Award-winning documentary reveals the modern true story of heroic Polish martyr
ATLANTA—Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko was the courageous chaplain of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980’s, and it was his strong faith, conviction and courage that mobilized a nation to stand against the communist regime there. The remarkable story of Father Jerzy, a 21st century hero of human rights who was murdered is 1984 by the Polish government, is told in the award-winning documentary Messenger of the Truth, which became available on DVD and public television on April 1.
Narrated by Catholic activist and actor Martin Sheen, Messenger of the Truth chronicles Father Jerzy’s opposition to Poland’s oppressive Communist leaders, who harassed, arrested, threatened, imprisoned and, eventually, murdered him for speaking the truth in a country full of propaganda, oppression and social injustice.
“A must-see documentary for all who believe in the rights of religious liberty, the dignity of the human person, and those who are lovers of freedom and defenders of the truth,” says His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
At Fr. Jerzy’s funeral, an estimated 1 million people surrounded his church in Warsaw and promised to continue his struggle for freedom through non-violence. Blessed Pope John Paul II, a son of Poland and advocate for the end of communism in his country and around the world, admired Fr. Jerzy’s courageous stand for freedom and truth. In 1987, shortly before the fall of communism in Poland, Pope John Paul II prayed at his gravesite in a remarkable sign of his support for the young priest’s life and death. Fr. Jerzy was beatified on June 6, 2010, in Warsaw and is expected to be canonized in the near future.
Messenger of the Truth was awarded first place in the documentary category at the 28th International Catholic Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland, and will be awarded the Christopher Award for the category of TV documentary on May 15th from The Christophers at their 65th annual award gala in New York City.
The 90-minute documentary will air nationwide on American Public Television stations; the first broadcast aired April 1 in Milwaukee, WI. Check your local listing for date and time.
To request a review copy of the
documentary, or to schedule an interview with the spokespersons — Gary
Chartrand, executive producer, or Father Remek Blaszkowski, who assisted
in the production of the film:
Cape Town, South Africa—Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu today announced the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive. In early registration people from over 100 countries have already signed up to participate.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in leading non-violent opposition to South Africa’s apartheid system of racial domination. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he chaired created a way to address the overwhelming suffering and grief that were the legacy of over four decades of racial oppression. Since then he has taken his deeply human approach to resolving conflict to many other countries including Northern Ireland and Rwanda. His daughter, Mpho Tutu, has helped rape victims and refugees displaced by war and is currently completing a Ph.D. on the topic of forgiveness.
“Forgiving is a choice. A choice I have seen profoundly transform lives time and again,” says Archbishop Tutu. “As Nelson Mandela said when he walked free after 27 years of prison, ‘I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.’ Mpho and I share a vision to bring the transformative power of forgiveness to people everywhere and to see it spread through families, communities, countries and our whole world.”
“Our culture glorifies the seductive but ultimately empty feeling of power that comes with an act of revenge or a harsh rebuke,” says the Reverend Mpho Tutu. “The Forgiveness Challenge is a corrective to these cultural forces. It provides training to strengthen our forgiveness muscles. Every time we are hurt we stand at a crossroads with two clear paths to deal with our pain—forgive and heal or lash out and harm.”
Together the Tutus bring their hard-earned and practical insight into the process of forgiving to a global audience in the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge. The 30-day program is based on a systematic process of forgiving that the Tutus present in their new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Healing Our World (HarperOne; Hardcover; March 18, 2014).
The Forgiveness Challenge is funded by Pam Omidyar, co-founder of the Omidyar Network and founder of HumanityUnited, so is free to all participants. Omidyar is a philanthropist dedicated to building peace, advancing human freedom, and creating opportunities for people to improve their lives. It is made possible by partnerships with Facebook, Google+, MailChimp, WordPressVIP and others. Promotional partners include The Huffington Post and FoxNews.com. The Forgiveness Challenge is created for everyone regardless of belief or background.
“Forgiveness is universal. It’s not just for the religious,” said Sir Richard Branson. “Archbishop Tutu taught me to make sure I have no enemies—to forgive and ask for forgiveness—and I’m a better man for it. No one but the Arch and Mpho would conceive of a way to bring forgiveness to everyone—free of charge, no less—in an event like the Forgiveness Challenge.”
Registration is open at www.ForgivenessChallenge.com. All registrants will receive invitations to special events leading up to the May 4th start, such as live Q&As and interviews with the Tutus and others, including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Alanis Morissette and more.
“In my experience forgiveness cannot be forced, or arrive too early in ones’ process,” said Alanis Morissette. “It is something that is naturally arrived at when we move through our natural human emotions, and come back to the awareness of how inextricably connected we all are. I am excited to take the Challenge and welcome a whole new level of connection and warmth in my life.”
When the Challenge starts, May 4th, everyone registered will receive daily inspirational emails for the following thirty days from the Archbishop and Mpho with a link to log in to an online forgiveness community. There they will be guided through practical exercises on how to forgive, have opportunities to join discussions and share their own stories. During the Challenge there will be resources such as films, music and exclusive interviews with forgiveness heroes, experts, cultural icons and leaders. All participants are also encouraged to participate in an optional study designed to measure the impact of forgiveness in people’s lives.
“Desmond Tutu is the face of forgiveness around the world and for years many, many people have asked him how to actually forgive,” said Mark Tauber, the Tutus’ publisher at HarperOne. “Finally he is sharing his wealth of experience, along with his daughter Mpho’s, who, while they were writing the book suffered a personal tragedy that required her to profoundly follow their own Fourfold Path of forgiving. This incredible work and this important, global challenge, provide a step-by-step process that every person can follow in order to achieve forgiveness in their lives.”
The Challenge provides opportunities to explore questions about forgiveness with both experts and the community, such as “What if I’m not ready to forgive?” and “Aren’t there some things that can’t be forgiven?” These questions and many more will be discussed during the Tutu Forgiveness Challenge.
“Forgiveness is not something we do for others, we do it for ourselves and this then impacts all those around us. That is why forgiveness is our greatest gift and only hope,” said Archbishop Tutu. “I am delighted that people all around the globe are signing up for the Forgiveness Challenge, together I know we can change the world.”
About the Authors: Anglican Archbishop DESMOND TUTU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Templeton Prize in 2013. He was the founding chair of The Elders from 2007 to 2013. In 1986 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the Anglican Church in South Africa. In 1994, Tutu was appointed Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which pioneered a new way for countries to move forward after experiencing civil strife and oppression.
The Reverend MPHO TUTU is currently the Executive Director of The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and has run ministries for children in Worcester, Massachusetts; for rape survivors in Grahamstown, South Africa; and for refugees from South Africa and Namibia at the Phelps Stokes Fund in New York City. She is pursuing a doctorate on the subject of forgiveness from Vrije University, Amsterdam. With her father, she has co-authored Made for Goodness and, now, The Book of Forgiving.
‘A Voice Undefeated’ chronicles inspirational story of faith, tragedy and triumph
SAN FRANCISCO—Collin Raye is one of America’s best-loved country music singers, with 24 Top Ten Singles, including 16 No. 1 hits and a total of five straight platinum and two gold albums, a record for the Epic label. But perhaps most noteworthy is Raye’s remarkable personal story outside of country music, which includes his conversion to Catholicism; overcoming a devastating tragedy in his family; and his profound advocacy and love for the poor and disabled. Raye chronicles his unique and unforgettable religious journey and life as a country music star in his new memoir, A VOICE UNDEFEATED.
In A VOICE UNDEFEATED, Raye gives readers a down-to-earth account of his personal and professional life. From his childhood in Arkansas and Texas through his days with the Wray Brothers Band in Oregon and Reno to his rise to international stardom, Raye discusses his journey to the top of the music world and provides an intimate diary of a Catholic who has relied upon his faith to overcome great professional and personal losses — most recently, his beloved 9-year-old granddaughter, Haley, who died in 2010 from an undiagnosed neurological disease. Since Haley’s death, Raye has become an outspoken advocate for the sick and disabled, and has established the Haley Bell Blesséd Chair Foundation to provide wheelchairs to families with special needs children.
Raye also provides a revealing look inside Nashville: His climb to the top of the charts and production of hit after hit; his fallout with the giants of the industry; and his strong criticism of today’s raunchy lyrics that tear down our culture and war against the great country traditions.
“Collin Raye’s belief that an artist’s real success is in the quality and artistry of his work makes him a good showman,” says Mother Dolores Hart, author of THE EAR OF THE HEART. “The love he discovers though his faith in God makes him a great man.”
Contact For more information, to request a review copy, or to schedule an interview with Collin Raye contact: Kevin Wandra KWandra@CarmelCommunications.com 404-788-1276
Each year, more than 680,000 children are abused or neglected, and as many as 1,500 die as a result. In an effort to protect these vulnerable children, Shepherding the Next Generation, a network of more than 300 evangelical pastors and faith leaders, is encouraging people nationwide to share their prayers for these children through online videos in advance of the Blue Sunday Day of Prayer on April 27.
Upload or post the video to Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Vimeo, or your favorite video-sharing website
Share the video with @ShprdNextGen on Twitter, using the hashtag #ShareYourPrayer
The campaign encourages everyone who cares about children to participate, regardless of video experience. Shepherding the Next Generation will “Retweet” many videos. The most outstanding videos will be chosen for extensive visibility through Shepherding the Next Generation's online community. Videos will be selected with the help of three advisors:
Paul Strand, Senior Washington Correspondent, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). (Twitter@PaulStrandCBN; Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN)
Jay Dennis, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church at the Mall, Lakeland, Florida, serving over 9,000 members and author of six books, including The Jesus Habits, Exercising the Spiritual Disciplines of Jesus.
Thomas Pearce, National Director, Shepherding the Next Generation.
The chosen videos will be announced on Wednesday, April 23rd WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO #SHAREYOURPRAYER
Make it real: Help people realize that more than 680,000 children are abused and neglected each year; some are probably from your community.
Make it creative: There are no rules. Say your prayer directly into the camera, use motion graphics, use actors and music, and/or share personal experiences. The possibilities are endless. Make it inspiring, with a call-to-action: Your #ShareYourPrayer video is a powerful expression and should encourage people to take action. Direct viewers of your video to http://shepherdingthenextgeneration.org/bluesunday to learn how they can protect vulnerable kids.
Though Jonathan Merritt has been a Christian for two decades, he came close to losing his faith in a spiritual drought that overwhelmed him with emptiness. An award-winning columnist for Religion News Service and a prolific commentator on faith and culture, Merritt believes there are many people struggling as he was—he calls it an “emptiness epidemic.” In his new book, Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined (Hachette Book Group/FaithWords, $20.00 hardcover, April 1, 2014, foreword by John Ortberg) he recounts unexpected encounters with Jesus that renew his faith, liberate him from the shame of a long-held secret, and transform his life.
Merritt offers his own experiences as a guide for those who seek to meet this surprising God. Among the ten encounters with Jesus he describes are:
Silence: During a silent retreat at a Benedictine desert monastery, Merritt experiences silence as an opportunity to lean into God. One does not need to escape to the wilderness, however. As Merritt shows, what he experienced can be had in other places, by creating silent space in daily life.
Honesty: Since childhood, Merritt kept the secret that he’d been sexually abused by an older boy and had struggled to understand his own sexuality in adolescence and adulthood. Then, in 2012, a gay blogger with whom Jonathan had a brief physical encounter years earlier, exposed the incident online. In response, Merritt opted for honesty, sharing part of his story through an interview on a widely read blog. The experience, though painful, proved liberating, and Merritt met God in the messiness. In Jesus is Better, Jonathan shares the full details of this story, including his struggle with suicidal thoughts, for the first time.
The Impossible: Visiting Haiti to work with an aid group after the hurricane, Merritt witnesses terrible devastation and is held at gunpoint by bandits, but also finds pockets of hope and even joy. He learns to nurture his spiritual imagination, which means “always envisioning new realities that align with the world God desires.”
Sacrilege: One of the most surprising places in which Merritt finds Jesus is in Sister Louisa’s Ping Pong Emporium in Atlanta, an irreverent club that openly mocks religion. Here, Merritt finds a commentary on American Christianity: “what we call religion is often a malformation of true faith. Rather than a vibrant adventure of knowing God, it is an oppressive way of trying to be good or look good or feel good.”
In these and other anecdotes, Merritt introduces a Jesus who is better than imagined in many expressions of contemporary American Christianity. In places of poverty and devastation, in tragedy, in the midst of having a painful secret exposed to the world, even in the midst of a sacrilegious spoof of religion, Merritt found a Jesus who offers a radical invitation to live free. After a lifetime of practicing a religion quick to condemn and slow to offer grace, Merritt found liberation “from the ball and chain of religion and release from a cold life of moralistic perfectionism.”
Jonathan Merritt (www.jonathanmerritt.com) is an award-winning faith and culture writer who has published more than 1,000 articles in outlets such as The Atlantic, USAToday, Washington Post, National Journal, and CNN.com. He is a senior columnist for Religion News Service, America’s largest provider of news and commentary focused on religion and spirituality. His previous books include A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and Green Like God. Merritt was recently named one of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and Green Like God. Merritt was recently named one of Merritt was recently named one of the 30 young voices reshaping Christian leadership by Outreach magazine. Contact Kelly Hughes firstname.lastname@example.org 312-280-8126
GREENSBORO, NC—The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro in conjunction with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is hosting its second national Co-Creation Conference www.servleader.org May 1–3, 2014 in Greensboro.
Co-Creation 2014 keynote speakers are Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, author of “The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three” “The Wisdom Jesus,” “Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening,” and several other books and articles; Dr. Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, lecturer and author of more than two dozen books in religion and spirituality; and Rev. Jon Wortmann, ordained minister and graduate of Harvard Divinity School, executive and mental coach, speaker and author of “Mastering Communication at Work: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence” and “The Three Commitments of Leadership”. Wortmann is also a regular contributor to Huffington Post.
“We do all that we can possibly do through spiritual practices in our school to nurture spiritual intelligence—as this is our source of hope, direction, meaning,” said Ruth D. Anderson, Ph.D., Executive Director and Faculty for The Servant Leadership School. “We are creating a sacred space in Co-Creation 2014 where we can listen to the intelligence of our compassionate hearts and invite participants into a time of reflection, renewal and spiritual and transformation.”
The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro has been offering classes, weekend workshops, training and retreats on various aspects of servant leadership in the community since 1992 and has nurtured a generation of servant leaders who have made a significant impact in their communities.
“Wisdom Schools have formed in times of great spiritual and cultural transition as a crucible for transformation and a meeting ground between ancient, time-tested practices and emerging spiritual insights,” said author and Co-Creation 2014 presenter Cynthia Bourgeault. “The core assertion is that wisdom cannot be accessed by the mind alone; it requires a transformation of the entire being.”
The three-day conference will also include opportunities to engage with one another in a variety of ways: through contemplative worship; participation in a 24/7 prayer room; a story lounge; a global “Walk One at One” on World Labyrinth Day; and a Unity Walk into downtown Greensboro at the end of the conference.
If you’d like more information about Co-Creation 2014, or if you’d like to schedule an interview with Ruth D. Anderson, Ph.D., please call 336-275-0447or email email@example.com.
Schererville, Indiana -- Sexual assault survivors and supporters have collected almost 1,700 petition signatures in less than three weeks to eliminate the statute of limitations (SOL) on sexual assault in Indiana. They have added the members of the State Senate and House to receive their petition, along with Governor Mike Pence.
The Governor's Director of Policy for Criminal Justice, Christina Trexler, received the petition of over 1,000 signatures collected in the first four days of their petition drive in a meeting March 13, 2014 with survivors' advocates Joy Evans Ryder, Jason Benner, Cheryl Lewis Colsten, Keith Morris and Anita Carpenter, CEO of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault (INCASA).
"April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month," added Ryder. "We hope to double our supporters and petition signers by the end of April. The FBI ranks rape as the second-most violent crime. Sexual assault is a serious crime and it's time to take it seriously. If Indiana eliminated the SOL, many sex offenders would not be free to assault hundreds of victims over decades."
"About a dozen states have eliminated the statute of limitations for rape and so should Indiana. Survivors deserve a chance at a day in court. If the SOL is eliminated, prosecutors will still need evidence. Lack of evidence may prevent justice, but time restrictions should not," stated Ryder.
"It is estimated that for every assault that is reported to authorities, another goes unreported. By the time victims become strong, independent and safe enough to come forward -- the statute of limitations re-victimizes them," Ryder explained.
Joy Evans Ryder was a victim, as a young teenager, in Indiana. For the past several years, Joy has been counseling and helping other victims and working to give them a voice.
JESUS: A Pilgrimage, the new book by James Martin, S.J., debuts at #9 on the New York Times Bestseller List in the Hardcover Nonfiction category on Sunday, March 30—just two and a half weeks after its release.
The book also hit the Publishers Weekly nonfiction bestseller list this week at #20.
In JESUS: A Pilgrimage (HarperOne; Hardcover; March 2014)—25 years in the making, and, as Martin notes, “the result of a lifetime of passionate prayer, study, and work”— Martin recreates the world of first-century Galilee and Judea to usher readers into the life of Jesus. Painting a vivid picture of a man many still struggle to understand today, he addresses both Jesus’ human emotions and his divine activities, allowing readers a unique look into the life of a man who experienced joy and sorrow, triumph and grief, as well as friendship and fear.
The rare book that offers fascinating insights about the “historical Jesus” as well as profound spiritual reflections about the “Christ of Faith,” JESUS: A Pilgrimage offers a bold retelling of the Gospels while remaining faithful to the Christian tradition. It brings together the most up-to-date Bible scholarship, spiritual insights, and lighthearted stories about traveling through the Holy Land with a fellow (and funny) Jesuit, visiting the most significant sites in the life of Jesus.
About the Author : The Rev. James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine, and New York Times bestselling author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Between Heaven and Mirth, and Together on Retreat. Father Martin has written for many publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and he is a regular commentator in the national and international media. He has appeared on all the major radio and television networks, on programs such as NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Fox-TV’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” PBS’s “NewsHour,” and Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Before entering the Jesuits in 1988, Father Martin graduated from the Wharton School of Business and worked for General Electric for six years. Jesus: A Pilgrimage is his latest book.
Benedictine Sisters provide angelic music for Lent ATLANTA—The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles’ success on Billboard magazine’s charts shows no signs of slowing down; their latest album, LENT AT EPHESUS, is No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional Music Chart for the fifth consecutive week and is No. 2 on the Classical Overall Chart, No. 7 on the Contemporary Christian Chart and No. 10 on the Christian Gospel Chart. The Sisters’ previous album, ANGELS AND SAINTS AT EPHESUS, is No. 3 on the Classical Traditional Music Chart and No. 15 on the Classical Overall Chart.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles bested albums from prominent classical music artists such as Andrea Bocelli, the Piano Guys and Il Divo, among others, to maintain their spot atop Billboard’s Classical Traditional Music Chart.
“The Benedictines of Mary have remained hidden and true to their monastic rule of life, according to St. Benedict, yet for the fifth straight week they remain at the top of Billboard’s various Classical charts,” said Monica Fitzgibbons, co-founder of De Montfort Music. “This is an unheard of accomplishment, as these charts have been dominated by the beautiful music of these Sisters for the past three years. We are particularly amazed and gladdened by the outpouring of feedback received from those enjoying reflective time spent listening to LENT AT EPHESUS during this glorious season. We once again congratulate and thank the Benedictines of Mary for their generous sharing of the 23 contemplative tracks on this album.”
ORLANDO, FLA. (March 18, 2014) – Dr. R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries, and the Board of Directors of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Stephen J. Nichols as the second president of Reformation Bible College (RBC) and the chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries.
Dr. R.C. Sproul, the first president of RBC and soon-to-be chancellor of the institution, expressed his delight on the occasion of this announcement. “Our long-term plan is to ensure that Reformation Bible College grows under the direction of godly, qualified leadership enables me to maintain effective oversight of all of the outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Adding Dr. Nichols as president of RBC advances our outreach significantly,” Dr. Sproul said. “In Dr. Nichols, God has provided us with a leader whose passion for the great truths of the Christian faith, the wisdom of the Reformed tradition, and love for education will serve the needs of our students and faculty well in the years ahead.”
A longtime friend of Ligonier Ministries and a Ligonier teaching fellow, Dr. Nichols accepts this appointment after seventeen years as a Bible college and seminary professor. He has served most recently as research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa., and has also served as visiting professor at Reformation Bible College and lecturer in church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. “It is with deep pleasure and gratitude that I join the team at Ligonier in serving this generation and the generation to come in the cause of Christ,” Dr. Nichols said. “By God’s grace, I am committed to keeping RBC and Ligonier faithful to their theological vision and educational mission. A remarkably gifted faculty for RBC has been gathered in central Florida, and I am honored to work with these godly men, as well as with the staff of Ligonier.”
Ligonier Ministries is also pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Nichols as the ministry’s chief academic officer, responsible for working in conjunction with the president of Ligonier to actively promote and safeguard fidelity to the mission, vision, and the theological position and commitment of Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries. “Having Dr. Nichols as a full-time member of the Ligonier team is a key step forward, enabling us to accelerate our robust discipleship outreach as we serve the church around the world,” said Chris Larson, president of Ligonier Ministries. “Dr. Nichols’ theological and personal integrity will serve the church well as we preserve Ligonier’s heritage of sound teaching and expand our mission to proclaim the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.”
Dr. Nichols will provide leadership and vision for all of the teaching outreaches of Ligonier, working actively with the other Ligonier teaching fellows in developing new projects and contributions for Ligonier’s extensive resource catalog. As chief academic officer, Dr. Nichols will also continue to write, teach, and speak for both Ligonier students and the wider church.
Reformation Bible College (RBC) is a private coeducational institution of higher learning in Sanford, Fla., that works to train current and future Christian leaders through academically rigorous scriptural study that offers students a deep, meaningful encounter with the Author of history, the Source of truth, and the Sustainer of our faith. RBC is committed to building a community of teaching and learning from which students will emerge to live a life that glorifies God, proclaims His kingdom, and fosters an ongoing reformation in the church, home, and workplace.
“Voting is a ‘Civic Sacrament’ ”, Ministers Vow to Take Action
CLEVELAND, OH. A coalition of ministers, rabbis and priests across the Buckeye state have gone public in their criticism of recent laws and decisions altering voting procedures in elections and are calling on the religious community to take up the cause of voting rights. The Ohio Faith Leaders’ Moral Declaration on Voting Rights, which recognizes voting as a “civic sacrament, concludes that the actions of the Ohio State legislature, Governor John Kasich and Secretary of State John Husted are either the “result of flawed reasoning” or “thinly veiled voter suppression”. These measures include reducing the number of days and hours for early voting, limiting the ability of county boards of elections to send out unsolicited absentee ballots, and requiring fewer voting machines at the polls. The declaration points out that “minorities, college students, the elderly, and those with special needs” will be most disadvantaged by the new voting restrictions.
Among the signees is the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. a widely regarded minister, preacher and veteran of the civil rights movement. Rev. Moss comments, “The foundation for democracy is the right to vote. When this right is compromised, denied, suppressed or abridged, the very foundation of our nation is impaired and every citizen is wounded. We cannot afford to bring Selma, Alabama of 1965 to Ohio in 2014.”
The declaration commits the clergy to work within their congregations and communities to increase voter registration efforts, educate ex-offenders about their voting rights, mobilize voters to turnout on Election Day, and support the passing of an Ohio Voter Bill of Rights. The campaign for an Ohio Voter Bill of Rights is a grass roots effort to establish a constitutional amendment which would increase voter access across the state’s 88 counties. Among its measures, it would expand early voting, allow for the casting of provisional ballots anywhere in the correct county and call the state to move toward online registration.
The Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, Pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, drafted the clergy declaration. He believes that the strength of the statement is its aim to see religious groups get engaged beyond the confines of the pulpit and the pew. “We are drawing on the activist traditions of our faiths. The legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Mohandas K. Gandhi and so many others who not only inspire but challenge us to be voices and vehicles of social change.” says Colvin.
For Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Senior Rabbi of Anche Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, Ohio, his faith informs his perspective on what he observes in the limits being placed on early voting. “Our Jewish faith tradition teaches us that tzedek (“justice”) must be preserved justly. The restrictions proposed by our Secretary of State are inconsistent with that vision. They errantly pursue voter fraud with no proof voter fraud exists. Meanwhile unfair practices will keep people who have been enabled to vote from exercising that right. I am concerned that voting rights are not being fairly and justly dispensed in Ohio.”
The faith leaders will recruit other clergy around the state to join their ranks in the effort to form a broad-based statewide faith coalition that will work to stand against this and future voter restriction efforts.
ABOUT THE DECLARATION: The Ohio Faith Leaders Moral Declaration on Voting Rights is the result of clergy and community organizing networks across the state. These 30 individuals share a common belief that voting is a democratic right and is as fundamental as the freedom of religion.
If you would like more information about the topic or to schedule an interview with Dr. Colvin or any of those quoted please call Ms. Beverly Gaffney at (216) 721-3585 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.