Starting my advocacy journey
by C. Lynn Brinkley, BJC Board Member
The initial thought of it was quite intimidating: Go to “the Hill,” walk into the offices of my members of Congress and advocate for justice. I had done such things on Facebook, in the beauty salon and from pulpits when I preached, but to actually go to Washington, D.C., and “act justly” like the book of Micah tells us to do was a different story. I didn’t know what to expect. Most of all, I didn’t think I was qualified to do this great work. Fortunately, BJC prepared us for a day of effective advocacy on Capitol Hill.
On the eve of our visit with our elected officials, former U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards gave us an evening tour of the U.S. Capitol. There was something sacred and solemn about being in the Capitol at night. We had the opportunity to sit in the members’ seats on the House floor. We stood in the Capitol Rotunda with its high ceilings and vast historical paintings. We also graced the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, where I paused at the bronze statue of Rosa Parks. I stared at it for several minutes, reflecting on what Rosa Parks did for civil rights. I remembered that her simple gesture made a huge impact on the world. I thought, “If Rosa Parks could be an advocate for justice during the Civil Rights Era, surely I can do my part tomorrow.”
My fellow board members and I received advocacy training from the BJC staff. We reviewed key points, we shared our personal stories, we rehearsed our scripts with one another, and we headed to Capitol Hill. Our mission: To talk about the importance of faith freedom for all and express our concerns about blasphemy and apostasy laws in other countries and how these laws are a threat to everyone. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do this great work alone. BJC staff joined me for my visit in the House, and I teamed up with two other North Carolinians to visit the offices of our senators. We were fired up and ready to go!
We went to the offices of three people who represent our state: Sen. Richard Burr, Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. George Holding. During our visits, we met with key members of their staffs who are crucial in making decisions.
We began by sharing our concerns about blasphemy and apostasy laws in other countries, which punish individuals who question their faith and criminalize converting from one religion to another. We asked that the congressmen join a bi-partisan effort to encourage the repeal of such laws: House Resolution 512 and the soon-to-be filed Senate companion, which officially calls for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws. Why do we care? (1) This is a humanitarian and moral issue. Individuals should not die or be imprisoned for questioning their faith. (2) We believe in separation of church and state and the right of all people (believers and non-believers) to practice their religion freely without government intrusion around the world. (3) We have missionaries serving in countries with such laws around the world, and we need to protect them. And, lastly, for me, this issue is personal.
My daughter will graduate from college in May 2020 from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in mechanical engineering. She will also be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. My daughter may be deployed anywhere in the world and, wherever she goes, I want her to know that the government she is busy defending is also busy defending her! I want her government to set an example in defending everyone’s right to exercise their faith around the world by holding other countries accountable and opposing any effort by the United Nations to create a model for blasphemy laws that promotes religious intolerance, discrimination or violence.
While the initial thought of talking to my lawmakers was quite intimidating, I finished with a sense of accomplishment. I participated in my first advocacy experience on Capitol Hill! I felt we were welcomed. I felt we were heard. I felt we had the freedom to speak truthfully and share our resources. I felt the power of using my voice as an informed constituent. I also felt that I could do this again. Quite frankly, I want to do this again. While this is a mission accomplished, my BJC advocacy journey is just getting started!