Advocacy update for January 25, 2022

Advocacy update for January 25, 2022

Advocacy update for January 25, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection

Setbacks and next steps on civil rights

The past week, following Martin Luther King Day, was packed with civil rights news: filibuster blocking the Senate again from passing legislation that would provide nationwide protections for voter access and enact policies to prevent partisan gerrymandering, plus another round of gerrymandering fights in Ohio.

Ohio Redistricting Commission adopts another set of maps almost certain to be challenged in court

The Ohio Legislature adopted state district maps last fall which were expected to deliver a Republican super-majority in both houses. After being ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court to redraw the maps to achieve the partisan balance mandated by the Ohio Constitution (reflecting the 54-46% proportion of votes cast for candidates of each party over the preceding ten years), the Redistricting Commission worked behind doors from Thursday night till Saturday afternoon before adopting a map with zero bipartisan support. The map fails to meet that standard.  Catherine Turcer, Executive Director of Common Cause Ohio, will give an update this Thursday at Christ Church Cathedral’s Community Issues Forum at noon via Zoom.

Two bills – HB 322 and HB 327 – close to being voted on by the Ohio House – threaten public educational institutions from K-12 through universities with the loss of state funding if they teach “divisive content.”  This would, for example, make it dangerous for teachers in the Cincinnati Public Schools to teach the history of the numerous police shootings of unarmed Black men that led to Cincinnati’s crisis in Holy Week, 2001 after teenager Timothy Thomas was shot by a policeman. The community discernments that followed led to the Collaborative Agreement with major changes that have significantly improved trust and the police’s ability to work with the public to reduce crime, making Cincinnati a national model and resource for improving police-community relations.

  • “Divisive content” bills, which have proliferated since 2020, can be seen as pushback against attempts to improve police-community relations, reduce health disparities in infant mortality or COVID, or housing equity disparities – all of which necessarily involves analyzing what isn’t working in order to improve it. In another example of the same dynamic,  two members of the Ohio School Board were pressured until they resigned this past fall, after refusing to vote to rescind a resolution against racism and for equity that the board passed in 2020 after Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

    Ohio’s Divisive Content bills

    HB 322 and HB 327 have both had several hearings in the House State and Local Government Committee, and could come to a vote early this year.  There’s more detail about them below.  This is the time to write your personal testimony on the bills and submit it to the Committee chair, Rep. Scott Wiggam. In your email, ask his staffer Jordan Leatherwood to share your letter with every member.

    The University of Cincinnati hosted a daylong virtual conference, Cincinnati’s Second National Day of Racial Healing, A recording of the first half is already posted online for you to watch for free.  The panel starting at hour 3:05 of the recording offers context and action steps on the “divisive content” bills. Ohio Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-33), who represents Cincinnati, invites you to submit your own testimony to the House State and Local Government Committee. You can use this testimony for letters to the editor or guest columns also, by responding online to news stories or other opinion pieces. This very conference, which was sponsored by the United Way, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Interact for Health, and major corporations, would be too risky for the university to hold if HB 327 passes.

    UC Law School Dean Verna Williiams, speaking last week at Cincinnati’s National Day of Racial Healing Conference.

    Conference speakers, including keynoter Heather McGhee and UC Law School Dean Verna Williams, explain how researching and teaching honestly about systemic disparities are vital for building a society and economy for all Americans to flourishMcGhee is the author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can All Prosper Together.

    The Statehouse News Bureau reported Sept. 29 about the provisions in HB 322 and HB 327. Together, they cover state agencies, K-12 public schools, and universities, the “gamut of education that the state provides,” said UC Law School Dean Williams. The bills “forbid teaching of divisive content” but permit teaching it “when part of a larger course of instruction, done in an objective manner, without endorsement,” she explains. They are “creating confusion, with the risk of losing state funding:  that means that schools will largely avoid these topics, and so students from K-12 on up through law school are not going to learn subjects that are actually key to their being able to live in an increasingly diverse society, to be an educated adult, to think critically.  These bills are terrible and they are actually promoting the opposite of what education is supposed to be about, shutting down important knowledge in the interest of stopping the spread of truth.”

    Citing important policy histories like Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law,  which describes federal racial discrimination in housing loans, Dean Williams added later that learning about this is “not calling anyone racist but finding out about how we got here.   Structural issues – some race based, others not – affect us all. They don’t allow everyone to advance to their full potential.  Maybe that’s the way to open the door.”

    Cincinnati’s interfaith coalition EquaSion has issued a statement in opposition to these bills, citing the vital importance of honesty in education. The diocese’s ecumenical officer, the Rev. Melanie Slane, is a leader in EquaSion and also serves on the Diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community Leadership team.

Ohio Day of Action for Climate Change Legislation TODAY

Ohioans who support the climate provisions of the Build Back Better Bill can use the Day of Action Toolkit provided by the League of Conservation Voters and the nonprofit Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) to draft posts throughout the day to express your support.  The OEC works with Cincinnati’s Faith Communities Go Green team now partnering on advocacy with EquaSion, the interfaith coalition in Cincinnati that is the newest generation of faithful people carrying on the social justice work begun decades ago by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Greenfaith Sacred Season of Climate Justice starts Feb. 7 with a worldwide call at 10 AM ET

Within a 48-day stretch between March 19 and May 6, 2022, there are five major sacred days or seasons, an Equinox, and Earth Day.  Together, these days collectively attract billions of people of diverse faiths and spiritualities to worship, pray, listen to sermons, reflect, and commit to act on what matters most.  GreenFaith is launching an international season of collective interfaith climate action with a call on Feb. 7.  The goal is to support climate justice, with a unified call for universal access to renewable energy, a just transition, green jobs, and an end to new fossil fuel projects. Sign up for the Feb. 7 worldwide call here.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com