would deny health care coverage and other basic protections to immigrants and their children for five years after legalization.

African American Ministers in Action members Rev. Dorothy Chaney of Miami, Rev. Reginald Gundy of Jacksonville, Elder Lee Harris of Jacksonville and Minister Jabari Paul of Tallahassee issued a joint statement:

“When it comes to extending the social safety net to our immigrant neighbors, the moral thing to do is also the prudent thing to do. Denying health care coverage and basic protections to vulnerable families is bad for children and it’s bad for society as a whole.

“We need strong comprehensive immigration reform because vulnerable families are falling through the cracks, unable to start fully productive lives and give back to the country they call home. Our social safety net doesn’t only catch those who fall, it provides a springboard for those who need a leg up. The Rubio-Hatch amendments would relegate immigrants to continued second-class status even after they earn a legal place in the country.

“An immigration reform bill that punishes children and creates a second class status for those who have earned a path to citizenship undermines the goals of comprehensive reform.”


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African American Ministers Leadership Council on SCOTUS Planned Parenthood Announcement: All Women Deserve Access to Health Care, Dignity, Autonomy

Today the Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals court ruling blocking an Indiana law that would have stopped Planned Parenthood from receiving federal Medicaid funding for preventative health screenings.

Rev. Brendolyn Jenkins-Boseman of Aiken, South Carolina, chair of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, released the following statement:

"Today’s decision is a victory for Indiana women and should be a signal to conservative legislatures across the country that are trying to limit women’s access to health care. Our courts have stopped many of these measures, but with proposals to defund Planned Parenthood surfacing across the country, we must remain vigilant.

"Why do conservative politicians still think that playing politics is more important than women’s access to cancer screenings and other vital health services?  While these politicians push for wasteful and unpopular attacks on reproductive justice, many faith leaders and our allies remain committed to fighting for access to safe, affordable, and compassionate health care for all women.  All women deserve dignity and autonomy – over their own bodies and their own futures."

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African American Ministers Leadership Council: Milestone in Black Vote Shows Power of Organizing, Backlash to Voter Suppression

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC) applauded yesterday’s Census report confirming that African Americans turned out to vote at a higher rate than any other ethnic group for the first time last year.

Members of AAMLC, a nationwide network of African American clergy, worked through the nonpartisan “I Am a VESSEL and I Vote” program to train over 7,000 clergy and faith leaders in get-out-the-vote skills, including registering new voters and bringing voters to the polls.

“This milestone shows the power of strong, strategic organizing in the African American community,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of AAMLC. “It also shows what happens when politicians threaten the rights of current and future African American voters. Across the country, we witnessed a variety of attempts by local, state and federal  officials to rig elections to make it harder for Black Americans to vote. In response, starting a year before election day, we raised awareness of suppression efforts from the statehouses to the courthouses, organized with other faith and civil rights communities, and turned out at the polls to proclaim victory for our hard-won rights.”

“This should be a lesson to elected officials who think they can keep African Americans from exercising our civic duty,” added Malachi. “We take the right to vote seriously, we know our power in this democracy, and we intend to use it. Every election counts and every African American votewill be counted. The movementto end oppression at the polls is here to stay.”

People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council represents an ecumenical alliance of 1,500 African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.

 

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African American Ministers In Action Urges Pennsylvania Republicans to Drop Electoral Vote Rigging Plan

PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania civil rights and faith leaders held a press conference today to urge Pennsylvania Republicans to drop their plan to change the way the state apportions its electoral votes.  Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine, pastor of Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia and co-chair of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action, made the following statement:

“Last year, African Americans in Pennsylvania stood up to suppressive voting laws and turned out to vote in great numbers. Now, Republican legislators are trying to diminish the power of our votes and our voices by watering down Pennsylvania’s electoral influence. This plan is unfair and it’s short-sighted. Instead of trying to rig the rules of the game to benefit their candidates, the Republicans should be working to win votes with their policies and values.”

People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action represents a network of 1,500 African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
 

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Stay in Hope: Remarks by Minister Leslie Watson Malachi on Marriage Equality

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way, delivered the following remarks to those supporting marriage equality in front of the Supreme Court today.

I greet you as one who is humbled to stand before you on this day that will be like none other and say celebrate, be glad in it, and keep standing for and with Hope!

Why Hope? As the Director of African American Religious Affairs of People For the American Way, Hope tells us DOMA will not stand but like Goliath, will fall.

Hope says same gender couples, in committed relationships will be recognized and receive those 1100 plus benefits now denied by the federal government. Hope defends what is right, Hope unites people and families, Hope stands with us and for us, and Hope is the American Way!

Why Hope? As an organizer and ally since 1996, Hope kept us waiting for this historic day. Hope gave us a process and a lesson to never take lightly judicial nominations, to make sure voter registration and mobilization is a core value, to rejoice in victories in 2012 from the proclamation from the highest officer holder in this country – President Obama - to 4 states making it 9 states total passing pro-Marriage Equality laws, and that our work in the states is not done.  Hope hasn’t just strengthened those who have always believed in marriage equality. It’s brought others to reconsider their opposition and join us on the side of justice for all. Hope is why we have so many other new and welcomed allies for equality.

Why Hope? As a Christian, during this Holy Week, from our sacred text “hope that is seen is not hope”, so you have had and must hold on with unwavering confidence that help has arrived, is sitting in between the walls of the highest court of this nation, and speaking into existence freedom that will no longer be denied.

And finally, why Hope? As an African American woman, on behalf of the Equal Justice Task Force of African American Ministers In Action, Hope says the enemy is a liar when they say African Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are two separate - even hostile – communities, for “no weapon shall be forged against us” and no wedge can be driven between those who know oppression, discrimination, denial of basic civil and human rights.  Hope connects the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement, the yesterday to today, the hopeful to the hopeless.

So Beloved, stay in Hope! Stay in Hope I say for if the Justices are about the business of justice, then they will speak against hate, division, intolerance, and barriers to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Stay in Hope for my sacred text tells us what “man meant for harm, God intends for good”.

In this pivotal moment in our country's history, we must stand on the side of compassion and equality rather than on the side of oppression and discrimination. And that’s why we’re all out here on the steps of the Supreme Court today.

I leave you with these words, stay in Hope because it was the late Senator Ted Kennedy who said, and prayerfully he won’t mind me playing with it a little bit, “ For all those whose dreams have been our concern (to defeat all forms of discrimination), the work goes on (we are not going to stop trying until gay and lesbian Americans across the country have full legal equality), the cause endures (freedom to be, freedom to love, just freedom), the hope still lives ( I say again hope still lives), and the dream (for all persons to marry the person they love) shall never die.”

Be encouraged! Have faith. Expand love. Know peace. And may Hope, which is never silent, always be with you!

 

 

PFAW

African American Ministers Leadership Council Disappointed as McDonnell Signs Voter ID Bill

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Rev. Gregory King, Sr., pastor of Russell Temple CME Church in Alexandria and a spokesman for People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signing of a restrictive voter ID law today:

“In last year’s election, Virginians who came out to exercise their right to vote faced some of the longest lines in the nation. This is a democracy problem that our elected officials should be working to solve.

“Instead, Gov. McDonnell and our legislature are working overtime to throw up even more barriers to the democratic process. This voter ID bill purports to combat the non-existent problem of voter fraud, but instead it creates a larger problem of voter suppression. This law is a politically-motivated attempt to disenfranchise already marginalized communities, and it places one more burden on voters who already had to go to extraordinary lengths to vote in last year’s election. We will fight to repeal it, and we will fight to make sure every eligible Virginian stands up and makes their voice heard at the ballot box.”

The African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, represents a nationwide network of clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
 

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African American Ministers in Action Urge Common-Sense Measures to Combat Gun Violence

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – On Saturday, Rev. Dr. Welborn Preston, Pastor of the Temple of Life Worship Center, New Life Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, in Newport News, will speak on behalf of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action at a joint press conference calling for common-sense gun violence prevention measures. The press conference, featuring a number of community leaders, will take place at the Gaines Theater at Christopher Newport University on Saturday, March 23 at 9:30 a.m.

Rev. Preston released the following statement in advance of the event:

“Too many of our children – and especially African-American children – live in fear of gun violence. As community leaders, we have a moral obligation to make our communities safer and stronger for the next generation. That means fully funding schools, making sure our children have adequate nutrition and health care, and it also means ensuring that our streets are safe.  And the plain truth is that we can’t keep our streets safe on our own. Our elected officials in Washington must act to ensure universal background checks for those purchasing firearms and to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We must tell our representatives in Washington that every Virginia child has the right to grow up free from gun violence – and that they must work to make that right a reality.”

People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action represents African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.

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African American Ministers Leadership Council Responds to Scalia’s ‘Racial Entitlement’ Comment

In Supreme Court oral arguments on Shelby County vs. Holder today, Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly stated that the renewal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act represents “the perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, responded:

“Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act doesn’t represent the ‘perpetuation of racial entitlement,’ as Justice Scalia states. Rather, it is one of the most important tools we have for confronting the entitlement of those who believe some people’s votes and voices should matter more than others. Section 5 boldly confronted a reality of American life that still exists today: the routine devaluation of the lives and voices of people of color. Justice Scalia’s statement carries disturbing echoes of the ‘perpetual entitlement’ that has kept bigotry, discrimination, homophobia, disempowerment, sexism, and classism alive in America. I hope that Scalia’s fellow justices will approach this issue more thoughtfully, and with a greater awareness of the reality in their country.”

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We Can’t Afford to Lose the Voting Rights Act

Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to a pivotal section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The part of the VRA that’s under attack is Section 5, which requires the Justice Department or a federal court to approve changes to voting laws in states and counties that have a history of racially discriminatory voting practices before those laws can go into effect. The lead-up to last year’s elections, in which state legislatures passed a slew of discriminatory voter suppression measures, showed just how much Section 5 is still needed.

Today, People For the American Way Foundation released a new report from Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin detailing the history and continued need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and what progressives can do to ensure equal voting rights in the years to come. Raskin writes:

A decision against Section 5 preclearance or the Section 4(b) coverage formula would likely spell the political demise of the Voting Rights Act, even if it is theoretically salvageable by an updated coverage formula or an even more relaxed preclearance procedure.  Our paralyzed, deadlocked Congress will never come to terms on how to revive and renovate it if the Court knocks it down or puts it into a tiny little straitjacket.

Win, lose, or draw, progressives should reckon with the prospect that the days of this landmark statute might be numbered.  This means that we need to take up an ambitious democracy and voting rights agenda of our own for the new century, this time with explicitly universalist aims and general terms that deal with the complex suppression of democracy today.  The voting rights struggles of the new century relate not just to old-fashioned racial trickery in Alabama and Texas but new-age vote suppression in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio; they involve not just traditional vote dilution in the South but the increasingly untenable disenfranchisement of 600,000 Americans in Washington, D.C and 3.6 million Americans in Puerto Rico.

Also today, PFAW Foundation’s Director of African American Religious Affairs, Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, wrote in the Huffington Post about the challenges that people of color still face at the ballot box, nearly half a century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act:

In 2011 and 2012 I organized faith leaders from 22 states in combating voter suppression efforts and turning out the vote among specific communities. This election cycle offered many powerful reminders why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still needed. Texas, for example, passed a discriminatory voter ID law that would have required voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polls, which would have especially burdened poor people and people of color. But because Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act still stands, this law was defeated and the right to vote was protected. Reverend Simeon L. Queen of Houston, Texas, a comrade in the struggle, reflected: "It is inexcusable that nearly 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, politicians are still trying to make it harder for African Americans in Texas to vote. I wish the Voting Rights Act wasn't still necessary, but thank the Lord it's still there."

Since 1980 I have been fortunate to work with men and women, some who started before I was born, to fight for laws protecting the right to vote. Despite the commitment of those who devoted their lives to voter protections, the right to vote remains fragile for many Americans. From voter ID laws to restrictions on early voting, as a country we cannot allow anyone to say "this isn't a problem anymore" to communities who are experiencing, as others witness, those problems at the polls each election. 

PFAW Foundation

Voting Discrimination: Still an Obstacle to Democracy

This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Based on a simple idea, one that is enshrined in our Constitution, the right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of race. It is considered by the Department of Justice to be "the most effective civil rights statute enacted by Congress," prohibiting voting discrimination in order to protect the right to vote for all Americans.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he called the vote "the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice" and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it the "foundation stone for political action." I call it a sacred right!

The centerpiece of that Act and the case is Section 5. It requires that all or portions of sixteen states with a history and a contemporary record of voting discrimination seek and gain approval federally before they put any changes in election practices into effect. Preclearance as it is known is intended to stop voter disenfranchisement before it can start.

In 1970 and again in 1975, Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. At that time US Representative Barbara Jordan, my (s)hero and co-founder of People For the American Way, sponsored legislation that broadened the provisions of the Act to include Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.

As recently as 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize Section 5 of the law with some critics then and now misguidedly asserting that it overstepped its boundaries, that voting discrimination really isn't a problem anymore, or that voting discrimination in other parts of the country somehow delegitimizes Section 5. I'd like to invite those critics to hear directly from people across the country who devoted countless hours to ensuring that marginalized communities were able to vote this past election.

In 2011 and 2012 I organized faith leaders from 22 states in combating voter suppression efforts and turning out the vote among specific communities. This election cycle offered many powerful reminders why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still needed. Texas, for example, passed a discriminatory voter ID law that would have required voters to present government-issued photo ID at the polls, which would have especially burdened poor people and people of color. But because Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act still stands, this law was defeated and the right to vote was protected. Reverend Simeon L. Queen of Houston, Texas, a comrade in the struggle, reflected: "It is inexcusable that nearly 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, politicians are still trying to make it harder for African Americans in Texas to vote. I wish the Voting Rights Act wasn't still necessary, but thank the Lord it's still there."

Since 1980 I have been fortunate to work with men and women, some who started before I was born, to fight for laws protecting the right to vote. Despite the commitment of those who devoted their lives to voter protections, the right to vote remains fragile for many Americans. From voter ID laws to restrictions on early voting, as a country we cannot allow anyone to say "this isn't a problem anymore" to communities who are experiencing, as others witness, those problems at the polls each election.

President Johnson called the vote "a powerful instrument," Dr. King the "foundation stone," and for me it's a sacred right for breaking down injustice, removing obstacles to democracy and empowering the dis-empowered. When discriminatory laws threaten Americans' fundamental right to vote, we are called to utilize every tool available. Across the country we have seen the importance of courts in successfully fighting back against voter suppression efforts. Section 5 remains a key to protecting communities, my community from future attempts at disenfranchisement. Hopefully, prayerfully, the Supreme Court will realize this.

 This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

 

PFAW Foundation

African-American Clergy Urge Corbett to Denounce Vote-Rigging Plan

PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council are urging Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett to reject a proposal to change the way the state apportions its electoral votes.

“This partisan power-grab, if successful, will further disenfranchise African Americans in Pennsylvania,” said Reverend Dr. Clarence Pemberton, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “Last year, a suppressive voter ID law threatened to keep thousands of African-American Pennsylvanians from the polls. Now, we’re facing another attempt to marginalize our voice in elections.  Parties and their candidates not able to win on their merits should work to appeal to voters, not to rig the system to discount our votes.”

The African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a network of African American clergy fighting for social justice across the United States.

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African American Ministers in Action Praise Inclusion of Path to Citizenship in Bipartisan Senate Immigration Proposal

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action today praised the bipartisan immigration framework unveiled today in the Senate, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their children.

“For too long, inadequate and inhumane immigration laws have hurt our immigrants and held all Americans back,” said Reverend Timothy F. McDonald, III, chairman of African American Ministers in Action. “Today’s proposal is an important step forward as we strive for an immigration system that helps our country thrive while treating all people with humanity and respect. Our brothers and sisters who come to this country for a better life – from Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and around the world – are as deserving of the opportunity for full citizenship as any of the millions of men, women and children who have come to this country throughout our history.  We join others in the faith and progressive communities in expressing our thankfulness to lawmakers of both parties who are keeping this basic principle in mind as they strengthen our immigration laws.”

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PFAW Urges Congress to Pass Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way today praised members of the House and Senate for reintroducing a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which House Republicans allowed to expire at the end of last year.

“Democrats in Congress are right to keep pushing until this bill becomes law,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. “VAWA was passed and reauthorized twice with broad bipartisan support, and has succeeded for 18 years in making women safer. It’s absolutely shameful that Republicans blocked a routine reauthorization of the law. Fighting domestic abuse and sexual assault should be bipartisan priorities.”

“Tea Party Republicans are jeopardizing the safety of all Americans because they object to protections for LGBT people, immigrants and Native women,” continued Malachi. “This extremist obstruction must stop.”

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Healing Grace – Ministry of Information: Resources for Interested Faith Leaders

A List of Website Resources to Help Continue the Dialogue on The Black Church, Stigma, Prejudice and Homophobia

PFAWF Launches New Leadership Program For Young African American Ministers

PFAWF Launches New Leadership Program For Young African American Ministers

African American Ministers Support the DREAM Act

Today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow access to affordable postsecondary education, opportunities for military service and potentially a path to full citizenship to thousands of qualified young students striving for a better future.

Faith Leaders to Sign Immigration Reform Covenant on Ellis Island

A diverse group of faith leaders from a range of denominations and ethnicities will gather on Ellis Island on Wednesday, May 5, to pledge their unified support for a dignified, just, and tolerant approach to reforming the country's immigration laws.

Rev. Womack on the March 21 Immigration Rally

PFAWF's Rev. Dr. Rolen Womack invites participants to an immigration rally held on March 21, 2010.

African American Ministers Urge Swift Confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor To the Supreme Court

Statement by African American Ministers in Action Chair Rev. Tim McDonald

In the days following President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, the right-wing has hurled false, partisan-fueled attacks of incompetence and "reverse racism," as they strategize on how to oppose a nominee with more federal judicial experience than anyone currently serving on the Court. In response to President Obama's nomination of Judge Sotomayor, and the false right-wing attacks, Rev.

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