Last month I took advantage of an offer from the national Interfaith Alliance, based in Washington, DC, to come to DC and be part of an interfaith retreat, and it was the experience of a lifetime! There were 13 of us representing interfaith organizations from Pennsylvania to Idaho to Hawaii to Oklahoma. There was time to learn about other interfaith organizations and share stories and experiences with each other. There were workshops on the mission of the Interfaith Alliance, communications, fundraising and advocacy for justice on the national, state and local levels. I was particularly moved by a panel discussion on combating Islamophobia. It was a whirlwind schedule, action packed from beginning to end, long days but very stimulating. Being so close to the political center in Washington, and, at least for a short time, being part of that as a citizen was invigorating and eye-opening.
We were also coached in preparation for meeting with our congressional delegations. Arrangements had already been made for each of us to visit and lobby our congressional delegation on interfaith issues which are getting national attention, including the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” which deals with foster care and adoptions, and was the only one I had time to talk about, then the “Equality Act” which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system, and the “Do No Harm Act” to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to protect civil rights and prevent harm to third parties. Never having lobbied before, I see now how the process takes a lot of work in order to be heard and understood. I was fascinated by the process.
Interfaith Alliance (IA) is the only national interfaith organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in the United States. With state and local affiliates across the country, and tens of thousands of members, IA’s work includes public education, grassroots activism, policy advocacy, the weekly State of Belief Radio program and resources to assist faith leaders and politicians in navigating the boundaries between faith and politics. IA’s purpose is to preserve the separation between church and state and to provide to Congress a faith voice that is an alternative to the religious right.
The staff at the national Interfaith Alliance are an incredible bunch of folks, from Rabbi Jack Moline, President, to Jay Keller, Director of Outreach and Operations, to Katy Joseph, Esq., Policy and Legislation Advisor and staff attorney. They all went out of their way to answer questions and explain how things work on “The Hill” to ensure our visit was well organized, and to provide assistance with anything and everything including lodging, meals, transportation and serving as tour guides for those of us who were unfamiliar with DC.
It was an amazing journey. I am eager to share more about the IA with WIN, and look forward to opportunities to answer questions or discuss what I experienced. Feel free to contact me anytime.
Contact Carl Carmichael, Chair-Elect for more information Carmichael.firstname.lastname@example.org 307.421.7575