Resource: Resolutions Toolkit for Religious Groups
Since religious communities are typically concerned with human rights issues, they are often eager to express support for, and take action to defend, civil liberties. Furthermore, many religious communities have come under attack in the wake of recent antiterrorism laws and policies that threaten liberties, such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security Act. To stand up against such infringements, religious communities have become actively involved in the Bill of Rights defense movement. We hope that more and more organizations will come forward and voice their opposition to governmental action that erodes our rights and liberties. The following is a set of recommendations and possible steps to take in order to pass a resolution or other statement on behalf of your religious organization affirming its support of civil liberties.
- Find out the policy of your religious organization for introducing human rights issues. It is important to follow these guidelines since you are ultimately seeking a statement that will represent the entire organization.
- Invite a group of potentially interested congregants and religious leader(s) to an initial meeting.
- Ask them for their help in planning the best strategy for educating congregants and see what other steps they can take in helping to network in the community and raise awareness of your work.
- Plan the next steps for building a coalition of community members who are interested in protecting civil liberties, both religious and secular.
- Find out whether other community members or groups are working on the issue of civil liberties or have passed a resolution regarding civil liberties.
- Collaborate with these groups to find speakers or co-host events such as forums, workshops, or information panels to broadcast your message to the public.
- Utilize the coalition to network within the community to expand your goal of protecting civil liberties beyond your religious organization.
- Ask them for advice if they have already passed a resolution, and see if they can provide a list of helpful people and resources to consult during the process of drafting your own resolution.
Outreach and Education:
- Ask your religious leaders, such as priests, rabbis, mosque leaders, pastors, etc, to help spread the word about your efforts. They can possibly convey your message during a sermon or other public statement to the general congregation during services.
- Sample Sermons: Civil Liberties Under Siege by Rev. Dr. Randolph W.B. Becker and“Freedom is the Beginning” by Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss, Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL); On Freedom and Security: Consider the USA PATRIOT Act by Lawrence Snyder
- Find out whether guests are permitted to speak during services. If so, you or an expert could make a statement to the congregation during general services and follow up with a discussion with interested parties after the services.
- Enlist the help of religious educators, youth group advisors, and committees that work on human rights issues that are already a part of the congregation. They can help spread your message and inform congregants during their organized meetings and classes.
- Provide literature on civil liberties awareness in your house of worship. Ask to have a schedule of your meetings posted on programs, newsletters, or the bulletin board of events.
- Sample Literature: Taking Freedom for Granted: Questions and Answers about the USA PATRIOT Act, Source: FCNL.
- Make yourself available before and after services to answer questions and connect with members of the organization that may be interested in helping your efforts.
Draft the resolution
Pass the resolution
- When you have broad support for your resolution, follow your religious organization’s procedure to bring it to a vote.
Follow up on your resolution
- Utilize the local news media to raise awareness of the efforts undertaken by your religious group.
- Create a press release and send it to local radio and TV stations.
- Submit a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper that addresses the resolution you have passed and its implications for protecting civil liberties.
- Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have us add you to our list of religious organizations that have passed resolutions.
- Inform all appropriate governmental bodies of your success.
Continue your resolution work
- If your city has not already passed a resolution regarding civil liberties, consider organizing to pass a city resolution, working with other interested parties in your coalition and the community as a whole.
- If your city’s governing body has passed a resolution, work with your coalition to pass a county or state resolution.
- Look to extend your efforts to a higher level within your religious organization.
Provide support to threatened communities
- Arabs and Muslims have particularly suffered under recent FBI intimidations and harassment. If your religious organization is not a Muslim group, establish relationships with the Arab and Muslim members of your community by contacting their local houses of worship and utilizing contacts that may already exist in your coalition of civil liberties supporters.
- Plan social events and educational campaigns to raise general awareness of the grave situations facing individuals of Arab or Muslim descent, including recent deportations and other scare tactics.
Encourage action by elected officials
- Find out where politicians on the state and local level stand on the issue of upholding civil liberties and rights.
- Utilize tools such as Letters to the Editor or communication via letters, calls, and group visits to elected officials to address the issue of rights and personal freedom.
Continue your campaign of education and awareness
- Follow up with additional public events, such as panel discussions, speakers, or workshops that deal with the efforts undertaken by your religious organization.
- Help other groups that are just beginning the process of passing a resolution and provide advice for how to achieve that goal.
- Spread awareness to other groups in the community who may be interested in the movement to defend the Bill of Rights. This could include students, labor unions, or professional groups in the community who can help spread the message of your efforts