1998 NCC News Archives

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NCC Launches "Urgent Action" Appeal
On Attempt to Muzzle Churches' Advocacy for Justice

NCC General Secretary's Letter Protesting Proposed Anti-Advocacy Legislation

NCC General Secretary Joan B. Campbell on March 20 sent the following letter to the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, and copied the heads of the NCC's 34 member communions and all Members of Congress.

Please contact your Members of Congress about this urgent matter.

*  *  *  *

The Honorable William M. Thomas
Chairman, House Oversight Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
1309 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Thomas:

On behalf of the 34 national church bodies who constitute the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., I write to protest the provision added to H.R. 3485, the Campaign Reform and Election Integrity Act, that would severely limit public advocacy by non-profit and religious institutions.

Public advocacy for the common good has long been a vital part of the churches' ministries. Historically in this country it has been affirmed as the church's role in caring for public well-being. To limit such a role as proposed is totally unacceptable.

When Americans of all stripes are informed, they will join the protest. I voice our opposition totally!

Further, the tactic of a last-minute addition is less than worthy of your leadership of the Committee and disrespectful of the House of Representatives as a responsible deliberative body. I am astonished that you would pursue such a deceptive course.

Finally, I want you to know that I am sharing this letter with all Members of Congress, with the heads of our member churches and with the press. The attempt to muzzle the voices of religious communities raised on behalf of "justice for all" will not prevail.


(Rev. Dr.) Joan Brown Campbell
NCC General Secretary

See Follow Up Story: Defeat for Congressional Proposal to Muzzle Church Advocacy

NEW YORK, March 20, 1998 --The National Council of Churches has launched an urgent, sharply worded protest of a proposal expected to go before the U.S. House of Representatives next week that would severely limit churches' public advocacy for the common good, long a vital part of their ministry.

Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, on Wednesday (March 18) added the provision to H.R.3485, the proposed Campaign Finance and Election Integrity Act. The provision would effectively eliminate the ability of churches and other non-profits to advocate for or against any federal laws or regulations.

"If this legislation stands, every one of us will be muzzled on public policy," wrote the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, NCC General Secretary, in an advisory faxed today (March 20) to heads of the Council's 34 member communions (denominations), along with a comment by the group OMB Watch (see links to OMB Watch and to an additional comment by Dr. Campbell, below).

"It is urgent that letters of protest go to Members of the House of Representatives immediately," she said. "Thank you for joining with me in protesting this legislation, so cleverly attached to an issue we care about, campaign finance reform."

Dr. Campbell already has sent her own letter of protest to Mr. Thomas, and shared copies with all Members of Congress and NCC communion heads, besides releasing it publicly.

In a comment on the proposed legislation, the NCC's Associate General Secretary for Public Policy, the Rev. Dr. Albert M. Pennybacker, said that "a muzzled church cannot be about its ministry in Christ's name. The amended bill's impact, I believe, would be to privatize religion and allow our common life to wander without a call to justice or an anchor of moral integrity."

He continued, "I believe it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of the 'free exercise' of religious faith. One person's definition of religion's 'political activity,' effectively banned by the proposed legislation, is another's courageous pursuit of 'justice for all.'

"For the NCC and our member communions, advocacy has never been focused on seeking church advantages," Dr. Pennybacker said. "It has consistently sought to serve the well-being of all people, whom we believe to be God's people. If this current bill passes, American Christians will not stand for it! It will be tested at least in the courts and perhaps in the streets."

OMB Watch
Additional Comment by the NCC General Secretary

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