Advent. What a complex season of the church year this is!! I’m sure you’ve noticed that all around us are the festive signs of Christmas: brightly lit trees, carolers, Santas, and Frosty the Snowman. And yet, all it takes is a few minutes listening to the news or reading a headline to see that things are not all “merry and bright.” Even the hours of daylight are lessening and the nights lengthening to highlight just how “dark” things really are. But this is what Advent is all about, isn’t it? We already know of the joy coming, and that has come, but Advent reminds us of exactly why we need a Savior, why the Incarnation is necessary.
I could present to you a whole litany of issues that need our attention and action but today I’ve selected one that is time-sensitive so that we might let our voices be heard where they can make a difference: The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (HB 5958) – http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2013-2014/billengrossed/House/pdf/2014-HEBH-5958.pdf
On December 4th, the Michigan House of Representatives passed this bill and it is now slated to go before the Senate on December 18th. You have likely seen the ads reporting that the bill would allow emergency medical personnel an exemption from treating gay persons which have been all over the internet this week. It’s not quite so simple so I will refer you to a good report by the fact-checking group Snopes.com where you can read for yourself the distinctions – http://www.snopes.com/politics/sexuality/michiganmedical.asp
Personally, I find the wording confusing and see the potential for great harm if this bill passes the Senate. From my reading, the bill promotes prejudice and intolerance, qualities we just see too much of these days.
Action Item: Read the bill for yourself and read the article from Snopes.com and then I ask that you contact your state senator. If you’re unsure how to reach him or her, here’s a link to find your senator’s address – http://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html
Our Household’s Ministry Developer, the Rev. Michelle Meech, wrote to her senator earlier this week and allowed me to share her letter as a model for what you might write:
Dear Senator Warren,
I’m writing today as a member of the clergy, as a resident of the state of Michigan, and as a human being.
When I heard about the bill that has been titled, the “Religious Restoration Act,” I initially laughed it off. First, as I’m sure you know, our US Constitution provides us with the freedom to practice our religion. It’s a cornerstone of our national identity. Second, I never thought it would be taken seriously.
I was wrong. I’m appalled that this has passed the Michigan House. The bill is clearly not about religious freedom. Rather, it’s about the right to be a bigot and act on that bigotry regardless of civic, professional, ethical, or human responsibilities. We have no need for this as a law.
I implore you to vote against this insanity and to encourage your fellow senators to do the same thing.
May you enjoy peace in this season,
The Rev. Michelle Meech
Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
As voters, we are the people that put these senators in office; they work for us. Let them hear our voices and truly represent the will of the people. For every letter received, it is assumed by the legislator’s office that many more constituents feel the same way that’s why even one letter is important! Let us together “persevere in resisting evil” and “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Let us pray –
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace
with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our
communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy
Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council