Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and the positions of the United Church of Christ, the United Nations, and other bodies calling for their release.
- Commentary: A Word on Freedom: Oscar Lopez Rivera's 32 years in prison are inhumane. Our appeal to President Obama is to release him with a small stroke of his pen so we can join the whole world who has taken notice of him as well. (12/15/2013)
- Letter of Thanks from Carlos Alberto Torres, Puerto Rican Nationalist
From its inception, the United Church of Christ has affirmed its support for fundamental human rights, and has acknowledged the dignity and worth of each person. We are called to care for prisoners and to set free the oppressed, reminded that Jesus himself was imprisoned and murdered, and that even the patriarchs before him were oppressed and in held unjustly prison. The setting free of captives was central to the ministry of Jesus, who read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, saying “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4
In 1980 and 1981, the F.B.I. and the U.S. National Guard in Puerto Rico removed 30 Puerto Rican men and women without notifying the Governor of Puerto Rico, and charged them with arms possession and conspiracy against the United States government. Those arrested believed that the U.S. government was a colonial power operating within Puerto Rico, and refused to participate in the U.S. judicial system that tried them. The group requested war court trials in accordance with a number of United Nations declarations, which were refused. Some of the 30 were tried and sentenced within the U.S. judicial system; others were released because there was no valid evidence against them. Of those convicted in U.S. courts, the average sentence was 71.6 years for the men, and 72.8 years for the women – roughly 20 times greater than sentences for others convicted of similar crimes. Their sentences and the conditions of their arrest are considered by many throughout the world to have been politically motivated, excessive, and in violation of international law. International human rights groups have cited the similarity between the case of Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for 27 years for an attempted overthrow of the apartheid regime, and that of the Puerto Rican prisoners arrested, charged, and incarcerated for their fight against U.S. control of Puerto Rican sovereignty.
Ultimately, 14 Puerto Rican nationalists were incarcerated in the United States. In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 12 of these men and women after they had served from 16 to 19 years of their sentences, which originally ranged from 35 to 90 years. He did so because, in his words, “they were serving extremely lengthy sentences…out of proportion to their crimes.” Two other nationalists – Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar Lopez Rivera -- did not accept the terms, and were not released. Carlos Alberto was eventually paroled in 2010. In January 2011, Oscar Lopez appeared before a parole examiner, who recommended that he remain incarcerated.
The United Church of Christ stands in solidarity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and with United Nations in its repeated resolutions of support for people who struggle against domination by alien powers In the1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and People (Resolution 1514, adopted in1960), the U.N. recognized that people of the world ardently desire the end of colonialism, welcomed the emergence of dependent territories into freedom and independence, and proclaimed the inalienable right for all people to freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty, and the integrity of their national territory. U.N. Resolution 2621, adopted by the General Assembly in 1970, declares continuation of colonialism in all its forms and manifestations a crime violating the U.N. Charter, and reaffirms the inherent right of colonial people to struggle by all necessary means against colonial powers which suppress their aspiration for freedom and independence. In 1973, the U.N. published basic principles of the legal status of combatants who struggle against alien domination and racist regimes (Resolution 3103, adopted by the General Assembly December 12, 1973), reaffirming its prior declarations and calling to mind repeated calls to the body for support for colonized people. Specifically, the United Nations proclaims that the struggle of people under colonial domination is legitimate, that attempts to suppress the struggle against colonial domination is incompatible with the U.N. Charter and with principles of international law, and declares that combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination who are captured as prisoners are to be accorded the status of prisoners of war, entitled to protection under the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1949. In similar resolutions, the U.N. has declared a right for protection of persons detained or imprisoned as a result of their struggle against apartheid, racism, colonialism, and foreign occupation (Resolution 32/122, December 16, 1977), calling upon member states to support and assist those who fight for national independence from foreign occupation. The U.N. also declared a universal recognition of the right of people to self-determination, and the speedy granting of independence to colonial countries for the effective guarantee of human rights (Resolution 33/24, November 29, 1978).
These Declarations, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are available in their entirety at www.un.org. The United Nations encourages their distribution and duplication as a means to support education on the subject of human rights, from a broad and international perspective.
In light of international law, and based on a call for social justice and human rights, and founded in its faith in the teachings of Christ, the United Church of Christ has joined with many other religious and secular bodies over the past three decades in calling for self-determination for Puerto Rico and amnesty for political prisoners of conscience. In 1979, the United Church of Christ called for release of four Puerto Rican nationalist prisoners who were concerned with the political independence of Puerto Rico, and who attacked the Blair House and other sites on Capitol Hill, as a result of which they were convicted and imprisoned more than 25 years before. The position of the United Church of Christ at that time was to support their release, given the extended sentences they had served, and in solidarity with the U.S. Justice Department which recommended their release in 1978, these prisoners should be released. U.C.C. Resolution 79-GS-87 called for a presidential pardon for these prisoners, and in so doing, supported similar calls by the Puerto Rican Council of Protestant Churches, high bodies of the Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic churches in Puerto Rico and the United States, the National Council of Churches, former governors of Puerto Rico, both houses of the Puerto Rican legislature, labor unions, professional organizations, student councils, cultural groups, political organizations, and ten U.S. Congressmen who had written to the U.S. government expressing similar concerns. This position, shared as it was by so many other bodies, was founded on principles of mercy, love and reconciliation as the foundation of human rights concerns.
In 1985, the General Synod voted to adopt a resolution (85-GS-71) on the discriminatory treatment of prisoners of conscience, especially as they concerned women prisoners of conscience, citing Christ’s concern for those who were in captivity and in prison, and the foundational call to bring attention to the cry for justice and mercy for prisoners who are subjected to harsh and unmitigated conditions. In 1989 (89-GS-89), the United Church of Christ General Synod adopted a resolution on the Ministry to Prisoners of Conscience, recalling the Christian responsibility to address the needs of prisoners and calling to mind that Jesus himself was held prisoner. The United Church of Christ again acknowledged maltreatment of prisoners of conscience, and encouraged local congregations to reach out to prisoners of conscience and their families, and to effect visits and to call for an end to discriminatory treatment. In so doing, the United Church of Christ supported the prison ministries of many other denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and Disciples of Christ among them) who had adopted similar resolutions and had joined with the U.C.C. in this work.
In 1991, the United Church of Christ called for self determination for Puerto Rico, and amnesty for prisoners of conscience (91-GS-85). The U.C.C. General Assembly called for the immediate and unconditional amnesty to all Puerto Rican prisoners of conscience, as defined by Amnesty International, the granting of amnesty to advocates of independence who were in exile, and an end to the prosecution of advocates of independence.
Similarly, in 1995 (95-GS-63), the General Synod recognized 100 years of U.S. colonialism in six island nations in Guam, Eastern (American) Samoa, Hawai’i, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and called upon the government of the United States to affirm the rights of native peoples to self-determination.
For information on the positions of other denominations and bodies, see the Statement of the Methodist Church, “Free the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners,” adopted by the General Board of Church and Society in 1995; a statement calling for release of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners approved by the Board of Directors, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America on February 10, 1995; a resolution calling for unconditional and immediate amnesty for the Puerto Rican political prisoners by the Episcopal Church of Puerto Rico on October 22, 2995; and multiple calls by Nobel Laureates (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and others); Human Rights Organizations (including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, European Human Rights Foundation, the Institute for Ghandian Studies, and others); labor unions; other religious communities (including the World Council of Churches and other international bodies); representatives of other countries (including Northern Ireland, the Caribbean, Australia, New South Wales, Nicaragua, and Mexico); and elected officials of the United States and Puerto Rico.
A United Church of Christ congregation in Texas has been told it cannot participate in an evangelical Christian program that assists children of prisoners because of the church's outspoken gay-friendly stance.
The Rev. Dan De Leon, pastor of Friends Congregational UCC in College Station, Texas, said he learned this summer that his church was disqualified from Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program, which encourages churches to buy Christmas presents for the children of inmates.
Prison Fellowship officials said the church's stance on homosexuality, declared on its Web site, represented a disagreement about basic scriptural doctrine.
"For a church to qualify for Angel Tree, its beliefs must be consistent with our Statement of Faith, including being Trinitarian and accepting the unique authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and life," reads a July 24 letter the church received from Prison Fellowship.
The church provided a copy of the letter to Religion News Service.
"As we have looked at the doctrine and beliefs of your church in light of our Statement of Faith and partnering guidelines, we have determined that your church does not qualify as part of our program."
De Leon said he called the regional office of Prison Fellowship and was told his church was disqualified because it belongs to the UCC's "Open and Affirming" program that welcomes gays and lesbians as members.
"Personally it came as a shock and when it was shared with the congregation, it was equally shocking," said De Leon, whose church draws an average of 120 worshippers on Sunday. "The emotions ran from anger to confusion to just the wind being taken out of our sails as a community initially."
David Lawson, senior vice president of Prison Fellowship, called the situation "one unfortunate incident" and said "very few" of the more than 12,000 participating churches have been disqualified or disqualified themselves from the Angel Tree program. Such cases usually involve differing views about homosexuality or creation, he said.
He said the Angel Tree program is not limited to Christmas presents but aims for a year-round "full relationship" between churches and prisoners' children, involving them in congregational programs.
"We want to make sure that the churches that we partner with are compatible with our values, our statement of faith," said Lawson, who is based in Lansdowne, Va.
The Texas church has participated in the program for five years and been "Opening and Affirming" since 1996. In recent years, Prison Fellowship has reviewed Angel Tree participants to ensure that churches are compatible with a recently revised mission statement that urges a focus on "transformation," he said.
The United Church of Christ has seen other repercussions from its stance on homosexuality. In July, an insurer refused to offer coverage to a UCC church in Adrian, Mich., saying its pro-gay stance put it at "a higher risk" of property damage and litigation. In recent years, major television networks have rejected UCC ads as "too controversial."
The Texas congregation has drafted a letter to Prison Fellowship, signed by more than 120 parishioners and supporters, to express its dismay at being removed from the program.
"We are disheartened that Prison Fellowship has chosen to lean more heavily on small matters of doctrinal disagreements than on much larger matters of theological authenticity and compassion, which demand that we Christians must love one another if anyone will ever believe that we truly follow Christ," the letter said.
UCC President John H. Thomas wrote a letter of support to the congregation, and encouraged them to respond to Prison Fellowship.
"I pray that those who receive your letter will be challenged by its message and, by God's grace, transformed," Thomas wrote.
De Leon said church members will meet to determine new ways to help children in the community.
Lawson said even though Prison Fellowship is no longer aligned with the College Station congregation, "we affirm them in their desire to serve these children."
Racial profiling is the targeting of particular individuals based on the erroneous assumption that persons of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion are more likely to engage in certain types of unlawful conduct.
It is the impermissible use of personal characteristics when there is no reliable information that links a person of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion to a specific incident, scheme, or organization.
Why is it an issue of faith?
In honor to our Creator God, we honor all human beings as being created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). As people of faith, we are called to be in solidarity with all people, because God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35).
What does that really mean in real life?[i]
Nationally, Black drivers are twice more than White drivers to be arrested. Hispanic drivers are more likely than White drivers to receive a ticket. White drivers are more likely to receive a written warning than Hispanic drivers. White drivers are more likely than Black drivers to be verbally warned by police. Statewide data also confirm this pervasive phenomenon of “Driving While Black or Brown.”
In addition, minority pedestrians are often subjected to suspicion-less stops-and-frisks, as shown in data collected through the NYPD and LAPD. Street-level law enforcement authorities are provided with wide discretion in community policing, which is often exercised to racially profile minorities who are perceived to be a threat to public safety even if they have done nothing wrong.
Religious profiling is sometimes used as a proxy for race, ethnicity or national origin.
Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. are being singled out for question and detention, on the basis of religion and national origin, by federal programs such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which requires certain individuals from predominantly Muslim countries to register with the federal government, be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated.
79% of targets investigated by the federal covert program OFL, Operation Front Line to “deter terror operations” were immigrants from Muslim majority countries. In our nation’s airports, individuals wearing Sikh turbans or Muslim head coverings are often profiled for higher security at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.
- Immigration law enforcement
Vast numbers of Hispanics – most of whom U.S. citizens or legal residents, are racially profiled. State and local agencies target Hispanic individuals and entire Hispanic communities in a broad way to enforce federal immigration law, when several problematic collaborative programs with ICE are supposedly to be narrowly focused.
In addition, some state lawmakers undertake initiatives of their own that further encouraged racial profiling. For example, Arizona’s S.B. 1070 turns mere civil infractions of federal immigration law, such as not carrying registration papers, into state crimes, and gives private citizen the right to sue Arizona law enforcement authority if they believe that the law is not being fully enforced.
What kind of legislation is proposed in regard to racial profiling?
The End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1670) has been introduced to the 112th Congress in 2011-2012, and heard by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. ERPA will create a federal prohibition against racial profiling, provide funding to train officials on how to end this practice, and hold law enforcement officials and agencies that continue to use racial profiling accountable.
[i] Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (Washington, DC), March 2012.
It costs about $35,000 to incarcerate a juvenile. It takes just $7,000 a year to educate one.
Juveniles can be tried as adults in all 50 states, and are vulnerable to adult punishments. They may also be remanded to adult prisons.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life in prison without parole. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people for crimes they committed as children. As a consequence, a number of young people were released from death row into the general prison population. Five other countries execute people for juvenile offenses: Iran, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The Twenty-Third General Synod stated, "We affirm the right of juveniles to an equitable system of justice that respects the life and promise of our youth."
October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
The United States has more than 60,000 children sitting in jail, lost in a broken system that has led our country to incarcerate more children than any other nation. Why are we turning our backs on the youngest, most vulnerable members of society, locking up 2 out of 3 of those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses? Why are 80 percent of children who are imprisoned black or Hispanic? And why are we punishing these children so harshly, dooming some of them to solitary confinement, where they are left torturously alone, causing severe physical and psychological harm? Voices from all points of the political spectrum, including the faith community are calling for answers and solutions to these and many other issues. They are speaking out and raising awareness for criminal justice and youth justice reform.
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national initiative committed to seeking solutions for these troubling questions. It is focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Annually, the Campaign sponsors National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) which aims to provide people across the country an opportunity to develop action-oriented events in their communities during the month of October. Individuals, communities and organizations can advocate for better juvenile justice policies by elevating the importance of issues such as determining the age that juveniles are classified as adults, housing juveniles with adult offenders, and isolation in solitary confinement. This year President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation observing October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Read the President’s Proclamation.
One way that your local congregation can be involved this year is to partner with organizations to get local governments or state Governors to pass resolutions declaring that October is Youth Justice Awareness Month.
- Youth Justice Awareness Month Guide to Passing a Resolution
- How to Host a Film Screening
- Childhood Interrupted (Film | Discussion Guide)
- Stickup Kid (Film | Discussion Questions)
JWM is interested in knowing what activities, actions your local congregation will undertake during National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Email your events, film screenings, discussion, actions, photos, stories, etc. to Barbara T. Baylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIG NEWS: Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress
Recently, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation, S.1169, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was created in 1974 and has not been updated since 2002.
The legislation would make improvements to the law, including:
- incorporating recent research into adolescent behavior and brain research,
- requiring that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) identify best practices to serve and protect at-risk youth,
- phasing out remaining circumstances when youth can be detained for status offenses (offenses which would not be a crime if committed by an adult),
- removing youth charged in adult court from placement in adult jails.
The JJDPA is the only federal law that sets national standards for the treatment of youth involved in juvenile justice systems. In the 40 years since it was first enacted into law, the JJDPA has enabled significant improvements to juvenile justice, including reducing youth crime rates and supporting many states in creating fairer approaches that help youth stay connected to their communities and get back on track.
In 2001 the 23rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ affirmed advocacy for fair and appropriate treatment of youth, especially as they are involved with or at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.
Resources on the JJDPA & the New Senate Bill
- Read the bill text
- Key changes to JJDP Reauthorization Act introduced in 113th Congress
- Major Provisions of Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Act of 2015
- Act4JJ's Resources on the JJDPA
Deeply connected to the recently renewed dialogue about the criminal justice system and the pressing need to address the reality of mass incarceration are issues at the core of our faith tradition. Our understandings of justice, healing, restoration, reconciliation, redemption and transformation are important spiritual resources for us as we wrestle with these issues. Indeed, as people of faith, we are called to this conversation in a significant way, on multiple levels of systemic change, public policy change and individual change.
The teachings of the Gospel particularly challenge us to engage these realities in ways that take us beyond the surface and into true encounter with Jesus. In Matthew we hear Jesus proclaiming, “When I was in prison, you visited me.” It is easy to glide past these words, but their import is powerful.
“When I was in prison, you visited me.”
In the lives and faces of those who fall into the criminal justice system, we encounter Christ. Even in the midst of profound brokenness. We are challenged to seek out the image of God in this complex and challenging context. We cannot enter the conversation at arms-length. Because we are followers of Jesus, we are called to be present as ambassadors of healing, restoration and justice in jail cells, courtrooms, booking rooms, prison yards and detention centers.
Commentary: A call to action opposing mandatory minimums for drug crimes
May 15, 2017
The United Church of Christ remains a faithful witness and advocate for criminal justice reforms and an end to the disproportionate number of people of color within the prison industrial complex.
Racial justice proponents reject new Department of Justice guidelines on criminal punishment
May 12, 2017
Critical of new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice outlining tougher punishments for nonviolent drug offenders, United Church of Christ racial justice leaders are calling on the wider church to protect vulnerable communities and to renew their commitment to justice to create a just world for all.
General Synod 30 Resolutions on Mass Incarceration
- Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States
- Dismantling the New Jim Crow
Download our 1-page resources on criminal justice for use in your congregation:
- Our Faith and the Criminal Justice System
- The United Church of Christ & Criminal Justice Reform - Our Historic Witness
- The Interfaith Witness for Criminal Justice Reform
- Fast Facts about Criminal Justice & Mass Incarceration
- Ferguson or Fallujah? The Militarization of Law Enforcement
“When I was in prison….”: Our Faith and the Criminal Justice System
A primer by Sandy Sorensen, Director of our UCC Washington Office. In it she looks at our criminal justice system, our call to stand with those in prison, and the momentum building for change
The state of our criminal justice system
More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States today, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. About 1.5 million are in federal or state facilities for adults. The remainder are in local jails, juvenile facilities, military prisons, jails on Indian reservations, or immigration facilities. This is not the full picture, however. More than 5 million additional persons are under Justice supervision, either on probation or on parole. The number of people currently active within the system is over 7 million.
The United States imprisons more of its own people than any other country in the world. For every 100,000 U.S. residents, more than 700 are in prison. In contrast, the incarceration rate per 100,000 residents in the U.K. is 125; in Canada, 110; and in the Netherlands, France and Italy it is 90. In Japan, the incarceration rate is 40 per 100,000. Of all the prisoners in the world, one out of every four is incarcerated in the United States.
The number of U.S. prisoners continues to grow. The prison population has more than quadrupled since 1980, and has risen sharply for women and youth. Greatest increases are in the South and West regions, but the general trend is consistent across all states. Approximately 1 in every 100 men and 1 in every 1,700 women in America resides in a federal or state facility. If this trend persists, we can expect that one in every 20 of America's children will serve time in a state or federal prison.
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has established a policy base calling for reformation of the nation's justice system, with specific attention to promoting training and rehabilitation of inmates; reduction in mass incarceration, especially through alternative sentencing; attending to race and class bias in arrests and sentencing; opposing excessive bail; opposing the growth of the prison industrial complex; and calling for increased public awareness of prison conditions.
Learn More About Criminal Justice
- Capital Punishment
- Mental Illness & Incarceration
- Our criminal justice system on the world stage
- Prison Labor
- Prison Ministry
- The Privatization of Prisons
- Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and the positions of the United Church of Christ
- Resources on Criminal Justice
- The relationship between incarceration and crime rates
- What Can I Do?
On Oct. 24, 2001, six weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a law "to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes." The House voted 356 to 66, and the Senate, 90 to 1, to support the USA Patriot Act.
Quickly pulled together in an environment of fear about terrorism, the law consolidates tremendous new powers in the executive branch of government, and greatly enlarges the government's ability to conduct surveillance, detain immigrants, conduct searches and seizures, and prosecute political dissidents. Today, more than 18 months after the attacks, U.S. citizens are growing more concerned about our government's ability to suspend civil liberties and silence political dissent. Now, bureaucratic power is further consolidated with the creation of the new U.S. Department for Homeland Security. Meanwhile, our government has been busily preparing for war with Iraq while simultaneously fighting a war on terrorism with nebulous boundaries and no end in sight.
Why is this important? Take a walk with me on any day, anywhere in the United States. Let's go to the grocery store for beans and rice. No cash? Use the debit card. Your information is captured. We visit the doctor and pay for the lab tests. Information captured. Call a friend from a cell phone. Captured. Make a monthly payment through customer service and provide your social security number. Surf the web. Captured.
Was there anything there that might be construed by an observer to be unpatriotic? New laws make it possible for the government to monitor calls, email, and conversations in homes, offices, and cars. Our smallest movements can be known and we will never know.
The FBI has created an online database called the Terrorist Information System that contains data on more than 200,000 individuals and 3,000 organizations. It contains information not only on subjects of investigations, but on contacts and potential witnesses as well. In itself, this may seem like a necessary thing. But when we operate out of fear, without proper safeguards, such an information system can endanger the privacy of a whole people.
This is not the first time in this country that we have responded to fear by clamping down on individual liberties. Just as Arab Americans are being suspected of terrorist plots based on nothing other than their heritage, we also imprisoned dissidents during World War I for speaking out against the war, and we incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. In the 1960s and '70s, the FBI's counterintelligence program COINTELPRO was a massive operation to infiltrate, disrupt, and otherwise interfere with the lawful activities of civil rights advocates, religious bodies, and others.
As history teaches us: Once the government has successfully curtailed our civil liberties, it is very difficult to roll back on these infringements.
All people in the United States have rights. Regardless of our citizenship status, we do not have to answer any questions by any law enforcement agent. We do not have to sign any paper without a lawyer present. We do not have to let the police, the FBI, the INS, or anyone else come into our homes or search our offices without a warrant. We do not have to answer questions about immigration status. We are protected under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable seizures. We have the right to advocate for changes in laws and government practices under the First Amendment.
I believe it is our duty as true patriots to act now to support our human rights to privacy and peace.
The Rev. Sala W.J. Nolan is Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights with the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.
For information on defending our civil liberties, go to the Center for Constitutional Rights www.ccr-ny.org or the Public Eye www.publiceye.org. For the full text of the USA Patriot Act, go to www.epic.org.