PRESS STATEMENTFor Immediate Release: March 27, 2019Contact: Hamp Price | firstname.lastname@example.org | (615) 241-0752
50+ Faith Leaders Meet with Lawmakers for First-Ever Day on the HillClergy and lay leaders from across traditions and nationalities join to advocate for treating all people with dignity and compassion on issues of immigration, healthcare, and housing
NASHVILLE, TN - More than 50 faith leaders representing nearly 20 countries gathered Tuesday to engage with elected officials about their values as Tennesseans and speak to the impact state legislation has on their congregations and communities during a first-of-its-kind Faith Leader Day on the Hill.
"In this current climate of divisive and hateful rhetoric, the need for moral leadership and humanizing conversations is incredibly important," said Emily Baird-Chrisohon, Welcoming Tennessee Coordinator at Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). "Faith leaders joined the voices of undocumented immigrants to bravely oppose dangerous bills at the legislature in a beautiful example of our community coming together to advocate for the protection, rights, and dignity of all Tennesseans."
Co-hosted by TIRRC, Tennessee Justice Center, and Open Table Nashville, the event centered on immigration, healthcare, and housing; priority issues for many communities of faith. These issues resonate with many traditions' central teachings on how to engage with and love one's neighbors.
"It's always good for people of faith to show up in their state legislature for lawmakers to hear what people of faith feel like is important for them to be considering," said Rev. Calvin Kimbrough, retired clergy from the United Methodist Church. "Especially in a place where there is not much recognition of the moral issues that are going on with all of this legislation."
Leaders met with more than thirty lawmakers and attended committee meetings hearing contentious legislation on Medicaid block grants (HB1280, passed to House Calendar & Rules Committee) and denying housing to undocumented Tennesseans (HB0614, sent to summer study).
"Before I was a Lutheran pastor I spent twenty years in the health insurance business, and I understand that health insurance is the key that opens the door for healthcare," said Rev. Matt Steinhauer, pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon, speaking on Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. "It's time to act. I'm really weary of coming across people in our community everyday who don't have healthcare when I know there is an answer to that problem that lays in the hands of our legislators."
Clergy also delivered a letter to Governor Bill Lee's office urging him to affirm the value of welcoming immigrants and refugees and denounce actions aimed at excluding these neighbors, congregants, and families from our state. The letter was signed by 80 faith leaders from across the state. Read the letter here.
"At Kiswahili Lutheran Mission and Christ Lutheran Church we serve the Swahili-speaking refugee and immigrant community from Africa and work with them in the challenges and struggles of their daily lives", said Rev. Dr. Esther Ngomuo, pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Kiswahili Lutheran Mission in Nashville and originally from Tanzania. "Refugees and immigrants have a right to affordable healthcare, housing, good jobs and better education that will help them to become good citizens and have better lives in their new home here in Tennessee."
More than 50 faith leaders representing nearly 20 countries gathered Tuesday to engage with elected officials about their values as Tennesseans and speak to the impact state legislation has on their congregations and communities during a first-of-its-kind Faith Leader Day on the Hill.
Immigrant and refugee faith leaders pray with members of the Governor's office staff after delivering a letter urging him to affirm the value of welcoming immigrants and refugees and denounce actions aimed at excluding these neighbors, congregants, and families from our state.
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States.