In the United States, we have prided ourselves for generations on a system of public education that has been envied by nations all over the world. Public schools are publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public. Today there are myriad attacks on the public in public education. The questions we must ask when private alternatives are promoted are whether the market has a greater interest in serving the poorest and most vulnerable children and what all children and our society have to lose or gain if we privatize all or part of the vast institution of public education. We in the churches have advocated for a long, long time to make public schools more equitable. Because they are public institutions, we have been able to do that. There are also serious concerns about the loss of public purpose and public control. When schools are privatized, what is the government's moral and fiscal responsibility to the students remaining in the neighborhood public shcools? What should the federal government and state governments do to improve the regulation of charter schools?
Our UCC Web Pages on the Privatization of Public Education
- What Values Underpin Proposals for Privatization of Public Education? Individualism. Competition.
- Charter Schools and Charter School Management Organizations (CMOs) Are a Form of Privatization
- Virtual E-Schools that Serve Students over the Internet Are a Form of Privatization
- Vouchers and Tuition Tax Credits Are a Form of Privatization
- Private Contractors Play an Ever Larger Role in Public Education
- Who Is Using Political Pressure to Drive Privatization of Public Education?
General Synod Policy
The UCC's General Synod has recognized that allocation of scarce public dollars is a primary concern. Unless significant additional tax funds can be generated, schools which are publicly funded but privately operated drain funding from the public school districts that are expected to continue to provide the full range of services for children, including services for students like those with special needs and English language learners, who require expensive special services. General Synod 15 declared, "We defend the right of parents to choose alternative, private, religious, or independent schools, but continue to declare that those schools should be funded by private sources of income." In a Resolution for the Common Good, General Synod 25 affirmed "the role of public institutions paid for by taxes for ensuring essential services and protecting the good of the wider community." Today some privatized schools are not-for profit, but many are making a profit for owners or shareholders from public tax dollars.
2013 Annual Message on Public Education Addresses Privatization
Justice & Witness Ministries creates a resource to comment from the point of view of the church on the conditions in public schools and public school reform. In years past, we have mailed the resource to all churches; these days we publish our resources on-line only. Here is the JWM 2013 Message on Public Education:The Public Purpose of Public Education. And here are the UCC's 2013 succinct, updated talking points to help faithful advocates reflect on and speak to what needs to happen today in public school reform.
May 23, 2013: Ongoing inequality in Pennsylvania school funding, debates about union contracts, and discussions of privatization wreck havoc on the public schools in Philadelphia: Who's Still Killing Philly Schools? The Status Quo is Now State Control and Permanent Crisis.
May 20, 2013: Nicholas Lemann, writing for the New Republic, tells How Michelle Rhee Misled Education Reform. A very important analysis.
April 10, 2013: Helen Ladd, professor of public policy at Duke University defines The Perils of a 'Private' Vision for North Carolina Schools.
March 7, 2013: Peter Montgomery of at Right Wing Watch, People for the American Way, explores growing move toward vouchers: Right-Wing Voucher Push Undermines Public Education & Constitution.
February 15, 2013: Here is a ground breaking expose from Reuters on use of selection screens in a number of charter schools in locations across the United States. A must read for those concerned that public school reform today seems aimed at those with high motivation or more advanced skills and fails to serve the most vulnerable children.
- Updated guidelines on how National, International and Regional partners can support Ugandan LGBTI Persons and their allies from the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), a coalition in Uganda.
General Synod Resolution
In July of 2011, the 28th General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution, "Supporting International Human Rights Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". The purpose of the resolution is to raise awareness of international instances of systematic discrimination, violence and abuse targeting persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), and of contexts where such abuse is not prohibited by law but rather legally, politically, socially, and even religiously sanctioned.
The resolution advocates for the Yogyakarta Principles and thus, commits the United Church of Christ to advocate for the fair and equal application of universal human rights principles and laws toward the protection of all persons from sexual or gender status-based abuse, discrimination or criminal prosecution.
In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free andequal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright.
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them. --Genesis 1:27
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. --Deuteronomy 24:14
Labor Trafficking: Modern-day Slavery
Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, refers to the use of force, coercion, fraud, or abduction to exploit a person for profit. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to labor and/or sexual exploitation that may take many forms including debt bondage, forced labor, domestic servitude, sexual abuse of children for profit, prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and child soldiering.
Each year some 14,000 to 18,000 persons are trafficked into the United States. These trafficked children of God are denied their liberty and freedom to make choices. Their potential for fullness of life, as envisioned by God for all God’s people, is taken away. Trafficking denies the value of human life and endangers the physical and mental well-being of victims. It is a crime against humanity and ultimately a sin.
In 2009, General Synod XXVII approved a resolution, A Call to Awareness and Action to End the Practice of Trafficking in Persons that called all settings of the UCC to “engage in education about the issue of trafficking in persons and advocacy efforts to end this criminal and abusive practice.”
Two years later in 2011, General Synod XXVIII met with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group of farm workers based in Immokalee, FL, who seek dignity, and improved wages and working conditions in the fields. The CIW reported that “modern-day slavery continues to be a problem in the agricultural industry today.”
The most important kinds of labor trafficking are forced labor and debt bondage.
A victim of forced labor is made to work, often under conditions that violate U.S. labor laws, with restricted freedom and without freely-given consent. Victims of forced labor work under threat of punishment and/or violence. Forced labor can take the form of domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and forced begging.
Often individuals become victims of labor trafficking due to deception or coercion. Victims of debt bondage (also called bonded labor) are enslaved and required to work as a form of repayment for a loan or service (such as transportation) whose terms and conditions were not clearly defined at the time the agreement was made. In other cases, the value of the victim’s labor is not accurately applied to the repayment of the debt. The work that individuals perform while in bondage often exceeds the amount of their “loan” or the value of the service received.
Immigrants are especially susceptible to labor trafficking because of language barriers, lack of familiarity with U.S. laws and institutions, and concerns about deportation if they contact authorities.
Five Things You Can Do to End Human Trafficking
The UCC has worked with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on issues of labor trafficking in agriculture. Nonetheless, while many people know that farm workers suffer from poor working conditions and poverty-level wages, few realize that they may also be victims of modern-day slavery and labor trafficking.
Creating change is not as simple as boycotting a specific supermarket or brand of produce. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has learned that the best way to eliminate slavery in U.S. agriculture is to enlist the power of corporation that purchase large quantities of agricultural products. These companies set the specifications for the products they buy, for example, the size, color, and price of the tomatoes. These firms also have the power to specify acceptable pay and working conditions in the fields. They could halt the use of forced labor. Consumers, through their buying power, have the ability to pressure corporations to take on these new responsibilities. Now we need to do it. Our purchases must not facilitate and perpetuate these abuses.
- Educate yourself about the issue (See Additional Resource below).
- Consult the most recent information and explore the outcomes of real cases and efforts to help trafficked persons. (See Additional Resource below)
- Invite a speaker to come to your church to start discussing the issue in your community.
Read the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ anti-slavery webpage.
- As people of faith, we recognize the profound power of prayer in all things. Pray for trafficked persons, for all who work to assist trafficked person, for those who work to prevent human trafficking, for traffickers to cease their practice, and for a global economy that promotes human well-being.
- Congregations can observe National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on the Sunday closest to January 11th each year.
3. Engage with your community
- Spread awareness: plan an educational workshop, show a movie on trafficking, start a book group, or invite a speaker to your church or a community gathering.
- Educate children and youth about human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
- Support state legislation to protect minors as victims.
- Support social service organizations working in your community to prevent human trafficking or support survivors. Find out what anti-trafficking groups are doing to raise awareness in your area.
4. Take Action
- Learn what is happening in your community and state and support efforts to end trafficking.
- Partner with experienced social service, legal and government entities to assist trafficked persons. Don’t do it alone; you can be more harmful than helpful.
- Support reauthorization and strengthening of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
- Research your own state laws on human trafficking. There are still states without legislation to prohibit and punish human trafficking and many laws are in need of reform. Determine whether these laws fully protect the rights of people who have been trafficked.
- Contact your federal and state elected representatives, and social service and law enforcement agencies. Let them know that you care about this issue.
- Congregations can work with local offices of the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Taskforce or the U.S. Health and Human Services Rescue and Restore Coalition to create emergency housing and provide jobs for survivors of human trafficking. Do not do this alone, work with trained professionals.
5. Keep trafficked persons involved in the decisions-making
- Do not coerce trafficked persons into accepting help they do not want but explain their options, and be available for them to contact you in the future.
- Do not allow your desire to protect trafficked persons override their right to make choices about their own life and situation.
- For guidelines in respecting the human rights of children who require additional protections given their age, consult UNICEF.
U.S. Department of Labor, 10 Things Your Congregation, Synagogue or Mosque Can Do To Help Workers
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, What is human trafficking?
US Department of Labor, List of goods produced by child labor or forced labor [4.67 MB] Don’t just boycott products but also support campaigns seeking to involve corporations in policing their suppliers.
US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
United Nations, Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Report on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants
Change.org, 7 Ways to Fight Slavery at the Grocery Store
Multiple resources on child trafficking are available from UNICEF
Free the Slaves is an organization committed to ending slavery through the advocacy of individuals, organizations, businesses and governments
The Polaris Project is one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the US and provides information on domestic trafficking
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) is a non-profit organization that provides social and legal services for victims and other advocacy
- Freedom Network USA provides resources, list of organizations which are part of Freedom Network, and training
- The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter, University of California Press, 2010
- Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales.
- Nobodies: Modern Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, John Bowe, Random House, 2007.
- The War on Human Trafficking: US Policy Assessed, Anthony M. DeStefano, Rutgers University Press, 2007.
- Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade -- And How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, HarperOne, 2001.
- Ending Slavery: How Do We Free Today’s Slaves, by Kevin Bales, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2007. A guide for individuals and organizations who want to become part of the solution to ending human trafficking.
- National Human Trafficking Resource center and 24 hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline: 1-888-3737-888. Call to report a tip (do not investigate yourself), connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources.
There's a neat trick to folding the palm fronds in just the right way so that they become crosses. Let's turn our palms into crosses so we won't be tempted to use them as swords.Read more
When it seems the end has come, "but God." When you see no way forward or out, "but God." When death has done its work and it seems all hope is gone, "but God." Because of these two little words, because of the defiant divine disjunction everything is different now.Read more
Our Faith Our Vote, which seeks to engage and empower the public witness of the UCC, is deeply informed by our Christian faith and theological grounding.
Vote Faithfully Sunday
We invite you to join with our Ecumenical partners in observing the Sunday before election day as "Vote Faithfully Sunday." This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and uplift every voice in our community, reflect on our commitment to the common good and prepare to cast our ballots.
How will you observe Vote Faithfully Sunday? Here are some ideas:
- Download the Vote Faithfully Sunday Ecumenical toolkit: This toolkit provides helpful, nonpartisan resources for engaging with your congregation and community on Vote Faithfully Sunday. It includes:Worship Resources & Prayers; Action Steps including a Voter Pledge, Voter Mobilization Tips, FAQs & Election Protection Info; And more!
- Worship: Use the worship materials in the toolkit and below to celebrate Vote Faithfully Sunday
- Pledge: Invite your members to commit to casting a Ballot on November 8th. Download these "Vote Faithfully Pledge Cards" and collect them through your offering. Send them back to our DC office if your members want to join our UCC Justice Network!
- Get Out the Vote: Make sure every member of your congregation knows where they can turn for help if they have trouble casting their ballot. Share information about the Election Protection hotlines from our partners.
We have included worship resources to help congregations lift up and affirm the connection between corporate worship and the living out of faith in the public sphere. In this section you will find liturgical resources that reflect our call to pray for a more just, peaceful and compassionate world, and to engage in political and public efforts that will help bring it about.
- UCC Worship Ways: Seeds for Election Season Prayers
- UCC Worship Ways: Prayers to Help Counter Fears
- Trusting in the Source - Service Prayers for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
- Our Call to the Common Good - Prayers for a Sunday in Election Season
- Prayer: Prayer to the God of Love, Relationship and Community
|Possible Song Choices from Sing! Prayer and Praise
13 Love and Justice
16 Come to the Water
50 Song of Mercy
69 God Weeps
77 Blessed Are You
86 Taste and See
101 Make Us All One
112 Come to the Table of Grace
120 Dream God’s Dream
127 Dance of the Spirit
137 Come Sweet Justice
170 We Share a Hunger
178 Here Are Our Hearts
199 Go Make a Difference
Tribe of Judah is an intergenerational, energetic and diverse praise and worship ensemble. The group's name is derived from one of the great biblical tribes of Israel. The word "Judah" in Hebrew means praise. This denotation is one of the visionary goals of the ensemble filled with spirited and anointed young adults seeking to praise and worship God through music ministry.
Tribe of Judah experiments with rock, hip-hop, traditional and contemporary gospel, R&B and beyond. The group is out of the box with innovative pizazz and flavor while also contemplative and attentive to timeless hymns and melodies. Tribe of Judah has mastered the art of fusing musical genres to create one sound of praise. The group will not only lead NYE 2012 in musical ministry during plenary and worship, but also co-facilitate workshops, energizers and activities throughout the youth event.
Tribe of Judah's diverse repertoire of musical scores will also include samplings from UCC's 'Sing! Prayer and Praise' song book.
Join the NYE All Strings Jam Session. Download your sheet music to perform with us at Purdue!
Building Peace from the Ground Up/Construyendo La Paz Desde Las Comunidades | May 22-23, 2016
A place of diverse peoples, cultures and ecology, Colombia is tragically also home to the longest - running internal armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere.
May 22-23 are days of solidarity and prayer with brothers and sisters in Colombia. Peace talks between the government and Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, have been moving forward. But the peace accords have not been signed yet. As threats increase to human rights defenders and advocates for just resolution of conflicts over land, there is still much work to be done. We want to lift up those who are working for peace today and for the peace accords of tomorrow.
Ways to Engage
Join hundreds of congregations in the United States and Colombia to pray and take action for peace in Colombia. Download the Colombia Days of Prayer and Action Resources:
- DOPA Resource Packet 2016
- Recursos de DOPA en Español
- Colombia is at a crossroads – will you help lend support to the peace process? Take action: http://p2a.co/TZvT7dB
Questions? Contact Rev. Michael Neuroth.
Learn More about the Colombia Days of Prayer and Action
Learn more about Colombia
- UCC Resolutions on Colombia
- Blog by UCC missionary in Colombia
- LatinAmerican Working Group
- Witness forPeace, Colombia
- Mennonite Central Committee, Washington DC
- Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
“When I visited Colombia last year, I realized how beautiful this country is. Colombia is rich in culture and natural resources. I admired the work of local churches and community leaders who find ways to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by decades of armed conflict… In accordance to our 24th General Synod, we call our churches to support the humanitarian and peace work of our Colombian brothers and sisters. Days of Prayer and Action is a great way to get involved. Engage your faith community in this important event for peace in Colombia”. ~Mike Neuroth~
“Every year we gather and work in our local churches to raise awareness of the impact of the U.S foreign policy towards Colombia. Days of Prayer and Action has united our spirit for one cause and strengthen our relationships with the people of Colombia, to whom we know and care for”. ~Barbara Gerlach~
How can people of faith work for environmental justice for all? How can we create Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Beloved Community--one that is sustainable, healthy, and inclusive? This “train the trainer” workshop will explore these questions with the goal of empowering conversation and actions around environmental justice that will continue far beyond the initial workshop. In addition to discussing issues and viewing the film Renewal, participants will take a field trip to learn more in-depth about environmental justice issues specific to their setting. Open to adults from college through retirement.
- October 18-20 at Pilgrim Hills Camp in Ohio
- November 2-4 at Parkway UCC in Winston-Salem, NC
Others to be announced. In the meantime, you can schedule you're own! Trainings promote both personal and community transformation and equip participants to lead workshops in their home communities. For more information, contact Rev. Meighan Pritchard, Minister for Environmental Justice, at email@example.com.
Customize Your Own Training
Learn more about our recent training in Florida:
The UCC Environmental Justice team hosted a retreat for 12 participants at Silver Springs Christian Church conference center at the request of the Florida Conference. The group took a field trip to Silver Springs State Park to learn about water issues. The discussion explored the overdrawing of water from the Floridan Aquifer, which can reduce water flow in the springs and could lead to problems with sinkholes. The participants also learned that nitrates from cattle ranches, lawn fertilizer, and leaking septic systems get into the aquifer and create algae blooms that are detrimental to the health of the ecosystem.
Customize a retreat to explore what's happening in your community.
Working with Meighan Pritchard, UCC minister for Environmental Justice, you can build experiences into your training to reflect the environmental challenges unique to your location in the country, honing in on problems in the local community. Each retreat includes a field trip; the content of the field trip varies depending on location. During the Florida retreat, a local Presbyterian pastor, Bruce Seaman, and his son Ray met with the group to examine some of the political ramifications of decisions about water management for new development. How you design it is up to you.
Following the retreat participants are encouraged to keep in touch with each other, support each other, spread information, and become resources for each other.
After the Florida retreat the Rev. Sarah Lund, Regional Minister of the Western Region, Florida UCC created a Facebook page for Environmental Justice Retreats. All participants of previous and future EJ retreats will be invited to join this page in order to create a real network for environmental justice work in the UCC.
Read comments from the most recent training evaluations:
"Well worth the time and expense to come--so re-energizing! Thank you."
"Great material--easy to implement. I look forward to using this material! Thanks so much!"
"I came to this workshop looking for a way forward amid divergent worldviews and I leave with the support of fellow seekers and materials and ideas to implement. I had a great time! Thank you for making this possible."
"The training was very well done... serious conversation, yet balanced to allow for group cohesion and dialogue. I look forward to doing this training at my home church. Thanks!"
Sample Workshop Schedule
Weekend workshops begin on Day 1 at 5:00 p.m. and continue through Day 2 at noon with a “head and heart” focus on the five core themes listed above. On the afternoon of Day 2, the group of about 15 will travel in the local area to observe and experience how communities and individuals are impacted by both environmental destruction and environmental restoration, returning in the evening to discuss how to develop inclusive community-based strategies and responses. On the morning of Day 3, the group will gather to address how partners in Creation can work through the issues of environmental despair and lead lives based on hope. The final session will help participants develop strategies on how to bring what they have learned to their local community. Day 3 will conclude at noon to allow participants to return to their home communities. Sample schedule below:
|5:00 – 6:15 pm||Arrival, room check-in, and dinner|
|6:15 – 6:45 pm||Introduction of process, setting, and opening devotional|
|7:45 – 8:00 pm||Break|
|8:00 – 9:00 pm||Core Value Session 2: Humility|
|9:00 pm||Social time and rest time|
|7:30 – 8:15 am||Breakfast|
|8:15 – 8:30 am||Morning Devotional|
|8:30 – 9:30 am||Core Value Session 3: Responsibility|
|9:30 – 9:45 am||Break|
|9:45 – 10:45 am||Core Value Session 4: Justice|
|10:45 – 11:00 am||Break|
|11:00 – 12:00 am||Core Value Session 5: Community|
|Noon – 12:45 pm||Lunch|
|12:45 – 6:00 pm||Hands-On EJ Project|
|6:00 – 7:00 pm||Dinner|
|7:00 – 7:45 pm||Observations, Conclusions, and Actions on Environmental Justice|
|7:45 – 9:00 pm||Telling the Story of Environmental Justice Exercise|
|7:30 -8:15 am||Breakfast|
|8:15 – 8:30 am||Morning Devotional|
|8:30 – 10:30 am||Bringing Environmental Justice to Your Home Community|
|10:30 – 10:45 am||Break|
|10:45 – 11:45 am||Living with Environmental Despair|
|11:45 – noon||Evaluations|
|Noon||Lunch and rides to the airport|