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JOINT BAPTIST BOARD MEETING POINTS OF AGREED ACTION

The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA), National Baptist


Convention of America, Inc. (NBCA), Progressive National Baptist Convention,
Inc. (PNBC), and National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (NMBCA),
meeting jointly in Nashville, Tennessee the week of January 24-27, 2005, hereby
jointly, through their Presidents, affirm the following points of agreed action that
stem from the Forum Sessions presented during our meeting.

WE CALL FOR AN END TO THE WAR IN IRAQ AND WITHDRAWAL


OF U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL FROM IRAQ

The war in Iraq, described by the Department of Defense as Operation Iraqi


Freedom, is a costly and unnecessary military action begun on grossly inaccurate,
misconstrued, or distorted intelligence against a nation that did not pose an
immediate or realistic threat to the national security of our nation. No weapons of
mass destruction have been discovered in Iraq despite intense efforts to locate
them. The brutal regime of Saddam Hussein and its terror on Iraqi society has
been replaced by the brutality and chaos of an ongoing war which has ravaged the
land, ransacked cherished aspects of Iraqi history and culture, and threatens the
prospect of what even U.S. intelligence analysts fear could be civil war.

More than 1400 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives and more than
10,000 have been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over 5000 of the
wounded casualties have been severe enough to prevent return to action.
According to a front page story in the January 26, 2005 issue of USA TODAY, the
“administration said the Iraq war is costing $4.3 billion a month …” As National
Baptists, we look upon the sorrow, suffering, and financial cost of the war in
Iraq and remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a black Baptist
preacher who challenged the military engagement in Vietnam more than two
generations ago. King’s call that we admit the wicked and tragic folly about
our self-righteous choice for war rather than peace and nonviolent change
reminds us that preference for war always reflects wrong values. Unnecessary
and unjust war does not produce genuine peace, only death, suffering, more
Joint Baptist Board Meeting Points of Agreed Action
January 2005

violence, and hate. What King said in 1967 when he began his public outcry
against the war in Vietnam is still true:

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of
war: ‘This business of settling differences is not just.’ This business of ...
filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous
drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home
from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and
psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and
love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on
military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual
death. ... There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from
reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence
over the pursuit of war.”

As religious leaders whose constituents have family members in the U.S. armed
forces serving in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, we pray for the security
of our nation and the safety of our military personnel. We weep with families
who mourn the deaths of their loved ones and we share the anxiety of families
concerning the well-being of those who press on in service. Our call that our
nation end its military involvement in Iraq does not rise from lack of support
for our armed forces, disregard for national security, or lack of resolve
concerning freedom and democracy. Rather, we are concerned about our
troops and our military families whose loved ones have been ordered to fight
and stay in a war that our leaders refuse to even send their own children and
the children of wealthy families to fight. Again, we quote Dr. King’s words:

I am as deeply concerned about our troops there [Vietnam] as


anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them
to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any
war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding
cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short
period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are
really involved. Before long they must know that their government
has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more
sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and
the secure while we create a hell for the poor.

The war in Iraq is not only creating a hell for the poor in Iraq. The grief and
suffering it has wrought have been disproportionately forced onto the lives of poor

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Joint Baptist Board Meeting Points of Agreed Action
January 2005

and struggling families in our nation. These families, far more than those who are
wealthy, send their loved ones to serve as members of the active force or as
reservists and members of the National Guard. It is not just or patriotic for our
leaders to thrust the sons and daughters of low income families into unnecessary
military engagements.

We call for President George W Bush and the United States Congress to
immediately enact and sign into law an extension of the Voting Rights Act of
1965, to include the preclearance provisions of the VRA.

It is ironic, to say the least, that while U.S. military personnel face the
hazards of war in Iraq and the administration intends to seek Congressional
appropriation to spend billions more in that engagement, there is no effort
underway to extend the provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 that
are scheduled to expire in 2007. Dr. King and other principled people of good will
from across the racial, religious, economic, and political landscape struggled in the
face of police brutality, bomb threats, hate campaigns, and even murder to bring
substance to the right to vote guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment. Yet, each
election cycle reveals disturbing evidence of continued and deliberate efforts to
intimidate, discourage, or suppress voting by people of color, senior citizens, and
people of limited income and impaired physical ability. Democracy in the United
States deserves, at least, as much attention as democracy abroad.

We declare our opposition to the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as


Attorney General of the United States.

Honest moral values call people of integrity to denounce hypocrisy. Our


government would be quick to protest and insist that the time-honored principles
for humane treatment contained in the Geneva Conventions be followed by others
if Americans prisoners were mistreated. It is nothing short of hypocrisy for our
government to now be making perverted excuses so we can inflict mental and
physical abuses and otherwise mistreat prisoners we hold.

We do not oppose Alberto Gonzales on account of his Hispanic background or his


life history of successful educational and professional achievements. We
oppose his involvement in crafting a double standard concerning decent treatment
for captured persons in the war on terror. Cruelty is not moral or just no matter
who tries to give it legal sanction. Therefore, we urge members of the United
States Senate to vote against confirmation of Gonzales.

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We declare our full commitment to the public education system and our
conviction that public education is threatened by deliberate attempts to
divert public monies and resources to private schools.

We are wholeheartedly opposed to the effort to privatize public education


and believe the Bush Administration Leave No Child Behind Law fails to
address the needs of children in public schools across the nation.
Administration measures aimed at granting tuition vouchers to private
schools paid for with tax revenue and charter school incentives that divert
governmental support from public schools to private schools threaten to
undermine the public education system. We call on governmental leaders to
reinvest in public education, not divest funds from it in favor of private
schools.

We consider efforts to undermine the safety net for poor children


through block grants, budget cuts, caps, or freezes in child health care
programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance
Program (CHIP) immoral.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, there are 9 million children


without health coverage who need it now. Yet, Medicaid and the Children’s
Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provide essential health coverage
and benefits to more than 30 million children, face threats from block grants,
budget cuts, and waivers.

We call for an end to the prison-industrial complex trend.

Across the nation, a prison-industrial complex has grown whereby prison


construction, operation, and administration have been privatized to an
increasing extent, Although recidivism remains as great a reality as ever,
states continue to invest more revenue in constructing prisons and
maintaining them than in building and staffing new schools. We call for
elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing and oppose efforts to
privatize prison operations and administration. To address the problem of
recidivism, our states should reclaim incarcerated persons by a system of
education and job retraining.
Joint Baptist Board Meeting Points of Agreed Action
January 2005

We oppose effort to make tax cuts passed in recent years permanent.

The federal minimum wage has not changed for more than a decade.
Even working people earning minimum wage find themselves stuck in
poverty due to rising prices for food, health care, and fuel. At every turn,
efforts to invest more government funds in education, health care, and other
measures designed to lift people from poverty and contribute to an overall
improvement in their lives are being met with the response that the federal
fiscal situation and deficit prevents such wise investments. For these
reasons, it is clear to us that the nation cannot afford to make the tax cuts
permanent that were enacted in recent years.

We call for a national living wage.

Poverty in the United States is especially deplorable when one


considers that this nation currently spends $4.3 billion each month,
according to White House figures released this week, on the war in Iraq. A
nation that can afford to spend more than $200 billion dollars in a misguided
war that has caused more than 1400 American deaths, more than 10,000
American injuries, and countless loss of life and property in Iraq can afford a
national living wage for its own people. Therefore, we hereby issue this
collective call for a national living wage.

We call on national leaders to address and invest in aid relief and


development concerning the nations of Africa, the Carribean, and
Central and South America, to include increased relief to combat the
AIDS pandemic.

Even as we join the global relief effort for victims of the recent
earthquake and tsunami in Asia, we note with sadness the continued
discounting of even greater suffering in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and
South America, and other places of the black Diaspora. According to some
reports, as many as 250,000 lives have been lost in the recent tsunami.
However, as many as 2,000,000 lives have been lost in Sudan due to war and
famine. Haiti, a nation in our own hemisphere within two hours of Miami,
Florida (by commercial air travel), suffers from abject poverty, suffering,
disease, and despair at the very door step of the most wealthy nation on
earth. As religious leaders, we urge our national leaders to give equal
development and aid support to global suffering in black nations rather than

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Joint Baptist Board Meeting Points of Agreed Action
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intimate by their actions, that black suffering is somehow not as deserving of


relief and black aspirations for development not as deserving to support.

As leaders of our respective bodies whose constituents total almost 15


million black persons, we will continue to work together on these and other
issues of common concern.