Just Laws to Protect Trafficking Victims: What the Church Can Do

How you vote in the presidential election does not really matter.

I am quite disillusioned with politics.  Too many powerful religious people think it is their job to pledge support to a presidential candidate.  I wonder how Jesus feels when his people are reduced to a voting bloc?  Recently a large group of evangelical Christians gathered together to decide which candidate to throw their support behind.  There have been a few blog posts about this recently, showing the problems inherent in it, which I urge you to check out: Timothy Dalyrmple calls it a travesty and David Neff calls it dangerous.

Anyway, in this I think there is a misconception that real change comes through how you vote in a presidential election.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think Christians should sit on the sidelines.  I think our interaction with the powers of government should be wiser than simply voting once every four years.  There is much more we can do and I think it starts at the local level.

(Much of what comes next is a summary from the Polaris Project website, but the page I got it from has been taken down*)

There is legislation proposed in Pennsylvania (House Bill 235  by Representative Clymer; State Bill 338 by Senator Leach) that would require placement of the National Human Trafficking Research Center Hotline number in key establishments, including places of transit (truck stops, welcome centers and bus stations) and in venues where victims may be found “at work” (such as hotels/motels, strip clubs, massage parlors).  The hotline provides callers – victims, tipsters, community members – with a bridge to help by linking callers with one or more of over 3000 resources across the country.  Placing this hotline in key locations is critical to fighting human trafficking.  Texas was the first state to require the posting of the hotline in public locations.  Since that time Texas has consistently been the highest in call volume to the hotline, resulting in rescued victims and a greater awareness of crime throughout the state.

Requiring that this hotline be posted would cost the state of PA absolutely NOTHING as the businesses would have to print it themselves.  Further, it may generate money for the state in fines to businesses that do not post it.

My hope would be that churches take time to encourage members to call on political leaders to pass this legislation.  Perhaps this could happen as a unified effort by small groups in the church, or by the effort of individuals.  Either way, what I am asking only takes a few minutes..

Calling on those in power to create just laws has a long tradition among the people of God…just read the Old Testament prophets such as Amos.

Here is what you can do:

1. Determine who your STATE senator and STATE representative is by going to http://www.legis.state.pa.us.  I live in Wyomissing so mine are Mark Gillen (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/member_information/house_bio.cfm?id=1209) and Mike Folmer http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/member_information/senate_bio.cfm?id=1080)

2. Then place a quick call to your senator and representative, urging them to take action NOW to help victims of human trafficking.  Urge them to support and cosponsor the bipartisan bill by Senators Leach and Vance to post the Human Trafficking Hotline bill.  Here is an example of what you can say: “Hi, my name is ____ and I am the representatives constituent. I am calling to urge the representative to cosponsor and support HB 235, legislation that will help victims of human trafficking right now in PA by requiring the National Human Trafficking Hotline in certain establishments. Will the representative support this legislation?

2b.  Or you can email them.

3. Call Senator Pileggi, Majority Leader of the Senate (717-787-4712) and Senator Corman, Appropriations Committee Chair in Leadership (717-787-1377). These senators have complete power over whether a bill goes to the senate floor for a vote.  When you call, ask the senator to bring SB 338 to the Senate floor for vote as soon as possible.

We are privileged to live in a country that cares about justice (or at least claims to).  Perhaps in a different situation our interaction with the powers that be would be slightly different.  But in this situation, I think we need to be people who work for justice in all capacities.  This does not end with making a phone call or an email.  It goes on to influencing those around us so that more and more people do not look the other way when faced with injustice.  It continues with creating ways to help those rescued from trafficking.

It is all that and more.  But it is not less than calling on our leaders to do the right thing.

*The Hotline is run by the Polaris Project.  Until last week they had a whole page on their site with action (Most of what I wrote starting with the paragraph on the PA legislation was from their page) but that page has been taken down.  Either way, their website is very helpful.

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