I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July and enjoyed meaningful time with friends and family. This holiday weekend was a time to celebrate the birth of our nation, and more importantly the ideals that helped give birth to our nation. Those founding principles should guide conduct in our daily lives and have tremendous relevancy today. Whether you were camping with friends, at a backyard BBQ or watching fireworks light up the night sky, it was a very special moment – a moment to remember those brave souls who sacrificed all so that we could enjoy our freedom. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. As you pause to reflect, I hope you and your loved ones are invigorated with the liberty we must protect and promote.
Mark your calendars! September 15th and 16th in Philadelphia.
Sponsors – would you like to sponsor students to attend the National Symposium in Philadelphia? Let us know. Student registration is only $25. Delegate registration is $79 and all others are $99 before August 15th. After that prices go up.
Spotlight on Partners
Veterans For American Ideals is an initiative that encourages veteran voices to join public policy discussions in a nonpartisan way. See this opportunity to learn more below. You do not need to be a veteran to participate in the webinar.
This one-hour webinar will provide you with a set of insights about some of the social, psychological, and neurological factors that make it so hard to push back divisive and hateful rhetoric. It will give you tips on how, in the face of some of these challenges, you can deliver messaging to most effectively push back on this negative speech and rhetoric and promote peace and inclusion. After an initial talk by Rachel Brown, author of Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech, we will open up for Questions and Answer.
Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues you think would appreciate FAV’s work, and of course, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday with family! Subscribe here.
On June 8th, FAV hosted grassroots training that focused on how to engage and recruit others on the issues surrounding the 1st Amendment. Delegates attended an all day training event which included lunch and a special guest appearance by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine – all with a breathtaking view of the Capitol building.
We would like to convey a special “Thank You” to our partners at the Global Peace Foundation, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Veterans For American Ideals, The Nation’s Mosque, the ADAMS Center, and Human Rights First for their support and commitment to educating others about first amendment freedoms. Also, thank you to partner organizations Heritage Foundation and FIRE each of whom sent a guest speaker. Every agencies’ contributions were extremely meaningful to the training.
Lastly, thank you to all the delegates who participated in the training to learn about freedom of speech on college campuses, religious liberty and member engagement using the ‘Coffee Talk’ model. We would love to spotlight your efforts and hope to hear from you about success stories on starting your own FAV – Coffee Talk programs.
Director, First Amendment Voice
Reflecting on Memorial Day, I can’t help but think back to those holidays celebrated in wartime. I want to share some of the themes we discussed when we paused from combat operations to remember our fallen and to reinvigorate the ranks to continue the mission. During the typical Memorial Day Ceremony, we would have a military chaplain provide the spiritual context for the event, offering a prayer. We would have special music and conduct a ceremonial remembrance of the fallen.
In Baghdad, on Memorial Day in 2007, we rang a bell 64 times and read the names of the fallen, both American and Iraqi. I would speak about the meaning of the sacrifices given by the fallen and why it was so important for the remainder of the task force to complete the mission and honor those sacrifices. I would say things like,
“We have already shed tears before tonight over their loss. We come together to celebrate their lives and rededicate ourselves to the mission they began. This service allows us to pause and recalibrate our own energy and sense of purpose to the greater good, so that we leave this gathering refreshed and oriented on principles that guide our daily actions and serve our souls.”
Then I would ask the soldiers to recall Memorial Day Ceremonies and parades from their childhood,
“I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are back home in New York, Indiana, Kansas, Florida, California, with your family. You are there at the parade with a daughter, niece, cousin, mother, aunt, uncle, brother waving a small flag, watching veterans, aged well beyond fighting years, march in step to a drum in front of horse drawn carriages. Close your eyes and smell the roasted peanuts, cotton candy, the aroma of an American parade. Smell the charcoal in the backyards of homes across the country as burgers cook. Listen to the sounds of children playing, water guns spraying, squealing with delight, not a care in the world. These sounds and smells and images of home are why you stand here today, so that others do not have to. These are only dreams to our Iraqi counterparts, in and out of uniform. But you and I know these dreams. We have lived them. That is why we stand here, protecting the cause of freedom and paying tribute to the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.”
Following the speech, we would solemnly listen to the names of the fallen.
”You will hear many names this evening. The fallen are listed by date of death, irrespective of rank, honoring the tradition of American officers and NCOs serving side by side with the soldiers they lead. They range in rank from Private First Class to full Colonel, and they also include our civilian friends and partners who have fallen with us. Their sacrifice proves what the Soldier has known for time immemorial, that freedom is earned. Those of us gathering at FOB Justice tonight know this truth all too well, as we continue to sacrifice in honor of those who have gone before and in the hope that those standing with us can be free men and women. They can be free of persecution because of religious beliefs, because of their accent, or because of the color of their skin. These names represent some of the finest warriors our nation has to offer and our enduring commitment to the good people of Iraq.”
As citizens of the United States and delegates and members of the First Amendment Voice alliance, I hope these words will inspire you to understand the depth of commitment those in uniform devote to our Constitution and the freedoms we each enjoy. You have a role to play as well. One where you actively exercise your first amendment rights as a citizen. You exercise your freedom of speech, freedom of religion, you support a free press and the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for grievance. These are rights bestowed by our Creator and fought for by the Founding Fathers. Current and future generations of Americans and our partners continue to fight and bleed for these rights. We, as citizens, owe it to them to understand and exercise those rights. Democracy requires this minimum standard of its citizens. That is the only way we will thrive as a nation. We each carry a small portion of the flame of liberty within us. Help keep it alive through your active participation.
This high-level town hall during the First Amendment National Symposium examined the theme discuss “Inclusive Ways Forward.” Participants included Senator Stuart Adams from Utah, Mr. James Flynn, International President of the Global Peace Foundation, Bishop Juan Carlson Mendez, founder of Churches in Action, and Rev. Herb Lusk, II of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Dr. Robert Schuller moderated the discussion.
The Symposium was broken down into three separate, yet inter-related components:
Friday Night Opening Program
Saturday Symposium hosted at the National Constitution Center
Sunday a ‘Call to Prayer & Action’ hosted by Rev. Dr. Herb Lusk, II at Greater Exodus Baptist Church of Philadelphia.
The Symposium was the platform for FAV to move from Phase one, creation, educational and material development, strategic stakeholder commitments, and training sessions, to Phase two, the creation of a national alliance.
First Amendment Voice panel included (left to right) Dr Paul Murray, vice-president of Global Peace Foundation USA, Stanley Carlson-Theis, founder of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, Chelsea Langston-Bombino, Director of Membership and Equipping for the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance , Ted Hoppe, and attorney in Pennsylvania, Peter Bonilla, has been with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
The Symposium’s agenda opened with a plenary that asked speaker’s to address “The First Amendment and Current Issues.” The panel represented, academic, religious, and legal backgrounds and spoke clearly to each of the four components of the First Amendment. Participants were then divided into four groups where they responded to three questions with concepts and processes that could be used in resolving or addressing the identified issues.
A town hall at the First Amendment National Symposium included (left to right) Senator Stuart Adams from Utah, Bishop Juan Carlson Mendez, founder of Churches in Action, Dr. Robert Schuller, who served as the town hall moderator, Rev. Herb Lusk, II of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church and Mr. James Flynn, International President of the Global Peace Foundation, to discuss “Inclusive Ways Forward.”
A high-level Town Hall Meeting was then convened and live streamed across three separate organizational sites. Dr. Robert Schuller served as the moderator. Senator Stuart Adams of Utah, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez, Rev. Dr. Herb Lusk, II and Jim Flynn all addressed the challenges, concerns, and implications that our nation is facing around the First Amendment.
The symposium concluded with a ceremonial presentation of the second phase of FAV – the establishment of an alliance. The eleven States represented and delegates who stood in support, solidarity, and affirmation for the alliance and its initiatives where:
The official launch of Phase Two of First Amendment Voice included 11 regions around the United States.
District of Columbia
Four platforms were identified as processes and efforts for the FAV Alliance. They are:
Through an established network, bring individuals/groups together as one voice of advocacy with a focus on a developing or current major issue(s).
Through the establishment of a Young Leader’s Advisory Committee, educate Millennials on First Amendment rights and its application to citizenship in the American Democratic Republic where they transition into an advocacy movement.
Engage people and organizations of different faiths, religions & races in order to reclaim religious freedom and rights to express the same as a positive force in society. Building upon a Community-2-Community model which provides monthly forums and/or gatherings.
Convene civic education and engagement through a religious liberties platform by building upon the historical model of the Civil Rights work to aid the social justice movement as they address the growing racial disparities and divide in our nation.
[Not a valid template]The First Amendment Voice National Symposium held on September 16-18 in Philadelphia, drew experts, political and religious leaders from all over the United States to address current challenges to First Amendment liberties. the symposium formally launched the First Amendment Coalition.
September 16th-18th is a national weekend of prayer for the nation commemorating Constitution Day.
If you can’t be there, make sure toTUNE IN to the Live Stream on September 17.
This year, JOIN First Amendment Voice in Philadelphia for a national forum where stakeholders can become involved in advocating for our First Amendment Freedoms. Engage with other like-minded leaders from across this nation in vital discussions and hear from key leaders and defenders of the First Amendment. The forum will include a high-level Town Hall Forum and conclude in celebrating our Constitutional ideals.
If you are a FAV stakeholder already, you get a discounted admission of $79. The regular registration is $149 after August 15th.
For added perspective on the challenges of policing and interactions in African American neighborhoods, FAV recommends Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside book. Leovy adds a new voice to understanding a way forward for America with respect to police forces and violence.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or Abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”