The United Church of Christ is launching a fundraising effort to raise $50,000 to mount a public response to Arizona's stringent immigration law, enacted April 23, that makes racial profiling permissible by allowing police to detain those of Hispanic origin suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
Individual and congregational gifts to the UCC's Tell Our Story Fund will support the purchase of 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.
The UCC also plans similar ads in Spanish language publications and the development of a viral video message that will be used to combat similar measures now being proposed in other state legislatures.
"God's love knows no borders" will be the headline in the church's response ad, which will be placed once the minimum cost of the full-page ad — $22,000 — has been raised from contributors.
"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," says the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president. "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."
Black says a groundswell of financial support will be needed in order to raise a minimum of $50,000 in order to fund a visible, long-term campaign.
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.
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, said the Rev. Felix Carrion, Stillspeaking Ministry coordinator.
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.Download a PDF version of the ad
Download a PDF version of the ad (Spanish version)