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Interfaith special on CBS
features religion and advocacy

New York, September 10, 2009 – "Religion, Politics & Advocacy,” a half-hour television documentary produced by CBS in collaboration with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, will be aired nationwide on local CBS affiliates on Sunday, Sept. 27, in most areas.

The special is produced with the cooperation of the National Council of Churches, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Islamic Society of North America, The Union for Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.  

Faith groups have always played the role of "activist" in society.  Churches, synagogues and mosques run soup kitchens, provide shelter for the homeless, and run disaster relief operations in the United States and abroad…but they also play an important role in shaping legislation.  

"We're not trying to seek legislation here that benefits any of our faith groups,” says Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. “This is really for the society as a whole, and that has power that trumps, in the end, the power of money." 

“Religion, Politics & Advocacy” looks at the day in the life of a religious advocate — who they are, who they represent and how they lobby Congress on behalf of those who may not have a voice.   

We hear from Sister Simone Campbell, advocate for the Catholic Social Justice lobby NETWORK; Dr. Sayid Syeed, a founder of the Islamic Society of North America; Andrew Genszler, Director of the Washington office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.   

The program explores how a diverse coalition of religious organizations went toe-to-toe with big tobacco companies and demanded a change in how tobacco products are sold and marketed to children. In 2002, after losing members of its own community to cigarette smoking, faith groups started a national campaign called, Faith United Against Tobacco.  

Vincent DeMarco, the campaign’s national coordinator, says, "This was a broad spectrum of faith leaders, going from very conservative to very liberal on other issues, who together said, ‘Yes, we need to make it happen.’” 

Working in tandem with heath and educational organizations, the group galvanized their members to lobby congress by writing letters, making phone calls and attending rallies.   Their grassroots efforts paid off in June 2009, when President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco and Control Act into law, authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.   

“Religion, Politics & Advocacy” also follows "citizen advocates" who participate in the Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. This is a Christian advocacy organization whose mission is to end hunger and poverty throughout the world. We hear from the group’s founder and president emeritus, Arthur Simon, and current president, Rev. David Beckmann, as well. During lobby day, spiritually minded citizens from all across the United States put faith into action.  Through working groups and role playing, participants learn–the finer points of lobbying, everything from how to shape their message, to how to approach their legislators on Capitol Hill. Lobby Day ends with a one-on-one visit with their local Congressman and Senator.    

John P. Blessington is the executive producer; Liz Kineke is the producer.  Wesley "Pat" Pattillo, Senior Program Director of the National Council of Churches for Communication & Justice and Advocacy, is president of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission.

Check local listings here.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 914-589-6948 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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