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"Justice We Pursue" Blog

Faithful Voices in the Public Square

January 28, 2016
6:30pm - 8:30pm
St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral
519 Oak Grove St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Join us for a screening of the film "Sisters of Selma" followed by a community conversation on the ways in which Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths continue to call people to the work of justice. Sr. Barbara Moore, CSJ, who is featured in the film will be joining us along with other local voices. This interfaith event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jennifer Nelson at (612) 230-3232 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sponsored by JRLC and the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet.

Whether it is the lights twinkling on Christmas trees, the small flames of the Menorah candles, or the stars that emerge as the night descends upon us in the early evening, this is the season of light emerging in the darkness. That commemoration of light that pierces the darkness can also be seen in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic commemorations occurring this time of year.

Jewish communities recently observed Hanukkah, during which they celebrate a time when a small group of Jews drove out a mighty army to reclaim the Temple then experienced the miracle of Temple menorah (candelabra) continuing to burn for 8 nights when it only had enough oil for one night.

This year, Mawlid an-Nabi, the Islamic commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad also falls during this time of year. Muslims revere the Prophet Muhammad as the final messenger and greatest prophet of God who brought them the light of revelation in their holy text, the Qu’ran.

Christians are soon to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is sometimes referred to as “the Light of the World.” They believe him to be the Son of God who is one with God, being both fully human and fully divine. He is viewed as the greatest expression of God’s love to humanity.

While we commemorate these spiritual expressions of light, we can’t ignore that our world often seems full of darkness. We read of war, murder, injustice, division, and discrimination. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So we look to these points of light to maintain hope.

Here at JRLC we are in the business of seeking legislative justice. We strive to join together for the common good in spite of our differences in order to build a stronger Minnesota. In essence this is also an act of bringing light into places of darkness – working to eliminate the darkness of inequity and injustice in our state policies.

As a new year is nearly upon us, we hope that whatever your tradition is, you take the time to pause from the chaos of the world and busyness of daily life to reflect on the hope that occurs when a point of light disrupts the darkness. Look for ways to be a bearer of that light. Carry it to the places of darkness within our communities.  In the words of St. Francis of Assisi…

“All the darkness in the world, cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

In order to foster interfaith understanding and continued common work for justice, we are publishing this statement written by JRLC Board Member Owais Bayunus.

To all my friends and friends of Muslims,

The incident that has happened in [San Bernardino] California must be a devastating thing that has happened to all Americans in general, and, specifically, to over 99.99% Muslims living in the USA. No words can sufficiently denounce the inhuman killing of innocent people as has happened.

The worst nightmare for American Muslims has come true at the worst time; it's the perfect storm. In this election year, when anti-Muslim rhetoric is already at an all-time high, when some people talk of putting a Muslim symbol on every Muslim so that they may be recognized (like in WWII), and some compare some Muslims as mad dogs. A disgusting inhuman attack has taken place on American soil and the suspects are so-called Muslims. So now we, 7-8 million American Muslims, will all be viewed with suspicion in this country that we love and that we call home and will be the home our children and grand children. We Muslims cannot simply grieve for the victims, like everyone else, but must now live in fear of an Islamaphobic backlash; we fear for our safety and lives. 

To my Muslim friends, especially those who dress visibly as Muslims, please be extra safe as you go about your day-to-day lives and try not to walk alone. To my friends of other faiths, please we need your help in informing the public that 99.99% of America's Muslims are not extremists.

Such violent incidence coming from a very very small minority undermines the message of peace given by the very large majority of Muslims and Islam. I can only quote and believe what Qur'an says,' If you kill a single person for no mischief it is as if you have killed all humanity. If you have saved the life of an innocent person you have saved all mankind" (Qur'an 5-83).

We join with our American brothers and sisters, whatever religion and ethnicity they belong to, to condemn such acts and would very strongly request our agencies to probe and find the real reason behind their act and their motivations. 

Owais Bayunus, Past President & Director of Interfaith
Islamic Center of Minnesota

“Governing for the common good” is a phrase we toss around a lot at JRLC. It is often used as a standard that we use to measure our elected officials. But we also use the term as a standard for active citizens – members of the public who step up to govern in many places, both formal and informal.

We govern for the common good when we serve on neighborhood or congregation committees. We govern inside our families, workplaces, associations, and governments. We govern anywhere we make decisions on “How are we to live together?”

A wonderful group of eight people have stepped forward to lead the transition process at JRLC and guide us into a new era of powerful social justice work. This is the work of governing and it will sometimes be lofty, sometimes mundane, sometimes frustrating, sometimes joyous. Isn’t that the way with active citizenship and public life? JRLC’s Transition Team is just another example of justice-minded Minnesota folks giving of their time, energy, and expertise in order to govern for the common good.

Please hold this Team in your prayers as they work hard for the next several months! They are:

Patrice Critchley-Menor, Chair, Minnesota Catholic Conference
Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota
George Burbie, Minnesota Council of Churches
Sally Lorberbaum, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
Doug Mitchell, Minnesota Council of Churches
Bob Rubinyi, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
Ashraf Siddiqui, Islamic Center of Minnesota
Jessica Zittlow, Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition has been an effective interfaith public policy organization for 43 years. This Transition Team now takes up the task of insuring that, for many years to come, JRLC speaks to essential public questions: What is a good society? What makes for a healthy community? What is my obligation to my neighbors? How do we govern ourselves for the common good?

Brian Rusche, executive director

This letter, signed by 127 religious leaders, was delivered to Governor Dayton and all Minnesota Legislators on May 12th in the midst of budget and conference committee negotiations. The letter was drafted in cooperation with Catholic Charities, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, and the Prosperity for All Campaign. Over 100 signatories were obtained in 3 days.

May 12, 2015

Dear Governor Dayton, Speaker Daudt, Leader Bakk and all Minnesota Lawmakers,

First, thank you for your efforts to protect the dignity of all Minnesotans. This principle is central to our public life and in the work of Minnesota’s faith communities. We stand with you to accomplish even more, so that every Minnesotan feels the effect of justice-inspired public policies and a true prosperity for all.

With some urgency, we are writing because we sense there may be a “parting of the Red Sea” with respect to raising the basic cash assistance level for poor families participating in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). As you know, and as anti-poverty advocates and those experiencing poverty are acutely aware, the basic MFIP cash assistance has not been raised since 1986, and has been stuck at $532 for a family of three despite nearly thirty years of rising costs for housing, food, transportation, and other basic needs.

We are encouraged that both the Governor’s Supplemental Budget and the Senate’s Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill include a $100 per month increase in the basic MFIP cash assistance.

As leaders in the faith community, we work every day with our congregations responding to Minnesotans in need who are looking for pathways out of poverty. We see heroic efforts on the part of families to secure work and to provide for their children. To maximize all of our efforts, we strongly urge you to act this year and pass a $100 per month increase in the MFIP basic cash assistance. Please remember, about 70 percent of MFIP recipients are children.

Our support for a cash assistance increase recalls the early creation of MFIP and the social contract that we Minnesotans laid forth: expect work, support work, and reward work. It simply is no longer possible to support or reward work with an ever-shrinking 30 year-old cash assistance amount that serves to trap families in deep poverty.

Please seize this historic opportunity to raise the MFIP cash assistance level by $100 per month this year. Together, let us protect human dignity, fight poverty, reward work, and build prosperity for all.


Judicatory, Statewide, and Regional Leadership

Mr. Jason Adkins, Minnesota Catholic Conference

Bishop Jon Anderson, Southwestern Minnesota Synod - ELCA

Mr. Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota

Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, Minnesota Council of Churches

Ms. Patrice Critchley-Menor Diocese of Duluth, Duluth

Rev. Robert T Cuthill, Presbytery of Twin Cities Area

Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner, Diocese of Crookston

Mr. Steve Hunegs, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas

Bishop John M. LeVoir, Diocese of New Ulm

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Minnesota Conference - United Methodist Church

Rev. Sharon Prestemon, Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ

Bishop John M. Quinn, Diocese of Winona

Mr. Brian Rusche, Joint Religious Legislative Coalition

Ms. Lee Stuart, CHUM, Duluth

President Noya Woodrich, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches


Congregation and Faith Community Leadership

Dr. Larry J Alderink, St Luke Presbyterian Church, Wayzata

Rabbi Morris J. Allen, Beth Jacob Congregation, Mendota Heights

Rev. Laurie Boche, Hope United Methodist Church, Duluth

Ms. Nancy Bratrud, Minnesota Friends, Preston

Rev. Richard Buller, Valley Community Presbyterian Church, Golden Valley

Rev. Sarah Campbell, Mayflower United Church of Christ, Minneapolis

Rev. David Carlson, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Duluth

Rev. David E. Cobb, Spirit of Joy Christian Church, Lakeville

Ms. Courtney Mae Cochran,Duluth-Superior Friends Meeting, Duluth

Rev. Dr. James E. Cook, Valley Community Presbyterian Church, Golden Valley

Rev. Anita Cummings Presbyterian Church of the Way, Shoreview

Rabbi Alexander Davis, Beth El Synagogue, St. Louis Park

Rev. Michael A DeKraai, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, Duluth

Pastor Doug Donley, University Baptist Church, Minneapolis

Rev. Dave Donnay, OSC, Crosier Community, Onamia

Pastor Laurie Eaton, Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Pastor Jerome Evavold, Trinity Lutheran Church, Duluth

Rabbi Jeremy Fine, Temple of Aaron, St. Paul

Rev. Meghan K. Gage-Finn, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis

Pastor Mark Fugere, Salem Evangelical Free Church, Moorhead

Rev. Buff Grace, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Stillwater

Rev. William C. Graham, St Michael Parish, Duluth

Pastor Josias Hansen Third Way Church, St. Paul

Rev. Cheryl Harder, Trinity Episcopal, Hermantown

Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis

Rabbi Hayim Herring, Herring Consulting Network, Minneapolis

Mr. Noah Hobbs, Our Savior's Lutheran, Duluth

Rev. T. Ewen Holmes, Plymouth Presbyterian Church, Plymouth

Rev. Alfred Joseph Hopwood, Saints Martha & Mary Episcopal Church, Eagan

Rev. Eliot N Howard, Linden Hills United Church of Christ, Minneapolis

Ms. Jane Jarnis, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Duluth

Rev. Dr. Vaughn R. Jefferson, Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, Maplewood

Rev. Timothy M. Johnson, Cherokee Park United Church, Saint Paul

Rev. Bruce Johnson, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Duluth

Rev Deborah Kielsmeier, Christ Presbyterian, Edina

Rev. Judith Allen Kim, Westminster Presbyterian, Excelsior

Rev. Brian Konkol, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter

Ms. Linda Kotschevar, First United Methodist of the St. Cloud Region, Waite Park

Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Minnetonka

Rev. Mark Kuether, Congregational United Church of Christ, Detroit Lakes

Rev. Mary Leisman, North Presbyterian Church, Oak Park Heights

Rev. David M Liddle, Westminster Presbyterian, Minneapolis

Rev. Robert Lundberg, Presbyterian Homes & Services, Eden Prairie

Mr. Malcolm Macaulay, St. Michaels Catholic Lakeside, Duluth

Ms. Patti Maguire, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Duluth

Rev. Catherine Malotky, Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina

Rev. Barbara Martin, Union Congregational UCC, St. Louis Park

Rev. Dr. Edwin Martin, Westminster Presbyterian, Burnsville

Rev. Dr. Margaret McCray, Westminster Counseling Center, Minneapolis

Ms. Lisa McDonald, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Moorhead

Ms. Shivon Miller, Trinity Lutheran, Duluth

Rev. Doug Mitchell, Westminster Presbyterian, Minneapolis

Ms. Lucy Mungai, Messiah Church, Minneapolis

Rev. Jen Nagel, Salem English Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Ms. Vivian Jenkins Nelsen, Westminster Presbyterian, Minneapolis

Rev. Kathryn Nelson, Peace United Church of Christ, Duluth

Mr. Jake Nelson, St Michael's Catholic Church, Duluth

Rev. Dr. Paula Nordhem, Spirit of Joy Disciples of Christ, Burnsville

Rev. Helen O'Brien, St. Paul Mennonite Fellowship, St. Paul

Rev. Ellen O'Neill, Peace United Church of Christ, Duluth

Rev. Clay Oglesbee, United Methodist District Superintendent, Northfield

Pastor Craig Pederson, Grace Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Pastor Melissa Pohlman, Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Rev. Riz Prakasim, New Life Presbyterian Church, Roseville

Pastor Gwin Pratt, St. Luke Presbyterian Church, Wayzata

Rev. Dr. Robyn Provis, Salem Evangelical Lutheran, Minneapolis

Rev. Ingrid Rasmussen, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Minneapolis

Ms. Linda Riddle, St. Mark AME, Duluth

Rev. Paul G. Rider, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, Mankato

Rev. Don Rudrud, Calvary Lutheran, Minneapolis

Pastor Joetta Schlabach, Faith Mennonite Church, Minneapolis

Rev. Dean Seal, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, Chaska

Pastor Joy Smith, Presbyterian Church of the Apostles, Burnsville

Rev. Robert Smith, Spirit of Life Presbyterian, Apple Valley

Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, Mount Zion Temple, St. Paul

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian, Chaska

Dr. Don Streufert, First Lutheran, Duluth

Pastor Jeff Teeples, Hawley Lutheran Church, Hawley

Rabbi Adam Titcher, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Minnetonka

Mr. Matt Traynor, Peace Church, Duluth

Ms. Shannon Wagner, CHUM, Duluth

Rev. Jason Wahlstrom, Holy Nativity Lutheran Church, New Hope

Rev. Deborah Walkes, Vineyard United Methodist Church, Hutchinson

Pastor Gary Walpole, Peace United Methodist Church, Shoreview

Rev. Wayne Walther, Woodbury-Peaceful Grove United Methodist, Red Wing

Rev. H G Wardlaw Jr, House of Hope Presbyterian, St. Paul

Rev. Suzanne Wasilczuk, Mesabi Unitarian Universalist Church, Virginia

Rev. Marilyn (Casey) Wells, Central Presbyterian, Saint Paul

Rabbi David Wirtschafter, Temple Israel, Minneapolis

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel, Minneapolis

President Renee Zurn, Holy Rosary Society St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth


Retired and Independent Clergy, and Lay Leaders

Rev. Lindsay Biddle, Saint Louis Park

Ms. Sharon Binger, Stillwater

Rev. Dr. John R. Buzza, Saint Paul

Ms. Joann Chesser, Duluth

Ms. Alice Delawyer, Our Saviors Lutheran, Duluth

Ms. Jean Esler, Holy Family Catholic, Duluth

Mrs. Sharon Grugel, St. Joseph’s Parish, Moorhead

Rev. Dr. Sheila Gustafson, Oak Park Heights

Rev. Robert Hamilton, Northfield

Rev. Keith Homstad, Northfield

Rev. Robert Hudnut, Cottage Grove

Ms. Charlotte Juntunen, First Lutheran, Duluth

Mr. Charles Keller, St. Joseph’s Parish, Moorhead

Ms. Lorene Liddle, Westminster Presbyterian, Minneapolis

Rev. Robert E. Lucas, Edina

Rev. Richard Lundy, Excelsior

Ms. Kim Randolph, McGregor

Rev. Dr. Mary Bigelow McMillan, Roseville

Rev. Elizabeth Raitt, Woodbury

Rev. Gale Robb, St. Paul