2018 Legislative Session Recap

Last week, the Rocky Mountain Synod Policy Committee met to review the last legislative session and reassess how the Church's advocacy meets the needs of the world. I am neither from Colorado nor have I ever seen a policy committee in action, so the meeting opened my eyes to how religion connects to the world of advocacy.
Ruby Sales - Nikki Kahn/Getty Images/OnBeing.org

The day began with an enlightening devotion by Ian Fletcher that blew me away. He shared words from Ruby Sales' interview with Krista Tippett titled Where Does It Hurt? (Listen to the podcast on your drive home -- it's worth it.) Sales spoke on the need for a theology that fits people of all intersections, but particularly race. One part that struck me was when Sales attended a Black Lives Matter conference and had a conversation about generational divides, and then went on to discuss the importance of intimacy within the black community and, furthermore, across other communities. It was a highly intelligent interview that hit at theological questions I had never asked before and perpetuated discussion on involving everyone in theology.

Peter Severson, Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Colorado, then reported back on the previous legislative session, in which bills focused on hunger, economic security, civil rights, housing and homelessness, criminal justice and health care. To learn more about the exact bills and Peter's work, check out his advocacy newsletter here.

Some of the bills like HCR 1002 (abolishing slavery completely from the Colorado Constitution) seemed like no-brainers to me. I feel like the Emancipation Proclamation (given before Colorado was even a state) and the civil rights movements of the 1960s would at least have created this discussion and called forth action much earlier than 2018, let alone restrict the language about slavery entirely.

It seems like supporting or opposing some of the legislation would be obvious, and it is difficult to understand that not everyone believes in the same life-giving practices or has similar humanitarian motivations. Because of this fact that everyone has different core values, the ways in which Peter and our other advocates appeal to legislators is extremely important. "The work we have to do is shift the thinking," he said, regarding the belief that health care is a privilege. Before this meeting, I felt like advocacy work and legislation were very cut and dry -- that legislators' minds were made up about decisions and they had little interaction with constituents. Now I know it is all relative. Colorado legislators are usually more than willing to listen to and learn from their constituents about any bills or policies.

The various motivations of legislators and strategies to appeal to them was something the committee discussed when reviewing the Lutheran Day at Legislature, in which laypeople discuss legislation at the capitol with representatives and senators. This is huge! The idea that ordinary people can participate in policy in such a hands-on way is exciting and absolutely more active than I would think possible.

All this being said, I now have a better understand of how the Church can be involved with the world in a deeper way. It shows that we can all be called as champions for our neighbors.

- Intern Katie