United Church of Christ

Clergy, churches pray, preach for young plaintiffs suing U.S. government to protect Planet Earth

Twenty one young Americans are suing the United States government in an effort to protect the planet. The case, Juliana vs. the United States, had been scheduled for trial in Oregon at the end of the month. The United Church of Christ Environmental Justice ministry is urging clergy across the country, and young people of all faith traditions to preach a sermon on their behalf.

It's part of a campaign called Justice for #EachGeneration organized by the Rev. Brooks Berndt, minister for Environmental Justice, with the assistance of the Rev. Jim Antal, retired Massachusetts Conference Minister who now serves as the Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the UCC General Minister and President.

"Add your voice to the chorus of support for the children and youth involved in what news outlets across the country have called 'the trial of the century,'" Berndt said. "On October 29th, twenty-one children and youth will be taking the federal government to court over the government's role in causing climate change and violating the next generation's rights to life, liberty, and property— in addition to its failure to protect essential public resources."

The case and the sermon campaign are making national news, and have also garnered the attention of the World Council of Churches.

"One of the plaintiffs is Kiran Oommen, the son of Melanie Oommen, a UCC pastor," Berndt continued. The Oommens of Eugene, Ore., will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland in November to speak on Climate Justice as part of the World Council of Churches - UNICEF World Children's Day Celebratory Event. "While anyone can preach a sermon as part of the campaign, youth are particularly encouraged, and the early reports are that some incredibly powerful worship experiences have taken place as youth speak with passion about an issue that significantly impacts them."

Berndt is urging those who want to learn more about the sermon campaign or are ready to make a pledge to preach to access the campaign website. So far, 24 different organizations representing a variety of faith traditions have joined in sponsoring the effort. "The trial is expected to last until January," Berndt said, "so preachers will have plenty of time to plan and prepare how they want to give voice to their support and focus on one of the most important moral issues of our time."

The government has repeatedly tried to put a halt to the case, which has been making its way through the courts for three years. Late Friday, October 19, the U.S. Supreme Court got involved.

The young people argue that their Constitutional rights to live in a safe environment have been violated. They want a court-ordered mandate that phases out the use of fossil fuels nationwide.

"The recent United Nations IPCC report makes it clear that if life as humans have always known it is to continue, our generation must take immediate action on an unprecedented scale," Antal said. "As people of faith, we recognize that 'the earth is the Lord's' and not ours to wreck. Let churches, synagogues and mosques amplify the voices of these young people. America must hear and embrace their urgent cry for climate justice."

 


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