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Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money

Dark Money Remains Unchecked in U.S. Elections

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money 

Thursday, September 22nd– Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, leaving elections vulnerable to influence by dark money. The legislation (the DISCLOSE Act of 2021, or S.4822) was reintroduced to remove the influence of anonymously donated funds in politics. It would have required major political donors (those who give more than $10,000) to disclose their identity. And it would have increased the transparency of political advertisements by requiring donors that underwrite ads supporting or attacking judicial nominees, to reveal their identities.

This legislation was designed to ensure free and fair elections and protect the right of voters to have their voices heard in a truly representative, multi-racial, and multi-faith democracy.

Unfortunately, Republican Senators filibustered to block debate on the issue. Their refusal to collaborate with their colleagues across the aisle to protect our democracy from the inappropriate influence of dark money, is an affront to the Constitution. They have shirked their legislative duty and responsibility to voters. It is another disappointing example of Republican Senators prioritizing corporate interest over the people in our country.

The optics of their action suggests a concerted effort to preserve the ability to line their coffers with large sums of money without transparency. And it leaves the fairness of election results to hang in the balance as deep-pocketed lobbyists and donors enjoy an open lane to subvert the will of the people with their dark funds.

“The gall of senators who blocked even moving forward with debate on secret money and the DISCLOSE Act is a slap in the face to our democratic ideals and should leave every American deeply concerned. Without legislation like the DISCLOSE Act shining a light on secret financial donations, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests that are seeking to influence our elections will continue to have free rein to continue their anonymous spending.”

       Christine Wood, co-Director for the Declaration for American Democracy   NETWORK’s Democracy Reform coalition partner 

At a time when extremist legislators across the country are erecting barriers to voting and trying to sabotage future elections, Senate Republicans had the opportunity to prevent special interests, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests from perverting elections and possibly gaining control of our government. They chose not to.

Our Constitution calls for a democratic republic where legislators are elected to craft policies and laws that serve the will of the people. These Senators prioritized greedy lobbyists, special interests, and the like who prefer to do their political maneuvering in the dark. How does giving them free reign to influence our elected officials serve the will of the electorate?    

NETWORK will continue our faithful advocacy for federal democracy reforms. And we need your advocacy too! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! Sign up for the next workshop here. Can you invite three (3) friends to sign up, too?  

Now that Congress has failed to weed dark money out of politics, It is up to the Biden Administration to protect and strengthen our democracy. President Biden can sign executive orders to help shine a light on secret money spending by contractors that receive federal dollars, ensuring transparency, so that American voters can identify the influencers of our federal elections. 

Resources

How would Pope Francis Vote?
We invite you to speak out too by signing this letter
NETWORK Voter Training: learn how faith, social justice, and voting help us build anew

A good Catholic meddles in politics -- Pope Francishe best of hiself, so that those who

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

Add your name to this important statement from Faith in Public Life, the Sisters of Mercy, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Franciscan Action Network, and Catholic scholars and leaders across the country.

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

As Catholic social justice leaders, sisters, clergy, theologians and Catholic university presidents, we are compelled to speak out at a time when democracy and the future of our nation’s freedoms are threatened by powerful interests.

White Christian nationalism —  an ideology heretical to authentic faith — represents a clear and present danger to building a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. Testimony and evidence from Congressional hearings on the violent insurrection against our country last January 6th have only strengthened our urgency to confront attacks against the principle that voters choose our leaders in free and peaceful elections.

We are increasingly alarmed by the signs of the times. Threats of political violence and dehumanizing rhetoric toward elected officials have increased in recent years.The Supreme Court, which in 2013 dismantled key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, will in its upcoming term hear a case that experts warn could empower gerrymandered partisan legislatures to override the will of the voters in the 2024 elections. Lawmakers in states across the country have passed dozens of laws, many based on completely false political premises, specifically designed to make voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens — a shameful echo of our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination.

Catholics must not be silent in the face of growing threats to voters, fair elections and democratic principles.

Our faith tradition teaches that every person deserves equal access to participate fully in our democracy. Pope Francis has said that “democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.” The Second Vatican Council declared in Gaudium et Spes: “It is in full accord with human nature that juridical political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.”

Powerful institutions and political leaders are working to rig the system and erect racially discriminatory obstacles to voting and full participation in American life. Voter suppression is a sin and silence is complicity. The struggle to ensure our government represents and serves all regardless of color, class or creed is a defining moral challenge of our time. We urge our elected officials in Congress and in state legislatures, especially our fellow Catholics, to support legislation that protects and strengthens the freedom to vote without barriers or interference.

Democracies are fragile. In recent years, this timeless truth has been shown in stark ways as demagogues and nationalists in the United States and around the world have attacked the very existence of pluralistic societies. It’s now time for a renewed commitment to the common good that makes full, equal participation in political life a moral priority.

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Urges Yes Vote on Respect for Marriage Act

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Urges Yes Vote on Respect for Marriage Act

Audrey Carroll
August 1, 2022

Today NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice sent a vote recommendation to Senators calling on them to vote YES on the Respect for Marriage Act. The legislation repeals the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and codifies the right to civil marriage, regardless of sexual orientation or race. The Respect for Marriage Act recently passed in the House of Representatives with a 267 – 157 vote.

See a copy of the letter to the Senate below:

On Immigration, Be Angry For the Right Reasons

Sadly, U.S. Immigration Policy Has No Shortage of Outrages

Ronnate Asirwatham
September 15, 2022

Tune in any news outlet with a right-wing editorial slant, and it won’t be long before you encounter stories, narratives being pushed, of activities at the U.S.-Mexico border intended to frighten or enrage you, the viewer. This could be how drug seizures are depicted as if the government is somehow not doing its job, or it could be the dehumanizing portrayal of men and women seeking asylum in this country as some kind of threat to the safety of people living in the United States.

The racism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering wrapped up in these narratives are a gross misuse of the responsibilities held by the media. Their job is to inform, not to poison people’s minds with distortions and misinformation. But what’s also really tragic here is that, when it comes to immigration and issues at the border, there are plenty of issues that are worthy of our rage! But that rage is misplaced time and again, as a result of campaigns based on fear, not compassion.

The real issues worth being mad about are the result of a very deep hole the U.S. has dug in recent decades through both inaction on immigration policy and direct action, most notably by the previous presidential administration, to make life somehow even more hellish for some of the most marginalized people in the world — those who’ve fled their homes and countries in hopes of finding peace and security in a new land.

An especially egregious example of this was the previous administration’s March 2020 move to invoke Title 42 of the U.S. Code to prohibit entry of asylum seekers, using the possible spread of COVID-19 as the excuse. This order has been misused for over two years to illegally block migrants at the border, even though public health experts repeatedly declared the order has no true medical basis or justification. Title 42 has resulted in over 1.6 million expulsions of asylum seekers back to harm and over 10,000 incidents of kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks against migrant people.

No court in the United States has yet said the policy itself is legal, as legal challenges so far have only upheld it from the standpoint of administrative practice and capacity. The Immigration and Nationality Act says that seeking asylum is legal no matter how you cross the border.

As Joan F. Neal, NETWORK’s deputy executive director and chief equity officer, has noted: “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. The continuation of unjust, immoral Title 42 expulsions dishonors the God-given dignity of migrants and violates the internationally-recognized right to seek asylum. We must restore asylum at our southern border.

Delays by the current administration in rescinding this policy prompted more than 80 Catholic Sisters from across the U.S. to come to Washington last December. Carrying signs and praying, they marched past the White House, demanding an end to this racist policy. When President Biden finally moved to rescind Title 42 expulsions this spring, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the administration’s action.

The inability to rise above our dysfunctional immigration policies is also worth people’s anger. Administration after administration, Congress after Congress, has failed to pass meaningful immigration reform, despite the fact that they have the power to bring millions out of the shadows and into the recognition of their dignity as citizens. Bishops and popes have called for these very policies — whether some version of the DREAM Act for people who entered the U.S. as children or comprehensive reform that provides a path to full inclusion and participation in society for everyone. Rather than recognizing the power they have to affect transformation of so many people’s lives, our leaders have squandered this opportunity, instead allowing our politics and society to indulge the lies of racism and white supremacy.

Christians should allow their hearts to be broken open by the plights of the people who think that, for all its flaws, the U.S. is still somewhere they want to make a home. We could build something beautiful, an inclusive future for our immigrant neighbors in this country, in which everyone’s contributions are valued and rewarded — if we just let the right things make us angry.

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

The Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations (And Makes an Improvement)

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

On Friday, September 9, 2022, The Biden Administration restored pre-Trump era public charge regulations when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final public charge regulation that provides critical protections to secure immigrant families’ access to health and social services. This is a welcome update to the policy shift (flagged in March 2021) made to public charge regulations instituted in 2019 under the Trump administration

“The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. (DHS)

The Trump administration upended public charge rules that had existed for 20 years prior to their one term in office. Their changes were not consistent with Catholic Social Justice or NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda, That administration considered noncash public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or housing assistance, in applications for green cards or temporary visas. immigrant persons, families, and children.

The Biden administration’s reversal not only restores the policy to the pre-Trump era, it also includes an improvement sought by more than 1,000 organizations coordinated by the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition (PIF): DHS will not consider use of health care, nutrition, or housing programs when making immigration decisions. NETWORK Lobby is in the PIF coalition.

Reacting to the publication of the final public charge regulation, PIF issued the following statement:

“The final Biden public charge regulation is a major win for immigrant families. We know that anti-immigrant politicians will attack this reform through partisan litigation, but there are solid grounds for a court to uphold the rule. The new rule clarifies what is and is not considered in a public charge determination, providing assurances that eligible immigrant families can use health care, nutrition, and housing programs without public charge concerns.

“The more than 600 members of the PIF coalition are emboldened in our broader fight to repeal provisions in immigration law that are racist and discriminate against low-income people of color. Congress must strike public charge from the law and eliminate other barriers to the health and social services safety net. We will continue to push our leaders for action.” (PIF director, Adriana Cadena)

Note: This DHS decision was met with broad support by House Leadership. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) applauded the Biden Administration’s final rule restoring longstanding policy on the treatment of noncitizens seeking government assistance.

Additional background

The Trump-era regulations had a chilling effect on immigrants, causing many fearful to reach out for public assistance. An Urban Institute study examined immigrant families living with children under the age of 19 under the Trump policy in a Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. The study found a significant preference to avoid health and social services benefits in order not to jeopardize their immigration application. This, of course, compromised their safety and well-being (and that of their children)–especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One in 5 adults in immigrant families with children (20.0 percent) and almost 3 in 10 of those in low-income immigrant families with children (28.8 percent) reported that they or a family member avoided one or more noncash public benefits or other help with basic needs in 2020 because of concerns about green card status or other immigration-related reasons. (Urban Institute)

Learn more with these resources:

To Die to White Supremacy - End Racism

Be Alive In Christ To Die To White Supremacy

White Christians Need To Recognize the Ingrained Racism That Keeps Them From Seeing God in Everyone

Spirited Sisters

September 13, 2022

When confronted with racist or nativist violence or policies, many white Americans respond with the assertion “This is not who we are!” Others claim that calling out white supremacy is an indictment of the very foundation of the United States. And this second group is actually right, though not in the way they intend. White supremacy is indeed the foundation of our nation, and it continues to show up in the attitudes of people as well as the policies and structures on which our society is built.

NETWORK Lobby Hosted a Discussion on White Supremacy and American Christianity with Father Massengale, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Chatelain“White supremacy is the non-rational, instinctual, visceral conviction that this country – its public spaces, its political institutions, its cultural heritage – that these belong to white people in a way that they do not and should not belong to others,” says Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University. NETWORK’s April 9 conversation with Father Massingale, Dr. Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain laid bare that this is precisely who we are – and especially who white American Christians are.

Faced with the stark data from Jones’ research as founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), that just sitting in the pews (in a white congregation) increases your chances of holding racist views, what are Christians – and especially white Christians – to do? According to Jones, “The biggest problem is that white people think they have nothing at stake in this conversation.”

In other words, racism harms all of us. As an organizer, I talk about self-interest regularly, because self-interest can be a fruitful place for people to work together for a shared good. And in this case, that shared good is economic opportunity and a basic standard of living. My grandparents got it as beneficiaries of the GI Bill. Their wealth paid for much of my college (with significant tax benefits that are not granted to those who have to take out student loans).

But as soon as public goods started to open up to people of color, elite white people rebelled and began convincing poor and middle-class white people to choose their racial interests over their class interests – to ensure that Black people didn’t get access to public goods – and in doing so, to prevent themselves from accessing those same public goods. We need a multi-racial coalition to overturn that and build an economy that works for everyone and not just the ultra-wealthy elite. We can’t do that if we continue as we have been.

But this coalition has hurdles to overcome as, in the words of Father Massingale, “The Gospel of white supremacy is the functional religion of many white Christians and many white Catholics.” Which is to say, “white identity is the primary source of their locus, their commitment, their loyalty.”

This kind of truth-telling is critical if we want to move to real racial reconciliation. Conversion requires knowing we are wrong and acting to make amends. As St. Paul tells the Romans, “We’ve been buried with Jesus.” To be buried with Jesus is to be buried with the brown-skinned Jew in occupied Palestine. But we must be buried with Christ if we have any hope of being “alive to Christ.” We must embrace the death of white supremacy and act to bring about the death of white supremacy so that we can be alive to Beloved Community.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University asked us if we could imagine a church that was seriously willing to give up power “in order to show that another world is possible.” Father Massingale asked us if we could imagine Jesus in Black and Brown bodies.

Imagination is a spiritual practice, especially when we want to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist. But the kin-dom of God doesn’t yet exist in its entirety, so we must imagine it. We must create and use images of Christ in Black and Brown bodies. Because if we only see God as a white man, then our subconscious will continue to tell us that only white men should be able to rule here “on earth as it is in heaven.”

All of this calls us to act. So what will you do this week?

Name it here: _________________________________

Now go do it.

Emily TeKolste, SP, is a Sister of Providence and NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Coordinator. Her article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

Be a Multi-Issue Voter, a Pope Francis Voter and Improve Our Economy, Reduce Racism, and Safeguard Freedoms

Be a Multi-Issue Voter and Be a Pope Francis Voter. Sign Up to Learn How!

Election Workshops Teach You How to Be a Pope Francis Voter and Transform Politics!

Are you a multi-issue voter who is ready to be a Pope Francis Voter and build toward a multi-racial, inclusive democracy? Not sure what that means, but interested in how you can connect your faith, Catholic Social Justice, and voting? Then “Transform Our Politics! Becoming a Pope Francis Voter,” a virtual three-part election workshop series, is for you!

Each week, you will explore one of NETWORK’s Cornerstones to Build Our Country Anew: Dismantling Systemic Racism, Cultivating Inclusive Community, and Rooting Our Economy in Solidarity. The vision and skills you’ll acquire will help you during this election season and beyond. Download the Build Anew Agenda.

Your vote is your voice! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! We hope to see you at each 90-minute workshop. Session will be recorded.

Workshop I: Dismantle Systemic Racism

Learn how single-issue voting can be a cover for racism, nationalism, and extremism. Key policies that have begun to dismantle systemic racism in the U.S will be highlighted, and we’ll explore more that needs to happen.

Message training will help you take what you’ve learned into conversation with friends and family. Election season can complicate relationships, and so can talk of dismantling racism. NETWORK staff will model how you can use effective messaging to engage in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 12, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 14, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop II: Cultivate Inclusive Community

Explore your understanding of ‘inclusive community’ and break open the Catholic case for democracy. Some assert that inclusive communities create division and foster animosity toward people outside of the group.

NETWORK staff will show how inclusive communities are not exclusionary and are the polar opposite of White Christian Nationalism. We will envision how we can be part of creating a multi-racial, inclusive democracy this election season.

Mon., Sept. 19, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 21, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop III: Root Our Economy in Solidarity

Learn about policies that address the racial wealth and income gap so that everyone has the economic stability needed to thrive. NETWORK staff will help you practice promoting these policies with the people in your life.

Engage in a discussion on the power and benefits of cross-cultural relationships and understanding to build racial solidarity. This must happen to bring NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda into existence so we can build an economy of inclusion that values people and planet over profit. Participants will also learn how storytelling plays a role in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 26, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 28, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

Joan Neal
September 9, 2022

On September 1, President Biden delivered a speech in Philadelphia on the critical state of democracy. He said,” I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now, America must choose to move forward or to move backwards, to build a future or obsess about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear, division and of darkness.”

At this crucial time in our country’s history, our faith calls us to join together to defeat those who would withhold the full rights of democracy from some citizens based on race, ethnicity, or other arbitrary distinctions.  We, the people, especially people of faith, must fulfill our moral responsibility to get involved in the public square and not only cast our own votes but also safeguard the franchise for all citizens and help as many people as possible to cast their votes as well.  Our democracy is in a critical state and ‘we the people’ are the only ones who can save it!

Most importantly, as Catholics, when we vote, we must use our prudential judgement and our political power to elect people who will safeguard the right to vote for all citizens.

Our vote is our voice and right now, we have to raise our collective voice and overcome these anti-democracy forces once and for all.  If we fail this time, we might wake up one morning and find we no longer live in a pluralistic democratic society, but an autocracy enforced by the political and financial power of a select group of people who fundamentally do not believe in democracy at all.

As Catholics, it matters that we vote and it matters how we vote.  People of faith are called to use their prudential judgement to choose and critique our political leaders and the laws they pass, so that we build a society where everyone is respected and valued, everyone can exercise agency over their own lives, and everyone can contribute to the common good.

We are called to care not just about our own personal preferences but also about how elections will affect those who are poor or economically disadvantaged, those who need access to quality healthcare and decent housing, those who are immigrants in our midst trying to find a safe harbor and a place for their families to thrive, those who need to earn a fair wage and have decent working conditions, those who are disabled and anyone in need of care, all those who are marginalized in any way. Justice and our faith demand it.

Ultimately, we participate in our democracy not just because we are citizens but because of what we believe about God and each other.  We know from the parable of the Last Judgement that God is not just concerned with the hereafter.  God is concerned with the ‘here and now’.  So, here and now, we must honor the Imago Dei in each of us and use our vote to act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers if we want a democracy that brings life for all.

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

Joan Neal
September 6, 2022

In his opening address to Congress in January 2021, Senator Raphael Warnock from Georgia said, “We believe democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea – that we are all children of God and therefore, we ought all to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it. Democracy honors the sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. The right to vote is a sacred right.”

The right to vote is also foundational to and a hallmark of a functioning democracy. And as people of faith, we believe that voting is not only a civil right, it is a covenant we have with one another and a moral responsibility.

Therefore, a truly pluralistic democracy, requires that every person/every citizen has the right to vote and that right be protected under law. And when that right is denied, when that right is abridged in any way for arbitrary reasons, it is a moral failure that people of faith, people of good will are obliged to confront. Voting and political participation in our democracy is one of the most important ways we can honor every person’s human dignity, enable our vision of justice, and contribute positively to the common good as members of society.

Our Church has a long history of speaking out about our moral obligation to be involved in politics. In their 2004 document: “Catholics in Political Life”  The USCCB said, “Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism, but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require the division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.”

They also say in their 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (#13).

Multiple Popes have talked about the responsibility of Catholics to participate in the public square. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est reminds Catholics of the connection between Gospel values and political participation when he says, “Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity,” (#29)

Pope Francis has said in Evangelii Gaudium, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of (themselves) so that others can govern.” He went on to say, “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” (#205). Voting is a concrete way for us to ensure justice and charity prevail in our nation and our Catholic Tradition re-enforces it as a moral obligation.

But being a diverse, participatory democracy isn’t easy. Unfortunately, voter suppression efforts are not new to America. We all know the shameful history of the battle for the right to vote in this country — for African-Americans, Indigenous people, women, and other marginalized groups — which emerged out of decades, even centuries of denying their innate human dignity.

It took 251 years for African-American men to be given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment passed in 1870. 95 years later, America finally became a pluralistic democracy with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that guaranteed the right to vote for all African-Americans; provided the legal means to ensure compliance with the 15th Amendment and to challenge restrictive voting laws and practices designed to deny the free and fair access to the ballot.

Despite those challenges, over time the political power of Black and non-white citizens has grown across the country. Once again the backlash has been swift as many politicians try to prevent their fellow citizens from exercising their right to vote. So, the battle for voting rights continues and has escalated since the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision that struck down the enforcement provisions of the VRA and eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for states to change their election laws.

As a result of that decision, today, more than 20 states have passed restrictive voter laws, gerrymandered districts, made it harder to access the voting booth by closing polling places, especially in communities of color, limiting early voting, placing restrictions on vote-by-mail, requiring stricter voter ID, and by putting people in positions who will enforce these restrictions no matter the infringement upon their fellow citizens’ rights.

All of these actions are designed to discourage and suppress the Black and non-white vote, the votes of young people, poor people and people who do not share the political view of one party. Today, we find ourselves as a country facing the very situation the VRA was designed to end. Once again, the foundational principle of a functioning, participatory democracy is being challenged by those who do not see the image of God in their fellow citizens.

In addition to all that politicians are doing to prevent fellow citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote, many other citizens not targeted by these voter restrictions, have failed to fulfill their own civic, sacred duty to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, only 61% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 Presidential election. Now, clearly there are extenuating circumstances for those who, though citizens, are legally or physically unable to cast their votes, but that means 39% of eligible voters failed to vote. 39% of eligible American citizens failed to have their say in the way our country is governed and who is governing it. They failed to safeguard the common good by casting their vote.

Diane Nash, a charismatic veteran leader of the Civil Rights Movement, in an address at the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice in 1961, said:  “The problems lie not so much in our action as in our inaction… I’m wondering now if we in the United States are really remembering that this must be a government ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people’ as well as ‘for the people’. Are we really appreciating the fact that if you and I do not meet these responsibilities then our government cannot survive as a democracy?”

In her address to the National Call to Action Conference in 2012, she said: “We, the citizens, are the only ones who can change this country. We have to get to work, keep on working and force our elected officials to implement our vision of justice and peace.”

And that is the call to all of us. As citizens and people of faith, we are obligated and indeed today it is urgent, that we exercise our right to vote. Unfounded restrictions on lawful access to the ballot, excessive and undue requirements for citizens to exercise their right to vote and the undergirding white supremacist ideology that fuels these actions are a problem for all citizens, especially those of us who see participatory democracy as a way to honor the image of God in our neighbors.

That is why all of us must speak out and act against these unconstitutional attacks on the right to vote. All Americans, need to wake up now! Our democracy is on the verge of collapse under this unrelenting assault against collective rights by people who only seek their own, unrestricted power, people who do not share the vision of the Beloved Community.

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Michigan Team in Action

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing with NETWORK Lobby

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing

Tools for Advocacy

September 6, 2022

NETWORK has worked for justice in our federal policies since 1972, and the Advocates Team model of uniting justice-seekers around the country has been with us since NETWORK’s inception. Today, NETWORK has more than 100,000 members and supporters across the country with a presence in nearly every congressional district.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.

Every time you make a phone call, send emails, sign petitions, attend town halls, or participate in lobby visits, your action increases NETWORK’s power on Capitol Hill. NETWORK’s work would not be possible without the commitment and persistence of our Spirit-filled advocates for justice.

NETWORK Advocates Teams

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Monroe Michigan Team Democracy Event - August 2021 If you live in a strategic building state, we invite you to join an existing Advocates Team or work with us to start a new team composed of people united by a shared passion for justice, desire to learn, and commitment to advocacy.

Advocates Teams welcome people with all different levels of experience and backgrounds. Some team members have been involved with NETWORK for decades, while others are new to advocacy.

With support from NETWORK staff and one another, team members grow in their understanding of federal policies that support the common good. They participate in strategies that have a national impact—at a level far beyond individual or uncoordinated efforts. Much of this impact can be attributed to the meaningful relationships team members develop with their Members of Congress and their staff.

Living Out Sister-Spirit

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Living Out Sister Spirit at the Supreme Court in Support of DreamersSince 1972, the NETWORK community has grown far beyond only those who are Catholic Sisters. Whether you are a Catholic Sister or not, everyone can live out Sister-Spirit, the radical, joyful, and inclusive energy that motivated NETWORK’s founding and continues to animate NETWORK’s political ministry today.

We live out Sister-Spirit when we…
  1. Listen with curiosity and humility and are open to learning.
  2. Root our understanding in encounter, not ideology.
  3. Approach situations and people with hope and welcome.
  4. Act out of a grounded spirituality rooted in contemplation and reflection.
  5. Pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence.
  6. Prioritize the well-being of others, especially those at the margins.
  7. Work collaboratively in community, not “presiding over.”
  8. See everyone as people first, not just roles.
  9. Trust our instincts, are bold, and are willing to do the unpopular.

Celebrate together, use humor, and are feisty.

Centering Racial Justice

Because racism is embedded into our society’s systems and structures, we intentionally prioritize dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in our political systems as well as our economic and social structures. To do this work for racial justice effectively, advocates must engage in ongoing development and learning about racial justice and regular self-reflection. NETWORK resources are available to equip you to do the work of racial and economic justice, organize in solidarity with people of color, and educate yourselves and others in your community about racism.

Encounter-Based Advocacy

Pope Francis often speaks of the importance of creating a “culture of encounter” to bridge divides and Catholic Social Justice instructs advocates to be and act in solidarity with those who are most marginalized by our systems and structures. In other words, the best solutions to problems will not come from the outside but from those who are most directly impacted by the injustices.

Lived experiences are the most important component of the meaning-making that informs our advocacy, therefore, we strive to center the voices of those most directly impacted by the injustices we seek to end.

  • Look first to resources, skills, and perspectives held by impacted communities.
  • Reject a deficit-based approach; instead, recognize the assets already existing in communities.
  • Center peoples telling their own stories and sharing their lived experiences in our advocacy.
  • Involve impacted communities in devising solutions to the challenges they face.
  • Recognize that impact is more important than intent and approach each situation with intentionality and a commitment to recognizing and addressing unintended consequences.
The Power of Organizing

The Power of Spirit-Filled Organizing - Working in NeighborhoodsThe goal of organizing is to get other people to join us in working for a more just world. When we grow our community of justice-seekers, we strengthen our power. Organizing tactics include conducting one-on-ones, planning effective meetings and conference calls, canvassing, hosting a house party or site visit, holding town halls, planning a demonstration, organizing a group to contact elected officials, speaking to the media, or spreading your message online.

As we work for justice, how do we continue to learn and grow? Through feedback and reflection. NETWORK staff are available to help you debrief any meeting, event, or campaign so you can continue to improve your organizing skills. Whether it is talking through a challenge you have encountered or exploring training needs, we are here to help.

NETWORK also has a number of organizing workshops, and we are always working to add more. We offer both topic-based and skill-building workshops including:

  • About NETWORK
  • Catholic Social Justice
  • Intro to Faith-Based Advocacy
  • How to Lobby/Prep for Lobby Visit
  • Build Anew Policy Briefing
  • Racial Wealth and Income Gap
  • Human Bar Graph on Income Inequality
  • Town Hall for Tax Justice
  • Transformative Conversations to Bridge Divides
  • Tax Justice for All: Unveiling the Racial Inequity of the U.S. Tax Code

We encourage you, our members, to share your passion for justice by learning a new organizing skill or revisiting ones that you have used in the past, especially as we approach the 2022 midterm elections. This is a critical time to mobilize fellow justice-seekers to vote for candidates who will advance racial equity and economic justice.

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Whether you live in a state with a NETWORK Advocates team or not, we would love to brainstorm ways to multiply the effects of your advocacy with you. Contact the NETWORK staff by emailing info@networklobby.orgWe look forward to talking with you!

This article originally appeared in the Third Quarter 2022 issue of Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine – A Time to Build. Read the entire issue here.

This content is excerpted from the newly published NETWORK Advocates Handbook. Download the full handbook or order a copy in the NETWORK store.