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Religious Freedom in Mississippi
Another UM Bishop Arrested in Witness for Immigration Detainees
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Volume IX
Issue 6                             

3 April 2014 


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I'm a child of the 80's. My first memories of a world beyond my parents include E.T. phoning home, the introduction of that disgusting drink called "New Coke," and the Challenger explosion. The 1980's also introduced the world to The Princess Bride. A cult-classic even to this day, The Princess Bride combined comedy, romance, fairy tales, and pirates. It had something for everyone! As the loveable villain Vizzini states: "Inconceivable!"
The hero Inigo Mntoya replies in this way:
You keep using that word.
You keep using that word.

That's how it feels when I read the headlines today about Religious Freedom. People keep using that word (or phrase as the case might be), but I does not mean what they think it means.

Religious freedom is about freedom from doctrinal coercion; it's about being allowed to practice one's faith without unnecessary impediments; it's about creating space for diversity in religious thought and practice. It's not about codifying a state religion, it's not about corporations using religion as a smoke-screen for not providing health care or reasonable accommodations based on an employee's gender or client's sexual orientation or race.

As United Methodists, religious freedom is important - not only in America, but across the globe. Let's keep focused on religious freedom as liberty to practice our faith, not liberty to enforce our faith.  

Grace and peace,  
Chett Pritchett 
Executive Director 
Religious Freedom in Mississippi
In the wake of "religious freedom" legislation that found its way into state legislatures in Arizona, Kansas, and other states (and either being withdrawn or vetoed by the governor), Mississippi lawmakers have brought back the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB2681). In practical terms, owners of hotels, restaurants, and other private industries could refuse service to someone based on perceived sexual orientation under the guise of religious liberty.

An addendum to this bill opens the doors to denial of a variety of services based on an owner's religious belief. For example, an owner could claim that employees could not be covered for contraception because the owner is Catholic; or for blood transfusions because the owner is Jehovah's Witness.

The bill has passed both houses of the Mississippi legislature, but faithful United Methodists are calling upon Governor Phil Bryant, himself a United Methodist, to veto this bill. There was a march and rally today at Noon, with a Prayer Vigil happening today at 5:30pm.

Thanks to our friends at Reconciling Ministries Network!
You can stand with thousands of Mississippians by calling the Governor's office at 601-359-3150601-359-3150 and ask to leave a message for the Governor: "As a United Methodist, I ask the Governor to veto SB 2681. The economic impact of this legislation could be detrimental for Mississippi. The Governor is in my thoughts and prayers." You can also tweet to @PhilBryantMS.
Another UM Bishop Arrested in Witness for Immigration Detainees
Last Thursday, Bishop Sally Dyck and clergy from the Northern Illinois Conference prayed, witnessed, and were arrested in front of Chicago's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices. Bishop Dyck and the clergy were calling on the Obama administration to stop the unjust deportation of immigrants until broad, humane immigration reform is passed.
Northern Illinois MFSA Chapter Convener, Rev. Orlando Moller, and Bishop Sally Dyck, lead prayers in front of the ICE offices in Chicago.
Source: The Huffington Post
In a letter to President Obama, Bishop Dyck stated:
"For years The United Methodist Church has faithfully advocated for just and humane immigration reform. I know only Congress can provide a permanent solution through legislation that grants citizenship to undocumented immigrants and reunites families. However, you can act now to end deportations and to provide temporary legal status for undocumented immigrants. You have done this once in a limited way through DACA and I believe you can and should do it again for all."

The action in Chicago is leading to a Weekend of Prayer for Immigration Reform. Organized through the United Methodist Interagency Task Force on Immigration, this weekend will encourage the telling of stories of those immigrants who have been detained, separated from their families, and experienced unjust imprisonment. You can lift these prayers up during your Sunday service - here's how.

Upcoming Events

April 12: Following Jesus, Overcoming Discrimination - Conversations on the Intersections of Heterosexism, Racism, and Religion. Duncan Memorial UMC, Ashland, VA. Featuring Rev. Gil Caldwell. Sponsored by Virginia Chapter of MFSA, with co-sponsors An Altar for All, Virginia Chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and Virginia Reconciling United Methodists. Register here.

August 7-8: Walk with Palestinian Christians for Holy Justice and Peace; Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, Tipp City, OH. More information here.

August 8-9: Turning the Page: United Methodist Kairos Response Summit; Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, Tipp City, OH. More information here.

August 29-September 1: Stepping Out in Faith: Western Methodist Justice Movement Retreat; Zephyr Point Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, NV. Registration opens soon. More information here.

Saturday, April 12: Chett Pritchett, Executive Director, and Rev. Steve Clunn, Coalition Coordinator, will be present at the MFSA - Virginia Chapter event (see above).

Saturday, May 10: Chett Pritchett, Executive Director, California-Pacific MFSA Chapter Gathering

Annual Conference season plans are being made. Look for more information soon!

Progressive Ponderings
Methodist Federation for Social Action
212 East Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20003