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Faith Leaders Support the Right to Boycott

AFSC staff and partners call for divestment
AFSC staff and faith community partners call for divestment, actions that would be penalized if the Anti-BDS legislation proposed in congress is passed.  Photo: Jennifer Bing / AFSC

On November 6, 2017 the American Friends Service Committee joined 16 other Christian organizations in sending a letter to all members of Congress calling on them to oppose the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”  That legislation, introduced in both the House and the Senate in March of this year, would make it a criminal offense to support certain boycotts targeting Israel because of its violations of Palestinian rights.  The text of the letter is included below.

Faith Community Letter

Dear Members of Congress,

We write as U.S. Christian churches and organizations committed to justice and peace in the Middle East. This commitment stems from our connections to the Biblical and historical places of our faith; our continuing partnership and engagement with churches and other religious institutions there; and our theological understanding of peace with justice, which compels us to support nonviolent means to end the 50-year-old occupation and support equal rights for all people—Israelis and Palestinians alike.

We are deeply concerned by the introduction of the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” in the Senate (S.720) and in the House (H.R.1697). This legislation, if adopted, would put legal obstacles in the way of nonviolent peaceful action meant to bring about social change, and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship of our financial resources. The bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the important distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. They further imply that opposition to Israel’s practices in the territories is the same as being anti-Israel. We are troubled by the bills’ intent to penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures as a legitimate means of opposing policies that inhibit human rights, in this case, of the Palestinians.

We are concerned by any legislation that suppresses legitimate criticism of public policy, and that restricts freedom of expression and our ability to determine our own witness through investment and selective purchasing practices. While we may not be of one mind about which measures are most effective, we collectively affirm and defend the right of churches and organizations to use economic measures in the specific case of Israel-Palestine. This is consistent with how churches and church-related organizations have employed economic measures as nonviolent tactics in many instances of seeking justice and peace throughout history.

As churches and church-related organizations, we all share a hope and desire for an end to occupation, an end to violence and terrorism, and for equal rights for all people. If our respective denominations and organizations, through debate and reflection, adopt policies that employ economic leverage to advance these policy objectives, as we do with many other policy objectives, we believe it is our right to do so. It is an assertion of our right as stewards of our financial resources to spend and invest according to our theological and moral conviction, expressed in our respective denominational or organizational policies.

In this case, our assertion of this right is an effort to change unjust Israeli policy toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises. Our choices to purchase and invest responsibly, and to advocate with corporations or governments, are motivated by our firm commitments to justice and peace for all people, without discrimination or exclusion.

As churches and church-related organizations, we reject any efforts by the state to curtail these rights. We urge you to oppose the proposed legislation, and thus support the rights of individuals and institutions to spend and invest in accordance with their faith, values, and policies.


Joyce Ajlouny
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Eli S. McCarthy, PhD
Director of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Brother Larry Schatz, FSC
De La Salle Christian Brothers of the Midwest

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. James Moos
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Gerry Lee
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

J Ron Byler
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Ervin Stutzman
Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Nathan Hosler
Office of Public Witness
Church of the Brethren

Marie Dennis and
Bishop Kevin Dowling, CSsR
Pax Christi International

Sister Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Donald J. Poest
Interim General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ