We represent a group of religious leaders both clergy and religious academics who have felt called to speak out on an unpopular and controversial issue: U.S. Drug Policy particularly the "War on drugs" with its unjust and discriminatory laws against drug abusers.
These unmerciful and stringent drug laws against users, abusers and sellers have resulted in "cruel and unusual punishment" for people with drug problems..."It's time to stop building jails in America and get back to the task of building our children."-Colin Powell Republican National Convention
Reports from our National Conference
Let My People Go: Religious Leaders and Drug Policy
Nashville, Tennessee ~ December 8-10
More than 200 people - local pastors and preachers, denominational leaders and bishops, seminary deans and faith communities, representatives from local faith alliances, federal and local probation officers, public health professionals and activists, poets and ex-prisoners, family leaders and physicians, came from across the country to do theology and lay the groundwork for speaking truth to power. We are partners in the movement for drug policy reform. We came from as far away as Hawaii, California, Texas and Maine; from Anglo, African American, Latino and Native American communities - united in our commitment to challenge and change the current war on drugs. Folks like Walter Wink, Nancy Hastings-Sehested, Will Campbell, David Satcher, Ethan Nadelmann and Dorothy Gaines framed the conversation for us and called us to action. We hope the short excerpts from conference presentations and responses offered in this newsletter will encourage you to find out more.
The tides are already turning within the faith community. Church leadership and congregations across the nation are beginning to see the folly in our current treatment of drug users and are beginning to change their views and behaviors. In churches of all denominations, drug users who may have once been ostracized and forced out of the flock are now being recognized as God’s children and treated with compassion. It warms the heart to see these often neglected and marginalized people being welcomed into their local church communities with open minds and open hearts. Here is a compelling example of that compassion at Wedgewood Baptist Church, where a member recounts their experience being accepted into the church community just as they are, regardless of medical cannabis use.
This change in attitude is encouraging, but we need to harness it and turn it into more. We need our church communities to be among the loudest voices speaking out against the unfair and discriminatory penalties against users of any type of drug. We need to rise up as one body and protest the negative impact the criminalization of drugs is having in our country and in our communities. Drug addiction should be thought of as a health problem, not a criminal issue. We need to make a change!
We have completed the publishing of articles written for the Let My People Go: Religious Leaders and Drug Policy conference, some of the transcripts from this event and additional articles focused on religious leaders and drug policy. ___________________________________________________________________
Best wishes for what appears an ominous but challenging new year! Hope that you are still energized and inspired by the wonderful gathering in Nashville last December.
Religious Leaders needs your continuing support in every way as it provides the education and advocacy for our communities of faith in this significant struggle. Without your prayers and work in this fight for justice, we cannot hope to overcome. Even though the future appears dark and all kinds of war seem to be in the air, we cannot rest.
We must not forget Gracie Allen's unexpected theological aphorism: "Never put a period where God has put a comma". It is by faith, hope and action that we believe the best is yet to come!
Rev. Howard Moody
Founder, Religious Leaders for a MoreJust & Compassionate Drug Policy