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'Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend' Planned for Oct. 24-26

Washington, D.C., September 18, 2003 -- As the FBI launches its Terrorist Screening Center, concerns continue to mount in the religious community about harassment and denial of fair and equal treatment to innocent people mistakenly identified as terrorists.

A diverse group of religious organizations including the National Council of Churches USA have joined together to advocate for tighter controls on current anti-terrorism efforts and the highest standard of scrutiny in laws and policy changes related to civil liberties. The group is calling on people of faith to take action during "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend," Oct. 24-26, to make sure that the fundamental freedoms affirmed and celebrated in this country are secured for all people.

"How many innocent people will be caught in this web and what are the safeguards in place to get them out?" Rob Cavenaugh, the chair of "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend," asked regarding the new FBI database. "These are the questions that must be answered," said Cavenaugh, who is also the director of the Washington office of the Unitarian Universalist Association, one of the national sponsors of the weekend.

According to organizers, the "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend" is a designated time for Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith traditions to reflect, educate and inform people in the faith community about the importance of protecting civil liberties, particularly since Oct. 26 marks the second anniversary of the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. It is also the last day before the Muslim holiday, Ramadan.

Congregants from every region in the nation have registered their plans to participate in Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend.  For a partial list of participants, go to www.witnessforcivilliberties.org/participants.php

In special weekend activities, including an email campaign to Congress and the White House on Friday, the national sponsors of "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend" are asking religious leaders to disseminate information, hold discussions and other forums and map out strategies for interacting with government officials about the critical need for the United States to strike a balance between national security concerns and the rights and freedoms of its residents.

In addition to UUA, national sponsors of "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend" include the Interfaith Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, American Hebrew Congregations, National Council of Churches USA, Islamic Society of North America and the Mennonite Central Committee, among others (go to www.witnessforcivilliberties.org/about.htm for a complete list). The weekend’s activities will focus on calling for meaningful Congressional and public oversight of current anti-terrorism efforts including making sure that proposed changes to laws and policies about civil liberties are available to the public.

Congregations and organizations interested in participating in "Witness for Civil Liberties Weekend" should go to www.witnessforcivilliberties.org for more information.  Media may contact Jenny Davis at the Interfaith Alliance, 202-639-6370, jdavis@interfaithalliance.org, or Megan Joiner at the Unitarian Universalist Association, 202-296-4672, ext. 12, mjoiner@uua.org

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