Written by Gregg Brekke
The United Church of Christ has raised nearly $19,000 from more than 370 contributors nationally for the purpose of placing a full-page ad in the statewide Arizona Republic newspaper on Saturday, May 29, the day when 500,000 protesters are expected to march in Phoenix.
UCC entities still need to raise a little more than $4,000 to cover the cost of the ad before the space is purchased, says the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, director of communications.
The UCC's national setting, in partnership with the Southwest Conference (which includes Arizona), is hoping to place the ad as part of its public response to Arizona's stringent immigration law that, according to racial justice advocates and church leaders, encourages racial profiling of Hispanics.
"We really need $23,000 in gifts or firm commitments by Wednesday at noon in order to move ahead with our plan and safely place this ad," Guess says. "We are impressed by the quick and generous response we've seen from across the church, but we need one last surge of financial support to get us over the top."
"God's love knows no borders" will be the headline in the church's newspaper response ad.
The response in Arizona is part of the Stillspeaking Ministry's effort to begin lifting the UCC's "God is still speaking," message in places and at times when issues of injustice necessitate a bold church response, says the Rev. Felix Carrion, Stillspeaking Ministry coordinator.
The UCC's Stillspeaking Ministry also is hoping to raise an additional $10,000 so it can simultaneously purchase Spanish-language versions of the ad in Hispanic publications in Arizona and beyond. Carrion also is hopeful that a viral video message can be produced to confront similar measures now being proposed in other state legislatures.
"Across the church, we have heard eagerness that the United Church of Christ respond publicly in Arizona with a message that resonates both pastorally and prophetically to this unjust new law," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president, announcing the fundraising effort about a week ago. "At the same time, we need to prepare a long-term response strategy that prepares us for the multiple legislative battles over immigration that will take place in the coming months and years."
The UCC General Synod has called for comprehensive immigration reform, Black points out, "but this legislation needs to come at the federal level and not be a piecemeal response from various states that would permit legalized racial profiling."
The UCC's Tell Our Story Fund was first launched in 2008 when the UCC raised more than $220,000 to purchase ads in The New York Times and USA Today to respond to inaccurate information about the denomination and its largest congregation, Trinity UCC in Chicago, in wake of heightened attention to the relationship between then-candidate Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., a UCC pastor.
Through the support of individual contributors, the UCC purchased similar ads in national lesbian and gay publications in response to California's Proposition 8 and other anti-gay measures that passed in Florida, Arizona and Arkansas in late 2008. He hopes the church will do the same in Arizona, if fundraising is successful.
"When racism raises its ugly head and our nation's core justice values are at stake, fear cannot be an excuse to remain silent," says the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, as quoted in the UCC's proposed Arizona advertisement.