NRLA Meets to Further Religious Liberty

The Northwest Religious Liberty Association is the government relations and mediation services ministry of the North Pacific Union Conference. It provides non-partisan religious liberty and mediation services for civic, academic, interfaith and corporate concerns.

Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington simultaneously convene their legislatures every two years. Just prior to the opening of these sessions, NRLA holds its biennial government relations workshop and executive board meeting.

Most recently, the group met Oct. 6–8, 2008, at NPUC headquarters in Ridgefield, Wash., to explore the theme "Tolerance, Freedom, and Equality: Understanding the Difference and Advancing Our Mission in a Pluralistic Community."

The workshop addressed how the NRLA can more effectively network and work with the shared goals of other organizations, and, in so doing, build legislative coalitions supportive of its mission to champion religious freedom for all people and institutions of faith under the Constitution.

Workshop speakers included retired Senator Grant Ipsen from Idaho, who sponsored and helped the NRLA pass Idaho's Free Exercise of Religion Act of 2000; Genoa Ingram, president of Court Street Consulting in Salem, Ore.; Donna Montgomery, an active Adventist layperson just elected president of the Idaho Federation of Republican Women; attorney Alan Reinach, president of Church-State Council; attorney Charles Steinberg, vice president for NRLA legal affairs; Kevin Finney, public affairs director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; Gulzar Ahmed, co-chair of the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland; and Lincoln Steed, Liberty magazine editor.

Greg Hamilton, from the NPUC, culminated the meetings with an exposition of the workshop theme: rediscovering and advancing our mission in a pluralistic society, getting beyond tolerance and embracing freedom and equality for all.

Among the important topics were the proposed Workplace Religious Freedom Acts (WRFAs) in Oregon and Washington during the 2009 legislative session. Although NRLA efforts in Oregon passed the Oregon House of Representatives two years ago by a vote of 35–17, it was not voted in the Senate, so efforts to make this law continue. It has the strong support of Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt, the sponsor of the bill again this year. When passed, it will restore the true intent of federal Title VII provisions regarding religious discrimination in the workplace and ease the plight of both religious minorities and all people of faith.

Adventist support for the annual Liberty Campaign (January–March) not only provides Liberty magazine to political leaders at every level of government, state and municipal, but it also directly funds the work of the government relations program at the NRLA and the mediation services it provides for those experiencing religious discrimination in the workplace.

More information is available at the NRLA Web site at www.nrla.com.

February 01, 2009 / Perspective
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