Thursday, December 5, 2013

Friends Committee on National Legislation and ICUJP


I’m excited to have the opportunity to speak about the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) since ICUJP and FCNL have similar goals and approaches to peace activism. I am going to give you a little history of this Quaker lobbying group, talk about how FCNL does it work, and then suggest ways that we can become involved with some of its legislative campaigns.

I know all of you are familiar with FNCL’s “War is not the answer” slogan. FCNL developed the War is Not the Answer campaign in response to 9/11 as well as U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since then, FCNL has distributed more than 1 million signs, bumper stickers, and other materials with this statement.
Now I’d like to ask you some questions: Have any of you ever used the FCNL website?

This website is an amazing resource and provides background info on issues, candidate voting records and other info vital for lobbying.

Has anyone ever visited the FCNL office in Washington, DC? The FCNL office in DC is well worth visiting. FCNL has a commitment to environmentalism. When FCLN had to renovate its Civil War era office building in 2003, it became the first LEED certified Green Building on Capitol Hill.

Its new offices are energy efficient, infused with light, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It features a geothermal heating system, “light scoops,” bamboo floors, and vegetative roof. This office is designed to witness to environmental values for generations to come.

If you want to go to DC on the cheap and visit the FCNL office, I recommend staying at the William Penn House—the best deal on the hill--$40 a night for modest, but friendly quarters. It’s only a short walk from William Penn House to the FCNL office and Capitol Hill. Just mention my name and say the Quaker password, Inward Light, and you will be welcome. You won’t get a discount, however.

FCNL is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It is the oldest registered, faith-based lobby in the public interest in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1943, just as the US was entering World War II, and has been a consistent voice for peace and justice ever since.

During its 70 year history FCNL played a pivotal role in the creation of the Peace Corps,[2] was instrumental in lobbying for the creation of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, played an important role in lobbying for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and participated in efforts to oppose the Persian Gulf and Iraq Wars.

FCNL has a General Committee of about 220 Quakers from across the United States. (I was just asked to be on this Committee.)

Almost every Quaker meeting in the US has a liaison to FCNL so its constituency consists of thousands of Quakers who are ready to contact elected officials when asked to do so. Tens of thousands, many of whom are not Quakers, use the FCNL website to learn about issues and contact elected officials. Local Quaker meetings also have input into the policy decisions of FCNL, which are always made by consensus. FCNL advocates on several issues that are extensions of the Quaker testimonies of peace, equality, simplicity, and integrity.

FCNL is inclusive of the broad spectrum of Quaker theological views ranging from Christ-centered to Universalist and non-theist. What is sometimes said about Jews is definitely true of Quakers: if you have ten Quakers in a room, you will have at least a dozen opinions.

Nonetheless, we manage to come to unity using Quaker consensus decision-making process. It isn’t always easy, and it’s sometimes very time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth it: when we finally come to unity, we feel deeply connected to each other and to the Spirit that united us.

FNCL works with other faith-based lobbying groups and has reached out to Muslims in particular to oppose Islamophobia, torture, etc.

FCNL focuses on a wide range of issues, including ending drone warfare, reducing the military budget, supporting Native American concerns, nonviolent conflict resolution in Africa, and the environment. There are some issues, such as abortion, that we don’t have unity on, so we don’t deal with them. I was part of the revision of FCNL’s 6,000-word policy statement that provides guidance to lobbyists. This document was vetted by hundreds of Quakers throughout the US using consensus decision-making.

FNCLs not only opposes war, it also has a positive vision, summed up in this mission statement:

The world we seek

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored

During its annual meeting, FCNL gives out awards to elected officials who are making a significant contribution to peace and justice. Recent awardees include:

2013: Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), for promoting a sensible strategy for ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan and for leading this effort for successive years in the U.S. Senate.

2012: Sen. Richard Lugar (IN), for his exemplary leadership in promoting nuclear weapons reductions and disarmament.

2011:Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) and Rep. Walter Jones (NC) received this award for their leadership in promoting a sensible strategy to end the war in Afghanistan.

2010: Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), for addressing the most serious threat to life on our planet and a growing driver of violent conflict, and for her efforts to build peace and to restore a right relationship with the earth

In addition to encouraging our elected officials to do the right thing, FCNL also has a vital young leadership development and intern program. It has 30 full-time equivalent staff, two thirds of whom are under thirty and are being mentored by seasoned Quaker lobbyists. Many of these interns go on to become leaders in nonprofits and electoral politics.

Our keynote speaker this year was Reza Aslan, author of the best-selling book “Jesus the Zealot.” Reza was an FCLN intern when he graduated from college.

These young interns and leaders help brief us on the current issues, set up meetings, and provide lobbying tips, such as:

1) Stay focused on one or two issues.

2) Thank the elected official or aide for what they have done right.

3) Include a specific ask.

4)  Follow up. Remember you are more effective if you establish a relationship with the official.

Currently FCNL has various campaigns, two of which are its primary focus:

1) Call for a trillion dollar reduction in military spending over the next decade,  no cuts to needed social program.

2)  Repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Besides engaging in timely campaigns, FCNL is also trying to address the broad question: “If war is not the answer, what is?” Top peace activists from the American Friends Service Committee and FCNL worked together to produce a document called “Shared Security,” which outlines a nonviolent alternative to current US foreign policy. This comes with a study guide to help to stimulate thinking about how to create a culture of peace.

Now that I am officially part of FCNL, I am more eager than ever to help organize delegations to go to offices of representatives, including Adam Schiff, Judy Chu and Senators Boxer and Feinstein. I hope that FCNL and ICUJP can work together to end endless wars and promote shared security.


1 comment:

  1. thanks for this great article ! peace of mind’ is not a strenuous job it is an effortless process.