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Harvard Professor Calls for One Thousand Minister Anti-Casino Conference

Members of Stand For Democracy gathered today for a press conference at Harvard University to support a call made by Professor Harvey Cox for a one thousand minister anti-casino conference to be held at Harvard this fall. Professor Cox is a world renowned theologian and academic who has spent the greater part of his life working on social justice and civil rights issues. “I am here, in part because this is my expression of my religious commitment, and I have been formed in my attitudes by a couple of people, one of them being Martin Luther King and more recently, Pope Francis ” Cox said.

Supporting Cox’s call for what would be the largest ever gathering of ecumenical and interfaith leaders at Harvard University were leaders from the Catholic, Lutheran, Latino Christian, and Muslim communities. Father Francisco Anzoategui of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said, “I am here to stand for the vision of Pope Francis, to stand for the poor…So, I am joining all of those across religions, religious beliefs, and faith communities and I will be here in September to join the effort of praying so that casinos are not expanded to Massachusetts”.

Imam Sherif Shabaka, who has long been a vocal leader in the Massachusetts anti-casino movement committed twenty other imams to participate in the fall conference. Other religious institutions, such as the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America, which oversees over 180 churches in the region, have already been working with Stand For Democracy to educate its congregants about the socials ills and misconceptions about the casino industry.

Furthermore, Stand For Democracy’s mission to give voice to those who have been marginalized in the democratic process was re-affirmed by Les Bernal, the national director for Stop Predatory Gambling. He said, “this public policy of sponsoring casinos is about cheating and exploiting citizens. This event today is part of a movement of everyday citizens and of faith leaders stepping forward and taking ownership of the direction of our country”. Professor Dan McKanan, an expert on religious movements working for social transformation echoed Bernal’s sentiments, saying “in a good society, we the people share the responsibility for doing together the things thing that none of us can do alone…The good news here today is that this press conference is about…the rebuilding of democracy through people coming together…democracy is being recreated in our midst”.

For nearly one year, members of Stand For Democracy have been quietly working outside of the public view to solidify its network of churches and to form a world class team of advisors. Advisors for Stand For Democracy include Cox, McKanan, and other faculty members at Harvard Divinity School and Kennedy School of Government such as Marshall Ganz who is credited with devising the successful grassroots organizing model and training for Barack Obama’s winning 2008 presidential campaign.

“Stand For Democracy has compiled a comprehensive network of churches throughout the commonwealth to connect with the incomparable level of strategic, intellectual, and experiential resources we have with our advisors”, said Pedro Morales, a founder of Stand For Democracy. “The one thousand minister conference called for by Professor Cox will ultimately mobilize thousands of volunteers to campaign against the casino this fall. Stand For Democracy has been sowing the seeds of justice throughout the whole commonwealth. The time is finally ripe for David to slay Goliath”, Morales continued. The one thousand minister conference will be held at Harvard in September, at a time to be determined shortly.

Source: Sunha Kim, Stand for Democracy, July 15, 2014
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