Reformed Theology teaches that, because a sovereign God is at work in the world, the church and Christian citizens should be concerned about public policy. The Office of Public Witness (OPW) is the public policy, advocacy, and information office of the PC(USA). We function as the voice of General Assembly in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. It is the OPW’s function to represent the church and equip its members to do advocacy based on the public witness of the General Assembly. Each year, we review the social witness policy from the General Assembly, overlaid by the most pressing issues of the day. This practice results in the OPW’s annual priorities. The OPW’s 2019 Issue Priorities are–
- Address systemic racism
The OPW will seek to dismantle public policies that have institutionalized white supremacy and to promote a vision that eliminates systemic racism. This aim pervades the rest of our domestic policy work, informing OPW advocacy on poverty and economic injustice, voting rights restoration, immigration, environmental racism, drug policy reform, and health care disparities.
- Keep the government open to serve the common good
In recent years, the President and Congress have resorted to government shutdowns in moments of political disagreement, using workers across the public and private sectors as bargaining chips. Shutdowns cause real suffering to people and the environment. The federal government should defend the common good and serve the people. People’s lives are not a bargaining chip. Politicians must stop closing the government to create political leverage.
- Restore voting rights and common-sense government reform
The PC(USA) endorses full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, the OPW will support measures that reduce barriers to voting, increase voter participation, ensure equality and fairness in elections, enforce accountability and transparency in elections, reform the campaign finance system, and “renew our democracy,” such as primary reform and electoral college reform.
- Improve jobs, reduce poverty and defend the social safety net from erosion
The PC(USA) supports measures that make headway against systemic and cyclical poverty, including increased wages, paid sick and parental leave, child care support, and equal pay. The OPW will also continue to defend the social safety net, which reduces the hardship of poverty, providing support and sustenance to those in need.
- Support compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform
The OPW works to enact policies that reduce barriers to migration, keep families together, ensure safe shelter, provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and enable a safer, more humane immigration system.
- Promote decisive, effective solutions to climate change
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supports comprehensive, mandatory, and aggressive emission reductions that aim to limit the increase in Earth’s temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less from pre-industrial levels.”[i]The OPW continues to promote creative, effective, aggressive policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address global climate change.
- Address the failure of the war on drugs
The OPW supports decriminalization and reducing penalties for the use and possession of illicit drugs, pardoning and expunging the records of those who have non-violent drug convictions, and shifting our nation’s drug policy from outright prohibition toward compassionate health treatment and science-based regulation.
- Advocate health care for all
The PC(USA) General Assembly “endorse[d] in principle the provision of single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed.”[ii]The OPW advocates for universal health care coverage for all people in addition to supporting Medicaid expansion, improvement of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other programs that promote health and wellness.
With the withdrawal from the INF treaty and Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, the current Administration has continued to pursue an “America First” policy that increases the threat of war as well as nuclear proliferation. We remain committed to international nuclear treaties and will continue to advocate for the US to play a positive role in the community of nations.
- Promote diplomatic solutions to the conflicts in Nicaragua and Yemen
The Administration continues to support the war in Yemen, which has caused the largest humanitarian disaster in the world. The OPW advocates ending U.S. involvement in the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen and will remain vigilant in pressing for additional humanitarian aid to those who are most affected.
- Support a just resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine
The Administration’s one-sided policies toward Israel/Palestine–cuts in aid the UNRWA, the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, and the lack of condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements–has completely alienated the Palestinian population and relinquished the United States’ role as an arbiter for peace. The PC(USA) remains committed to a just resolution to the conflict, as well as a diplomatic resolution to the other wars raging in the region.
- Lift up Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in South Sudan, Sudan, Cameroon and Congo
The OPW continues to have serious concerns about human rights conditions in South Sudan, Sudan, Cameroon, DR Congo, and other countries where human rights abuses are common. We continue to work for peace and justice in these countries and around the globe.
- Defend the Defenders: Speak out for endangered human rights defenders across the globe
Threats are increasing against people around the world who risk their lives to improve the lives of others. Violence and violent conflict are now the leading causes of displacement worldwide, driving 80 percent of humanitarian need and a major cause of human rights violations, according to the World Bank. The OPW is asking Congress to support the Global Fragility Act and S. Res. 80, which will create a Human Rights Commission in the Senate.
- Address Global Economic Justice Issues, Corporate Accountability and Fair Trade Policies
The PC(USA) supports trade and investment policies that put people over profits. The OPW is working to ensure the NAFTA 2.0 deal guarantees access to affordable medicines. OPW advocacy also promotes responsible lending and borrowing, increasing debt relief for poor countries, curbing illicit financial flows and corporate tax avoidance, moving forward an international debt resolution process, pushing reforms in international financial institutions and protecting poor people from predatory financial behavior.
- Support refugees and work to stop anti-Muslim bigotry
The OPW continues to work to combat anti-Muslim bigotry. The office works with Shoulder to Shoulderto promote a greater understanding of Muslim Americans in the United States. We also advocate against the current Administration’s Muslim bans and in favor of increasing the number of refugees admitted to the US, given the current global crisis of displacement.
- Urge passage of legislation to ease and ultimately end the embargo on Cuba
The PC(USA) supports measures that will open up trade with and travel to Cuba and opposes the current Administration’s moves to roll back previous efforts to open Cuba and improve the lives of Cubans, both in Cuba and the US. The OPW also urges the President to continue a bipartisan waiver of Title III of the Helms Burton Act, which, if not waived, would seriously hamper the Cuban economy, implicate foreign companies, and alienate US allies.
- Advocate de-escalation and resolution of the conflict with North Korea
The OPW continues to press for additional humanitarian aid for North Korea, an easing of sanctions, repatriation of remains, and family reunification. Now in its 69thyear, the OPW advocates for a final settlement of the Korean War, as well as continued confidence building measures to lay the groundwork for peace.
[i]Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming, approved by the 218th General Assembly, (2008).
[ii]On Supporting Single Payer Universal Healthcare Reform, approved by the 218th General Assembly (2008), pp. 1133-1134.