The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has served as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ for 70 years. NCC is a diverse covenant community of 38 member denominations with more than 35 million individuals in 100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, historic African-American, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Living Peace traditions. We have a common commitment to advocate and represent God’s love and promise of unity in our public square.
While the NCC, as churches, is the leading ecumenical organization involved in broad theological study, religious education and spiritual formation, national interfaith dialogue and collaboration, and biblical translation (with the New Revised Standard Version, which has long been considered the most widely used version of the Bible in academic theology), in terms of the crucial responsibility of faith-driven advocacy, NCC has identified several broad categories as our priorities, including: ending racism through our A.C.T. Now! to End Racism initiative, ending mass incarceration, and interreligious relations with a focus on peace. These priorities have meant that we have worked with denominational and interfaith partners as well as secular organizations on issues such as universal, affordable and accessible healthcare; abating hunger and poverty; addressing global climate change and environmental racism; providing affordable housing; creating good jobs and having a living wage; and, enacting policies that benefit those most in need. With the novel coronavirus global pandemic ravishing our nation as well as our global ecumenical and interfaith partners, particularly devastating communities of color, we also have been diligently working to advocate for relief and safety during this historic health and economic crisis.
With these priority areas in mind, we urge the new Biden-Harris Administration to consider the following policy priorities:
- While we are waiting for another COVID relief package to be passed by Congress, we know that what is passed will not be enough to get our nation through the additional surge that is certain to happen throughout the winter months and the economic fallout that will follow. We urge the new administration to work with Congress and to use the tools at its disposal to ensure that people are safe and have their basic needs met as we fight this global pandemic. Federal programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) should be expanded during this crisis and unemployment benefits extended. We also urge the administration to extend the moratorium on housing evictions and the student loan forbearance beyond January 2021.
- We urge the new administration to develop a national strategy to keep people safe during this pandemic as well as a just and equitable way for the vaccine to be disseminated and administered to the most vulnerable communities. NCC is willing to partner, to the extent possible, with the new administration on these efforts. We will initiate a public education campaign in January to inform about the safety and importance of being vaccinated and the role churches can take in protecting their congregations.
- The global pandemic and racial reckoning that occurred this summer after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as well as many others, has shined a light on the need for America to address systemic racism. To do so, we call on the new administration to address the widening wealth gap, economic equity, and health and educational disparities. We further urge the administration to support legislation like HR40, which would explore reparations as a matter of equity and dismantling systemic racism.
- We call on the new administration to use all available resources to reunite children who were callously separated from their families at the border within the first 100 days as a matter of urgency. These children and their families have been traumatized and separated for too long. Immediate action is also needed to reverse the previous administration’s damaging policies at the border. We further urge the new administration to immediately increase the cap on the number of refugees allowed to enter our country annually.
- We urge the new administration to end the federal death penalty and to protect incarcerated individuals and staff from COVID-19 according to the Justice Collaborative’s Decarceral Guidelines highlighted in the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition’s transition priorities. We urge that mechanism be used to expeditiously reduce the incarcerated population by immediately releasing elderly and medically vulnerable people, anyone within 18 months of their release date and transferring those in pretrial detention to home confinement as well as mandating proper mask usage and COVID-19 testing for guards and incarcerated individuals.
- We also urge a review of law enforcement to focus on community safety, transformative justice and restoration that can help build security in communities of color. We further call on the administration to support legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and Breonna’s Law, which would end no-knock warrants. NCC’s Joint Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace Convening Table is working on a policy statement that we hope will push Congress to act on this issue.
- In keeping with our A.C.T. (Awaken. Confront. Transform) Now! to End Racism initiative and our commitment to advocate for justice, we urge the Biden-Harris administration to re-establish antiracism and diversity training at the federal level as well as for there to be an antiracist/racial equity lens in their transition teams and new administration.
- The 2020 election had a record turnout of voters but we also know that voter suppression tactics continue to be a huge problem. This year’s election also saw the resurgence of voter intimidation efforts. We call on the new administration to support legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020.
- The coronavirus pandemic has also deepened and exacerbated the digital divide. With so many schools moving to online only classes or a hybrid, many students without access to the internet are falling behind and magnifying the disparities for low-wealth communities, particularly those of color. We urge the new administration to take this head on and use the tools available through the FCC and the Department of Education to expand internet access to these communities.
- Since 1968, the National Council of Churches has called for an end to the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed on Cuba. We were grateful for the positive steps taken by the Obama-Biden administration toward Cuba and look forward to a resumption of those efforts.
- NCC is deeply concerned about the crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world and the Armenian Orthodox Church is an important part of the ecumenical movement. We are deeply concerned that justice for Armenia be realized in the aftermath of the recent war with Azerbaijan.
- The Christian community in Israel/Palestine continues to suffer as a result of the ongoing occupation. As Palestinian Christians continue to emigrate, we face the real prospect that the survival of the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land may soon be in danger. By ensuring the U.S. government stands firmly in support of peace and justice for all in the region, your administration can help ensure the Christian community, along with all in the Holy Land, can flourish.
- To prevent the situation from deteriorating, we ask President-elect Biden to publicly condemn the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, demonstrate restraint, actively seek the de-escalation of tensions, and support the expeditious return by both sides to the terms of the JCPOA. More threats, sanctions and use of military force will only further destabilize the region and result in the loss of precious human life on all sides.