Janelle joined Sojourners in 2012, first as a Campaigns Assistant in the Cycle 29 intern class and as Online Organizing Associate until 2015. Before coming to Sojourners, Janelle worked with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Janelle grew up in the DC area. She first became interested in social justice in her (Catholic) high school religion class, which focused heavily on nonviolent movements in India and El Salvador. She chose to act on that passion by studying international relations at American University; an internship at MCC’s Washington Office sparked a deeper interest in policy advocacy.
Janelle lives in Hyattsville with her husband Frank and their fluffy cat Maggie, and attends Hyattsville Mennonite Church. She loves board games, good beer, craft projects, long walks, and pretty much anything else you might throw at her.
While Janelle doesn’t remember how she first heard about Sojourners, her mother grew up in a household that got The Post-American so perhaps it runs in the blood.
Posts By This Author
The REAL War on Christmas: Congress’ Budget Negotiations
There is some good stuff on the God’s Politics blog this week encouraging Christians to drop their concern about the “war on Christmas.” It’s a good idea. However, as we’re getting over our huff about “Happy Holidays,” we’d like to shift your attention to the real war on Christmas: the priorities of Washington politicians that are fundamentally at odds with the hope, love, joy, and peace celebrated by Christians during the Advent season.
As political leaders engage in negotiations to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” we need them to preserve programs that reduce poverty and keep our families healthy. Unfortunately, House Speaker John Boehner and others in Congress are pushing to cut programs for the poor and vulnerable, while protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
Let’s Get Wonky: Why the U.N. is Stuck on Climate
Delegates from around the world are meeting in Doha, Qatar this month to discuss United Nations’ climate policy. In the past, these meetings were a source of hope for the environmental movement, as governments came together and committed to reducing emissions to collectively try to halt climate change.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
Remember the Kyoto Protocol? Even though the reductions it mandated were nowhere near what’s required for us to reverse the trend we’ve started, we haven’t even come close to achieving those reductions. Oh yeah, and the United States didn’t even sign it.
The Protocol is expiring this year, and the U.N. Framework Commission on Climate Change (the body that created the Protocol — stick with me here) is trying in Doha to extend it for a couple years until they can reach an agreement on how to move forward.
So what’s holding the discussions back?
Ugandan Parliament Re-Introduces Gay Death Penalty - What Can Christians Do?
The Ugandan Parliament has re-introduced a draconian anti-LGBT bill that has received widespread international criticism. Under this bill, first introduced in 2011 and re-introduced earlier this year, the government would prescribe the death penalty to all LGBT people and those that provide them with housing and resources.
The bill is expected to pass before the end of this year; its champions call it a “Christmas gift to the Ugandan people.”
In the face of this hatred, I am glad to work for Sojourners, which earlier this year signed on to the following statement along with other Christian groups:
Our Christian faith recognizes that all human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God, and Christ teaches that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. All acts of bigotry and hatred betray these foundational truths … Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.
Super PAC Hopes to Help Republicans Collaborate on Immigration Reform
The day after the election, many top Republicans made statements in support of comprehensive immigration reform. With rising Latino participation in elections, they see the need to work across the aisle for true reform to a broken system.
Those behind a new super PAC want to make sure they are successful. The group, Republicans for Immigration Reform, was formed to give political cover to Republicans willing to support bipartisan immigration reform proposals.
Linguists Share Truth Behind Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’
Last month, Sojourners joined with other groups around the country to ask the Associated Press to change the guidance in their Stylebook that allows “illegal immigrant” to be used as an acceptable term to refer to a human being. Following these efforts, the AP issued this response, claiming that “illegal immigrant” is an accurate, neutral term. According to some linguists, this might not be the case.
Urge Obama, Boehner to Find Common Ground on Immigration Reform
The election is finally over, and both parties understand the key role Latino voters played in the outcome. The balance of power in Washington remains the same, but the political winds have shifted dramatically on immigration. During the campaign, President Barack Obama promised to pass immigration reform if reelected. House Speaker John Boehner also recently stated that a “comprehensive approach is long overdue.”
Momentum is building. A new consensus is emerging. Progress is possible.
Reflections on an Eco-Justice Anacostia River Tour (PHOTOS)
On Saturday, Sojourners sent a group of staff members sailing down the Anacostia River.
But this was no pleasure trip.
Dottie Yunger, from the Anacostia Watershed Society, teamed up with Sojourners’ Creation Care campaign to teach some of our staff and a few other members of the local community about the state of the Anacostia river, how we as people of faith can be better stewards of our God-given resources, and how we can help create a healthier system where all creatures (both human and non-human) can survive and flourish.
Here are a few reflections from the trip.
The Story Is in the Glacier: 'Chasing Ice'
Photographer James Balog has a story for you, and it might be one you haven’t heard before. Starting in 2005, he and a team of adventurous photographers set out to provide visual, undeniable evidence for climate change. What they found he described as “decrepit old men falling into the earth and dying:” glaciers worldwide disappearing at record rates.
The film Chasing Ice is the story of their Extreme Ice Survey as they place time-lapse cameras on glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Montana, and Alaska, and watch as they disappear. The public does not want statistics, they say. The public is being misled to believe that scientists do not agree on climate change. The public is losing interest but needs to pay attention.
As Balog and his team will tell you, the memory cards in their cameras contain the memories of the landscape, a “limitless universe of forms,” that will never be seen again. Man-made climate change (as documented by ice cores from the very glaciers that may not exist in a few years) is fundamentally altering our geology.
Post-Election: A New Day for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Exit polling from Tuesday’s presidential election is offering new hope to activists advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. The Latino community was instrumental in reelecting President Barack Obama, as record numbers turned out to vote and supported the president by over 70 percent. These numbers send a clear message to opponents of immigration reform that demonizing immigrants and blocking progress makes for a poor political strategy.
Pundits are opining that Congress may be more willing to discuss comprehensive reform, a promise President Obama made but has been slow in fulfilling due to congressional opposition. Indeed, republican leaders in Congress have already been altering their positions.
Millennials' Reflections on the New American Values Survey
On Tuesday, the religion, policy, and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI's fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values, and public policy.
We sent some of our interns to listen in on the findings. Here's what they thought about some of the issues raised by the report.
NumbersUSA Stirs Up Division With New Immigrant Attack Ad
We all know the conversation on immigration in the United States can oftentimes become contentious, with inaccurate portrayals of immigrants inhibiting progress. The most recent attempt to fuel the debate with fear-driven messaging is by NumbersUSA.
A new ad by the organization tries to pit racial groups against each other by suggesting that immigrants admitted to the country on work permits are “stealing” jobs from other racial minorities.
This tactic is hateful, fear-based, and sad. By running this ad NumbersUSA is trying to divide people against each other on racial grounds, sowing hate and division among our neighbors. It misrepresents the truth about immigrant workers and the benefits they provide to our country. It also does nothing to substantively address the issue of unemployment among minorities, a problem we can’t solve by directing hate at one segment of the population.
'Sun Come Up' Documents the Story of Climate Refugees
“Climate refugee” might be an unfamiliar term for many people, but a new film from the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is trying to change that. Their 40-minute documentary Sun Come Up calls attention to the plight of displaced residents of the Carteret Islands, just north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
Pope Benedict XVI called attention to this issue in his 2010 World Day of Peace message, saying, “Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees,’ people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement?”
Screenings of the film are happening across the country; groups of 50 or more can sign up to host the film and will receive a discussion guide and education kit.
New Software Tracks Carbon Emissions Close to Home
New tracking software developed by Kevin Gurney, an ecologist at Arizona State University is intended to help cities across the country keep their word on climate. Many mayors have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, but they have no objective way to measure progress. The software will allow them to identify and target areas of the city that are releasing the most carbon, in order to address the real problem areas.
The idea of a personal carbon footprint is not new, but software that can follow our dirty tailpipes down the street is certainly revolutionary. Could the uncomfortable feeling of being watched be the encouragement city residents need to change their habits?
"Gurney collects piles of information about a city's energy diet — from utilities, transportation departments and air-pollution monitors. When he analyzed Indianapolis, Gurney and colleagues from Purdue University and other institutions could pinpoint emissions down to the level of a building or a street."
Report: Climate Change Linked to Costly Natural Disasters
It’s been a good week for getting real. After Tuesday’s revelation that the majority of Americans link increased natural disasters with climate change, a new report yesterday indicates that they may be right.
In their newly-published report, reinsurance company Munich Re claimed that global climate change has been driving natural disasters and extreme weather events, and that this trend will increase as the climate continues to change.
As Hateful Ads Expand to D.C., So Does Sojourners’ Response
Responding to attacks on Muslims, Sojourners has been placing ads around the country with a simple reminder of Jesus' command regarding how we treat others. The billboards and subway ads read: “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.”
Now, the attacks have reached our nation’s capital. Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s hateful ads that refer to Muslims as “savages” were placed in Washington, D.C., Metro stations this week following a lengthy court battle. Sojourners was ready for this development and has purchased “Love Your Muslim Neighbors” messages that will be going up in the some of the same Metro stations targeted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and should appear by the 15th of October.
The ongoing attacks against religious minorities both in the United States and around the globe are saddening and disturbing. You can help respond to the latest developments in DC by clicking here.
Remind the AP That People Aren’t 'Illegal'
The words we use are powerful, especially when it comes to talking about people created in God’s image. Word choice shapes how people perceive events and respond to the arguments made by people in the public arena. As Christians, we are called to speak up when our society uses language that dehumanizes and degrades our brothers and sisters.
Journalists and others in the media should be the first to understand this phenomenon. Unfortunately, reporters from TV stations and newspapers still label undocumented immigrants as “illegal.” This dehumanizing term robs people of their dignity and prejudices readers against the real needs of immigrant communities.
These reporters often follow the standards set by the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the authoritative guide for journalists across the country on everything from punctuation to word choice. &Nbsp;
Toledo and the Power of Love
A house of worship in Ohio was hit by an arsonist this weekend, causing an estimated million dollars in damage. Services were rescheduled, members toured the building to see the destruction, and statements were made. The religious community felt targeted and was afraid of future attacks.
The fact that the space in question was the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo should not change our outrage. As Christians, we need to stand for religious liberty for people of all faiths. We need to love our neighbors and speak out against hate.
Soon after this weekend’s attack was made public, we put a plan into action to demonstrate our solidarity. As we have done in Missouri, Tennessee, and New York, we will be offering a simple, biblical message: “Love your Muslim neighbors.”
Food Assistance: A Helping Hand or a Poker Chip?
Food assistance programs have been helping millions of people get through the recession. With poverty remaining at record high levels, we should be grateful that these resources are available to protect families from hunger.
Unfortunately, some of our nation’s elected officials see it differently. New legislation (H.R 6518) introduced by Congressman Paul Broun and members of the Republican Study Committee targets some of the very programs designed to protect the most poor and vulnerable. Under the proposed legislation, six food programs administered by the federal government would be combined into a single block grant to states.
Does that sound like Washington slang? What it means is that spending on food programs would be dramatically reduced, administration of these programs would be shifted to state governors, and benefit level would likely vary from state to state. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Emergency Food Assistance (TEFAP) would be threatened by this legislation.
Poverty's Annoying Persistence
It’s annoying, isn’t it, how American political debate ignores the pressing issues and instead focuses on the trivial? I’m talking about pressing issues like the recently released poverty numbers – nearly 1 in 6 Americans lives in poverty, and the child poverty rate is even higher. That’s 46.2 million people living on less than $23,021 a year for a family of four.
Those are sobering numbers. Here’s another: a new study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting shows that of the 10,489 news stories on the campaign this year, just 17 of them addressed poverty in a substantive way. That’s a whopping 0.16 percent of coverage devoted to issues of poverty.
We need to get poverty back on the public agenda. In the richest country in the world, numbers that high should be seen as a moral crisis.