As United Methodists, we are called to put our faith into action. One way to do this is by advocating for laws that bring justice and wholeness to all of God’s people. See a collection of tools for Legislative Advocacy.
In this legislative season, go to www.openstates.org to find your legislators. Then call, email, and write letters. Please consider expressing your viewpoints to lawmakers on the following proposed legislation:
United Methodists throughout the state of Maryland are encouraged to contact their legislators to express their support for HB 638/SB624 Ghost Guns. The Maryland House of Delegates will have a committee hearing on this bill March 1, 2021. Join advocates across the state of Maryland, and contact your legislators to ask for their support for HB 638/SB624. Read the text of the bill.
Ghost guns-- guns made from easy-to-assemble kits sold online -- do not have serial numbers and are often used to evade background checks. Experts believe they are fueling the increase in city crime. Maryland House Bill HB638/Senate Bill SB624 would require that a purchaser of the key portion of a firearm kit, the unfinished receiver, be subject to the same standards as that of a firearm purchaser, i.e., they must possess a valid license. Thus, a person who is otherwise prohibited from purchasing a firearm would not be allowed to circumvent Maryland’s gun laws by making the firearm themselves. In addition, the legislation would improve the ability to trace kit guns used in crimes by establishing a procedure and requirement for the serialization of the unfinished receiver. Both neighborhood survivors and law enforcement believe there are too many unregistered guns on our city streets. This would be a step to stop that.
The United Methodist Book of Resolutions (2016) states that as followers of Jesus, called to live into the reality of God’s dream of shalom as described by Micah, we must address the epidemic of gun violence so “that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.” United Methodists are called to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context. Maryland HB638/SB624 will address many of these concerns – by requiring a serial number on the unfinished receiver and requiring a license, this bill will prevent persons convicted of violent crimes or domestic abuse, and persons who are under age from circumventing these requirements by using an unregistered “ghost gun”. The bill still allows hobbyists to continue legally making guns so long as they obtain a serial number and license. The bill will also improve methods for law enforcement to trace guns used in crimes. (Book of Resolutions #3428, paragraph 10.8). [Posted March 1, 2021]
- Ghost Guns- Feb 22 Webinar can be seen here: https://zoom.us/rec/share/7lNTboMBJsPwc5TSmopeSga8ayv1o8U73NNP8syZx6ur_RrFYAG-dV-slAZnNU5z.AbKwE8SJ_t437tEc. Access Passcode: 6GZl!vCN
Housing Justice Package
Ask your legislator to vote in favor of the 2021 Housing Justice Package. Attorney General Brian Frosh and several state legislators are sponsoring a package of housing justice legislation to protect renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 emergency, and to overhaul the eviction process to protect renters at all times, not just during states of emergency. This package of bills will reduce dramatically Maryland’s 650,000 case volume of evictions. Learn more.
Safe and stable housing has far reaching economic, health, and social benefits to individuals, families, and communities, and is key to reducing racial inequities. However, currently many are facing increased economic hardship, evictions, foreclosures, and the extreme threat to health resulting from housing instability during the pandemic.
As United Methodists, “we affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God…” (and) “we support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing…” (Social Principles, Paragraph 162).
Attorney General Brian Frosh and several state legislators are sponsoring a package of housing justice legislation to protect renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 emergency, and to overhaul the eviction process to protect renters at all times, not just during states of emergency The package of bills will offer emergency protections to both renters and homeowners. Bills will prioritize rental assistance and mediated repayment plans and will refashion the courts as a hub for financial, social and legal service providers to engage litigants before eviction occurs. Furthermore, this legislation will establish and fund a right to a lawyer in all eviction actions and will give judges discretion to send cases to mediation or to delay eviction for humanitarian reasons. This package of bills will reduce dramatically Maryland’s 650,000 case volume of evictions. [Posted March 1, 2021]
Police Reform Legislation
During the week of March 1, the Senate will begin debating police reform on the Senate floor. The legislation was introduced to the Senate for the first time after months of work in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. You can hear that introduction and run through of every bill in this package approximately 20 minutes into the floor proceeding recording. [Posted March 1, 2021]
SB0071 Police Officers - Testimony - Presumption of Inadmissibility (Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021)
Show Support for Law Enforcement Accountability and Strict Limits on Lethal Force
While we recognize the need for law enforcement, we also recognize an immediate need for standards of conduct that will include strict limits on lethal force.
In her Juneteenth March for Freedom and Justice demands, Bishop Easterling asked lawmakers to stop the over-policing, dehumanization and criminalization of black people and communities of color, referring to Resolution 3329 - Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the US and Resolution 5031 - Humanizing Criminal Justice from the United Methodist Book of Resolutions. Bishop Easterling emphasized that "police departments publicly establish standards of police conduct," and "standards must include strict limits on the deadly use of force."
United Methodists throughout the state of Maryland are encouraged to contact their legislators to express their support for HB 139/SB 626 Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force.
Maryland is one of nine states without legal limits on how officers use force, according to Joe Spielberger, public policy counsel with the ACLU of Maryland. This bill would hold officers accountable so they only use force when absolutely necessary (https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2021-01-13/criminal-justice/police-reform-bills-highlight-start-of-md-general-assembly/a72788-1). The bill defines lethal force as any force that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury, whether or not intended to cause death or serious physical injury. The bill lists ten examples of lethal force, including strikes to the head and neck and any contact with the neck that might inhibit breathing or blood flow.
As United Methodists, we have witnessed racism and the "power to dominate by one race over other races" and we have witnessed the "disparate treatment and lack of full access to resources and opportunities ... in society based on race or ethnicity;" as United Methodists, we "recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons"; as United Methodists, "we commend and encourage the self-awareness of all racial and ethnic groups and oppressed people that leads them to demand their just and equal rights as members of society" (Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, Paragraph 162, A).
Join advocates across the state of Maryland, and contact your legislators to ask for their support for HB 139/SB 626. [Posted Feb. 18, 2021]
Go to www.openstates.org to find your legislators. Then call, email, and write letters.
Support the Trust Act(SB88/HB304), an immigration bill
United Methodists are called to advocate for the Trust Act (SB88/HB304), an immigration bill now being addressed by Maryland lawmakers. The Trust Act seeks to restore trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community by stopping the partnership between the state and ICE. Learn more. [Posted Feb. 18, 2021]