Wisconsin

Kanwar Singh 8-02-2017

Image via RNS/AP Photo/Morry Gash

A neo-Nazi had walked into a gurdwara — or Sikh temple — in Oak Creek, Wis., and gone on a rampage, fatally shooting six worshippers and wounding several others, including a police officer. To this day, the attack on the Oak Creek gurdwara remains one of the deadliest acts of violence on an American house of worship in our nation’s history.

Bobby Ross Jr. 5-26-2017

Image via RNS/Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

“If I’ve got money, and it’s easy for me to get over and give them money, I do,” Thun said. “What the Lord taught me is, I have a responsibility to give. What they choose to do with the money is between them and the Lord, and he can work with them in regards to stewardship.”

the Web Editors 2-14-2017

Image via Ryan Bodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com

On Feb. 16 immigrants in Washington, D.C., plan to go on strike from work and other economic engagements, creating a “Day Without Immigrants,” just as immigrants in Wisconsin did on Feb. 13, reports the Washingtonian.

A flyer advertising the “Day Without Immigrants” calls for immigrants to avoid shopping, going to work, and eating at restaurants.

the Web Editors 11-16-2016

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The dismantling of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by the Supreme Court and conservative state elected officials may be a major reason behind Donald Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential election win, reports ThinkProgress. This was the nation’s first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act's implementation 50 years ago in which the act didn’t provide full protection to voters of color.

the Web Editors 11-01-2016

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You should call the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law hotline 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) if you, or someone you know, are notified that you can’t vote, or can vote only under certain circumstances, and you suspect that unlawful practices are to blame for the difficulty.

Likewise, you should call the hotline if you notice at the poll any of the following eight possible signs of voter suppression, or if you notice blatant voter intimidation.

Image via Vaguely Artistic/Shutterstock.com

As Christians, our actions and our words represent our faith. I don’t need a bumper sticker to tell you that. Let’s make sure the loudest voices are the ones for equity and transformative love across difference. Because each day as a Christian, you cast your ballot.

I’m a Christian, and each day, I vote.

Kathy Kelly 8-24-2015

Image via /Shutterstock

In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation, and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine.

Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

Phil Haslanger 1-21-2015

Phil Haslanger in the solitary confinement cell. Photo courtesy Phil Haslanger

I started this year in solitary confinement.

It’s not that I am regularly in prison or that I had behaved so badly. I was simply in a mock solitary cell located in the sanctuary of a church. I was only there for an hour. I knew I would be getting out.

But that hour did offer a glimpse into the world of how solitary confinement is used – and abused – in our nation’s prisons. And it offered a glimpse at the reform efforts that are gaining steam all across the country, including in my home state of Wisconsin.

When Kate Edwards, a Buddhist chaplain who has worked in the Wisconsin prison for the past five-and-half years, closed the door behind me, I was alone, but hardly in silence.

Andrew Dunn-Bauman 11-05-2014

How an act of hatred brought together two unlikely allies in the struggles for peace. 

Phil Haslanger 3-07-2014
Man praying, KieferPix / Shutterstock.com

Man praying, KieferPix / Shutterstock.com

For most folks, these names will not mean much: Eric Pizer, Christopher Barber, and Andrew Harris.

They are names that may have a bit resonance in Wisconsin, where I am from. What they represent, though, are the struggles we face as a society dealing with concepts of repentance and redemption. They represent the way those concepts get overrun by politicians seeking to exploit the public’s fears. We as a people, after all, do not seem to be in a very forgiving mood these days.

So the distinctive stories of these three Wisconsin residents might offer a good starting point for Christians thinking about what our faith tradition calls us to during this season of Lent.

The parsonage of First Methodist Church in Monroe, Wis. Photo via RNS, by James Steakley

A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.

The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.

The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.

Kim Lawton 8-02-2013
Aug. 5, 2012 vigil in Wisconsin, RNS photo by Lacy Landre

Aug. 5, 2012 vigil in Wisconsin, RNS photo by Lacy Landre

One year after a gunman opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six worshippers, Sikhs say they are hopeful about the future and even more determined to be better understood.

“The legacy of Oak Creek is not one of bloodshed,” said Valarie Kaur, founding director of the interfaith group Groundswell, a project of Auburn Seminary in N.Y.

“[It’s of] how a community rose to bring people together to heal and to organize for lasting social change,” she told the PBS television program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

Phil Haslanger 10-15-2012
Sheila Edwards Howard, one of those profiled in 'The Line'

Sheila Edwards Howard, one of those profiled in 'The Line'

On a conference call with people from across the nation who held screenings of The Line, you could hear frustrations mounting from people struggling with the challenge of reducing poverty in America.

How do you engage people in rural areas, asked one woman. Why were Native Americans left out, asked a man from Minnesota. A priest who has worked on housing the homeless for a lifetime expressed the exasperation of someone who has devoted much time and seen little progress.

The battle against poverty is a long slog. That’s why it was good to hear some of the comments of folks gathered last week at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, Wis. (just outside Madison) after the opening night showing of The Line.

Darren Hauck/Getty Images

A makeshift memorial sits near the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Few can know what goes through the twisted mind of a mass killer, but Wade Michael Page left behind plenty of signs that he was consumed by one thing: hate.

Page, 40, was identified by police Monday as the gunman who killed six worshippers Sunday morning at a Sikh temple here. Local and federal authorities said they were investigating whether the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism.

The bald, heavy man decorated in tattoos and shot dead in an exchange with police played in hate bands and used hate-filled heavy-metal music to recruit white supremacists to the cause.

Christian Piatt 8-07-2012
Amish boy (left) and Sikh boy (right).

Amish boy (left) and Sikh boy (right).

Like most people, I was deeply troubled by news of another mass shooting, this time at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., not far from Milwaukee. On the heels of the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colo., this seemed all the more savage to me, given that it took place in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s because my wife and I work in a church and are aware of such vulnerabilities every day, but my first reaction is defensiveness. I want to raise my guard, double-check the locks and do whatever I can to ensure our safety. It’s the response that makes the most sense, after all.

Or is it?

Members of Wisconsin's Sikh community hold a candle-light vigil for six people killed in an attack a day earlier.

Imagine the terror.

You are in a temple, a safe, sacred place, preparing for a morning service. In the kitchen, you are busy cooking food for lunch, while others read scriptures and recite prayers. Friends begin to gather for the soon-to-start service.

At the front door, you smile at the next man who enters. He does not smile back. Instead, he greets you with hateful stare and bullets from his gun.

Such was the scene Sunday at a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis., just south of Milwaukee, where a gunman, Wade Michael Page, killed six and critically injured three others before being shot down by law enforcement agents.

As Page began his shooting spree, terrified worshippers sought shelter in bathrooms and prayer rooms. Rumors of a hostage situation surfaced, and those trapped inside asked loved ones outside not to text or call their cell phones, for fear that the phone ring might give away their hiding place.

The first police officer to arrive on the scene stopped to tend to a victim outside the gurudwara. He looked up to find the shooter pointing his gun directly at him, and then took several bullets to his upper body. He waved the next set of officers into the temple, encouraging them to help others even as he bled. 

That magnanimity is a common theme among the stories of victims and survivors of the Wisconsin shootings. Amidst terror and confusion, Sikhs offered food and water to the growing crowd of police and news reporters outside the gurudwara as part of langar — the Sikh practice of feeding all visitors to the house of worship.

Steve Jerbi 8-06-2012
The Overpass Light Brigade at the prayer vigil in Milwaukee. Courtesy Steve Jerb

The Overpass Light Brigade at the prayer vigil in Milwaukee. Courtesy Steve Jerbi

I heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in the middle of leading worship. It was the same space where two months ago we buried a child killed by gun violence. It was the same space where two weeks ago we prayed for the community of Aurora. And now we were gathered again and like the family of an addict we were left with the pain of a destructive lifestyle.

We wept. We prayed. We sang.

I stood up and said, “We have prayed. And there is power in prayer. Change can happen with prayers. And we pray for brothers and sisters who worship a different God than ours and yet we call them our family. We pray for the shooter because we are taught to pray for our enemies. But prayer is not enough."

Steve Jerbi 6-06-2012
 By: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Holds Recall Election Night Gathering By: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The votes are counted, the concession speeches made, the victory parties had. Wisconsin, a word that has become as synonymous with divisive politics as it is for cheese and beer, is done with the recalls.

In the end, some change was made. Between the first round of recalls and yesterday’s election, the senate has shifted from Republican to Democratic control. And yet, not much has changed. We still have a union-busting governor and a climate change doubter as lieutenant governor.

The calls, from politicians and citizens, have been pretty consistent. It is time to move forward. It is time to put aside our divisions and find a way to govern together. It is time of our state to heal.

Whatevs.

See, I’m not all that interested in moving forward – not because I like the fighting or because I think it is healthy to be so divided that the mere mention of politics in casual conversation makes blood pressures boil.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker greets supporters at an election-night rally June 5 in Waukesha, Wis. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Walker has survived. His intent to divide and conquer worked. First he sought to divide public workers – teachers and others from police and firefighters. This did not work. He sought to separate public employees from “taxpayers,” as if public employees are not also taxpayers. He brought South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to campaign for him. She boasted of being a union buster. So-called “right to work” is a pillar of conservative Republican politics.

Hallelujah anyhow.
Phil Haslanger 2-14-2012
Red heart balloon. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/yctzSw.

Red heart balloon. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/yctzSw.

Now we are at Valentine’s Day a year later. For many months last spring, a solitary red heart balloon floated just under the dome of the Capitol. It became a gentle symbol of this powerful people’s uprising.

The red heart balloon can serve as a reminder of how God’s Spirit blows whichever way it will, but that God’s Spirit is a spirit of justice and of compassion. As Bishop Burnside said, voices of faith need both a vocabulary of love and a vocabulary of justice as we move into the highly-charged months ahead.

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