The NJ Prophetic Agenda
“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
“All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.” -NJ State Constitution, 1947
Many sacred texts teach that we are all created in the divine image. As people of faith and residents of New Jersey, guided by morals and a belief in justice for all, we affirm that each person is a unique and holy being on this planet. The New Jersey Prophetic Agenda is a visionary, moral document that seeks to build beloved community in our home state. Beloved community is an aspiration, in which people of all faiths, beliefs, cultures, and races, embrace the ideals of our democracy and commit our lives to building a shared destiny. We move forward toward this Beloved Community, which is integral to the soul of democracy.
We are faith leaders, people of faith, and people who have been called by the spirit of justice to raise up a New Jersey Prophetic Agenda which will both resist injustice within our state as well as guide us onward with prophetic vision for a just New Jersey.
The pursuit of justice is essential in both society and religion. “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” (Deut. 16:18). This passage translated in Hebrew is “Tzedek tzedek tirdof.” The repeated word, tzedek, justice, emphasizes that this is urgent and something we must literally chase or pursue (tirdof). Justice will not happen without the commitment and communication of interconnected beings working together to move from the world as it is to the world as it should be.
Sacred texts have been coerced to develop state and religious theologies. It is recognized that theology has often been used to support the imperial ambitions of governments, the racism, bigotry and hatred of institutions, as well as maintain the autocratic nature of the status quo. It is with this recognition that we move within a prophetic theology that gleans from God’s consistent outstretched hand towards the oppressed regardless of religious tradition.
NJ’s Prophetic Agenda aims to cultivate Beloved Community for all who live in the Garden State. Prophetic vision and passion for beloved community dares us to imagine a NJ where our children can go to school together and get a high-quality education regardless of zip code. It is bold enough to invest in communities devastated by the war on drugs. It imagines a New Jersey where law enforcement, including police, are empowered and accountable to the community. It is so redemptive that it closes youth prisons and educates, rehabilitates, and deals compassionately with troubled teens instead of incarcerating them. It is a community where the water is safe to drink, the air is clean to breath, and exposure to pollution isn’t dictated by class or race. It seeks to not only have safety net programs for the poor, but programs that lift people out of poverty. A beloved community is where every resident has quality healthcare, mental healthcare, and wellness. It is a community where drug addiction and violence in urban communities is treated as a health crisis not a criminal one. Beloved community affirms love and rejects hate and discrimination; it embraces the immigrant and shelters the refugee. It envisions a society built on love, justice, peace and community.
If we are to believe in beloved community we must believe in the redemption of those who could be considered our enemies. We sign our names to this prophetic agenda with the conviction that hardened hearts impassioned for wickedness can be turned around by a righteous vision for a just New Jersey and by those willing to be relentless in the pursuit of justice. We affirm that we must practice Beloved Community now as people of faith by actively being anti-racist in our movement and interweaving our multiculturalism and diverse religious traditions as strength in diversity. We commit to unwavering resolve to support our LGBTQ siblings and to be in solidarity with all residents of New Jersey, those who have the privilege of citizenship as well as those who do not. We move with the inclusion of all who are differently abled and affirm the wisdom of Rev. Leslie Takahashi that the “margins hold the center.”
The Prophetic Agenda is an embodied prophecy. It includes faith leaders, historians, policy and social justice advocates, theologians, lawyers, practitioners, impacted persons, people of faith and people of no formal faith who commit to resisting current injustices and set forth a prophetic agenda. We are unapologetically non-partisan, ready to work with the partners who will move toward beloved community. The Prophetic Agenda sets forth a divine vision for restorative justice, educational equity, healthcare as a human right, economic development in underserved communities, unencumbered civil and human rights, a clean environment and affordable housing.
Areas of Commitment:
1. Affordable Housing:
Everyone in NJ should have safe, affordable and desirable housing in a vibrant neighborhood of their choice, with access to transportation and employment. Ensuring that low- and moderate-income residents in New Jersey have the same opportunities as others in New Jersey must be an ethical priority for all communities. We should all be able to afford to call New Jersey home.
Thus, we commit to:
1. A healthy and sustainable housing stock and housing market.
2. Strong neighborhood and community quality.
3. Equitable geographic distribution of housing.
4. Sustainable and equitable patterns of new development.
5. Aggressive campaign to end homelessness.
2. Clean Environment:
All neighborhoods in New Jersey would be clean and safe environments, which produce clean energy and sustainability. One of the greatest resources we have in our state is the environment. It is also a resource we are morally opposed to claiming ownership of, but rather accept the humble call to be careful stewards of the earth.
Thus, we commit to:
1. Air quality in New Jersey must be improved through the regulation of businesses that are contributing to diminished air quality.
2. Water is a human right. We resist its privatization. Our public waterways must be better cared for and public water systems better maintained including lead decontamination.
3. Communities directly impacted by toxic waste, including plumes from industrial manufacturing, must be assisted financially. Superfund sites and toxic waste must be adequately remediated including ongoing oversight for areas where housing development cannot be allowed.
4. Food deserts must be eradicated in New Jersey. All communities should have access to healthy food, community gardens and shared green space.
5. Clean energy needs to be prioritized in New Jersey including incentives for cleaner vehicles and updated public transportation that encourages more efficient travel by commuters and makes public transportation a viable option for all living in New Jersey.
3. Economic Development in Underserved Communities
Financially distressed communities would become bastions of economic viability, which include all residents in prosperity and lift people out of poverty. Economic development is a right and duty held by human society. Economic development is a purposeful, economic destiny intended to achieve and sustain real, visible, moral and material benefits, witnessed by social, political, and cultural advantages and spiritual growth and satisfaction over generational periods of time.
Thus, we commit to:
1. Cultivate available land for agriculture and industrial usages. Fund, educate, and integrate community gardens in conjunction with phasing developments for processing, manufacturing and distribution of quality food, clothing, and consumer products.
2. Develop socially applied technology - Teach residents technologies that are readily applied within their neighborhood and regional living area. Identify growth areas within the region and format educational curriculum for preparing them to compete.
3. Emphasize education aimed at total human development including a focus on literacy (basic and financial), life skills, ethics, employment and lawful entrepreneurial disciplines. Enlighten the human conscience so people see a duty to direct some of their person and wealth toward the social responsibility of caring, sharing, and elevating the status of the struggling poor, the oppressed, and the disadvantaged.
4. Mobilize resources for cooperative, social, and economic investment. Register conditions of unacceptability regarding poverty and its effects; increase level of goods and services available within the community; implement community stock market to encourage and facilitate capital and profit-sharing dividends to local investors.
5. Establish projects that fulfill intergenerational economic sustainability. Cultivate service and sacrifice that invests in visionary projects that yield sustainable benefits for the future.
4. Educational Equity
Every child in New Jersey receives an adequate, quality education regardless of their socio-economic status. Education is a human right and is the key to breaking the violent oppression of poverty. Educational equity is a necessity for a just society. It seeks to reach every child where they are and give them the resources necessary to lift them past every barrier.
Thus, we commit to:
1.High quality public education for all of New Jersey’s children.
2. Equitable practices that end segregation in student enrollment, tracking and disciplinary practices that disproportionately burden children of color, and that ensure fair representation of administrators, faculty, and staff of color in public schools.
3. Full implementation of New Jersey’s legal obligations for equitable funding to low income school districts.
4. Challenging segregation within public schools and within and across school districts.
5. Training administrators, teachers, and staff in restorative justice practices that create positive learning environments for all students.
6. Equitable access to higher education for all residents of New Jersey.
5. Full Civil and Human Rights
All residents of New Jersey are welcomed and valued equally regardless of race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality and immigration status. Basic Human rights are God-given and every human being should be respected and accepted with compassion and dignity. Every resident in New Jersey is entitled to equal access to their government; voice in decision-making is core to the freedom of the human spirit. Every citizen is entitled to an equal vote.
Thus, we commit to:
1.We stand resolute against all forms of explicit, implicit and structural racism and patriarchy and acknowledge the nation and the state’s troubled past with fully recognizing the humanity and equality of everyone. Every effort must be made to undo and fully account for the harms done to women and communities of color.
2. Immigrants are vital members to our communities and every effort should be to destroy barriers to citizenship and to end xenophobia and bigotry.
3. We affirm the humanity and rights of the LGBTQ community and stand firm on the ethic of love above all else.
4. We demand a representative government reflective of the demographics and diversity of the citizenry including voting districts that are equitable and fair.
5. We seek the elimination of the influence and power of money in the political process and demand greater access to the most powerful offices for citizens of modest means. As long as the political process can be bought the voice of the people is muted.
6. We encourage access to participation in our community for immigrants including municipal IDs, state driver’s licenses and policies that are fair and welcoming to all who call New Jersey home.
6. Healthcare as a Human Right:
Every human being regardless of socioeconomic status receives quality healthcare. The commodification of people’s bodies is wicked. Quality healthcare is a human right and universal equitable coverage is the goal including addiction recovery and mental health and wellness.
Thus, we commit to:
1. Regardless of income or socioeconomic location, all residents of New Jersey must be able to have affordable, comprehensive care.
2. Health diagnosis or preexisting conditions cannot be a barrier
3. Health care must be offered to all those within New Jersey including undocumented immigrants. It is a moral imperative to the care for the sick in our community.
4. The quality of care must be improved with a holistic approach and increased funding to ensure equal and immediate access to preventative, primary and specialty care.
5. Create healthy communities across New Jersey where the social determinants to health are addressed and remedied.
7. Restorative Justice
New Jersey moves from a retributive justice model to a restorative justice model. Restorative justice seeks full restoration for both the victim and perpetrator of a crime. It requires the perpetrator to make the victim whole and, in the process, helps restore their humanity. It invests in individuals and sees people for the best they can be not by the worst thing they have ever done. This type of justice demands restoration especially for communities of color and impoverished communities that have been destroyed by mass incarceration, drug infiltration and unjust laws.
Thus, we commit to:
1. The root causes of mass incarceration must be identified, addressed and abolished.
2. Local police departments and prosecutors need to be accountable to the local community.
3. Racial and demographic profiling cannot be tolerated.
4. Youth prisons in their current form must be dismantled.
5. Communities must be empowered to police their own communities.
6. The abolition of all private prisons and the entire prison industrial complex.
Rev. Charles F. Boyer, Pastor, Bethel AME Church, Woodbury and Founder, Salvation and Social Justice
Rev. Robin Tanner, Minister of Worship and Outreach, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Summit
Rabbi Joel N. Abraham, Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains, NJ
V.Rev. Peter Anthony Baktis, Rector Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, Princeton
Kimme Carlos, Executive Director & Founder, Urban Mental Health Alliance, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Willie Dwayne Francois III, Senior Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville
Canon Clara Gregory, Jubilee Officer, Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Rev. Rob Gregson, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ, Unitarian Universalist
Rohn Hein, Unitarian Universalist
Rabbi Marc Kline, JD
- Drug Policy Alliance
-Faith in New Jersey
- Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey
-New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice
-New Jersey Citizen Action
- Sarah Ahrens, Director of Religious Exploration, First Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hunterdon County
- Archange Antoine, Executive Director, Faith in New Jersey
-Beverley Awbrey, UU from Beacon Summit
-Robin W. Barrow, Remnant AME Church
-Rev. Lori G. Baynard, Anabaptist
-Rev. Paul Baynard Sr., Koinonia Fellowship of Churches, Anabaptist
- Elise Boddie, Professor of Law; Director, The Inclusion Project, Rutgers Law School
-Pastor Janis Boone, Universal Bible Institute, Penecostal
-Rev. George E. Britt, Pastor, AME Church
-Richard W. Brown, Reform Jew
- J. Amos Caley, Pastor, Reformed Church of Highland Park
- Laura Carter, Veteran, Trenton Cannabis Community
- F. Cartwright, Quaker
-Imam Saffet A, Catovic, Drew University - Muslim Chaplain
- Carolyn V. Chang, Attorney at Law, Association of Black Women Lawyers of NJ
-Arnold Cohen, Policy Coordinator, Housing Community Development Network NJ
-Kristin Nicely Colangelo, University of the Poor/Kairos Center
-Sara Cullinane, Director, Make the Road New Jersey
-Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz,
- Tracey Darnell Syphax, Author/Entrepreneur, From the Block to the Boardroom LLC.
-Dr. Kasturi Rumu DasGupta, Destiny's Bridge
-Maggie D’averss, UCC
Reverend Dr. Lesly Devereaux
-Ann Evans, UUCM
-Dan Fatton, Executive Director, Work Environment Council
- Barbara Flythe, Board Member, Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
-Carol E Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council
- Meagan Glaser, Deputy State Director, New Jersey, Drug Policy Alliance
-Sally Jane Gellert, Occupy Bergen County, atheist
-Rev. John D. Givens, ADMINISTRATOR: youth service com, County of Passaic Hurman Service & PASTOR: Shiloh A.M.E.Zion church
-Rachel Green, Civil Rights Director, Action Together New Jersey
-Nancy Griffeth, Chair, Environmental Justice Task Force of UU Faith Action NJ
-Rev. Dr. Lanel D. Guyton, AME CHURCH
-Rev. Carol S. Haag, Minister of Religious Education Emerita, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton
-Rev. Dr. Denison D. Harrield, Jr., Wallace Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church - Summit, NJ
-Diane Hawkins, - NBNAACP-
-Reverend Jermaine T. Heath, Sr., Bethlehem Baptist Church
Karen Hernandez-Granzen, Westminster Presbyterian Church
-Rev. Craig Hirshberg, UUFaithAction, Unitarian Universalisit
-The Reverend Kathryn Irwin, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, ELCA
-Rev. Virginia Jarocha-Ernst, UU Congregation of Monmouth County
- Rene John, Dean, Trinity Cathedral Episcopal, Trenton
-J. G. (Bud) Johnson, UUCWC
-Reverend Karen G. Johnston, The Unitarian Society
-Rev. Arburta Jones, St Paul AME Zion Church
-Rev. Cory Jones, Tabernacle BC
-Reverend Lonnie Jones, Evangelism Ministry, AME
-Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale, The Reformed Church of Highland Park
- Rev. Jennifer Kelleher, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills,
-Rev. Sara Lilja, Director, Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey
-Derek Minno-BLOOM, Social and Food Justice Director at Trinity Church Asbury Park, Trinity Episcopal Church
-Yumiko Mishima, Treasurer, Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Buddhist
-Dena M Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director, NJCA
-Ellie Muska, Unitarian Universalist
-Rev. Dr. A'Shellarien Lang, Healing Communities NJ/DE
- Moira Nelson, Director of Drug Policy Reform, Action Together New Jersey (ATNJ)
-Retha Onitiri, PMP, Youth Decarceration Campaign Director, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
-Rabbi Hannah Orden, Congregation Beth Hatikvah
-Mark Parker-Magyar, Episcopalian
-Amanda Parrish Block, Founder, GRACE: Giving and Receiving Assistance for our Community’s Essentials, United Church of Christ
-Tuli Patel, Executive Director, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Summit
-Reverend Carmine Pernini, pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rahway, coordinator with the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council, member of the Faith in NJ Clergy Caucus, and a Steering Committee member of the New Jersey Clergy Coalition for Justice
-Rick Robinson, Criminal Justice Chairman, NAACP Newark, NJ
-Jean Ross esq., POP
-Amini K. Sababu, Retired Social Worker - Trenton, NJ, Positive Black Images Connect
-Reverend Scott Sammler-Michael, Senior Co-Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair
-Pastor Jerry M. Sanders, Fountain Baptist Church, Summit
-Rich Sroczynski, Marianist Social Justice Committee
-Becca Seibert, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair
-Pastor Gregory Smith, St. Paul United Methodist Church, African Methodist Episcopal
-Rev. Tracy Sprowls, The Unitarian Church of All Souls
-Richard & Arlene Sroczynski
- (Rt. Rev) William H. (Chip) Stokes, Bishop of New Jersey (Episcopal Church)
- Brian Szura, Deacon, Reformed Church of Highland Park
-Javier Viera, Drew University Theological School
-Paula Warner, atheist
-Brenda Whiteman, Episcopalian – Christian
-Rev. Kim Wildszewski, Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing
-Reverend Vernon Williams, Fountain Baptist Church
-Michael Wilson, CEO, Center for the Development of Human Learning
- Katherine Wright, Executive Director, New Jersey Parents Caucus, Inc
-Leslie Young, Witherspoon St. Presbyterian
-Bennet Zurofsky, Attorney at Law, General Counsel, NJ State Industrial Union Council (IUC)