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<<Daily Vigil for the Homeless Announced>>
The Church Council announces a Daily Vigil for the Homeless to take place from noon to 2:00, Monday through Friday, at the main lobby of the Bellevue City Hall, 11511 Main Street. The vigils began on Friday, December 2, the 25th anniversary of the murders of four women religious in El Salvador who had sought unity with the poor.
The daily group list is posted at this link. Confirm your attendance by calling the Church Council at 206-525-1213 or by e-mailing us here.
Here are instructions:
Thank you. Please take the time between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. to visit Tent City 4 at Temple B’nai Torah, 15727 NE 4th St. Bellevue, 425.603.9677.
Because of the importance of protecting free religious expression in King County, the Church Council has taken a vigilant stand against any governmental restrictions on churches who wish to host tent cities. To read a full legal briefing on these issues, download our attorney's memo here>>.
To read Bellevue's case against Temple B'nai Torah, read their court document by clicking here>>.
Letter from Denominational Leaders to the Bellevue Mayor, June 14, 2005.
June 13, 2005
The Honorable Mayor Connie Marshall
City of Bellevue
P.O. Box 90012
Bellevue, WA, 98009-9012
Dear Hon. Mayor Marshall,
Tent cities for the homeless have become a controversial political topic throughout the suburban cities on the east side of Lake Washington. To date, churches that belong to several major denominations have hosted these encampments. As denominational leaders, we urge the Bellevue City Council to exercise careful deliberation in adopting any legislation that would curtail the free exercise of religion by residents of Bellevue.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has a clear bias toward the poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” (Matthew 5:3), and devoted much of his earthly ministry toward their care. He went so far as to proclaim that those who minister to the poor are in effect ministering to him (Matthew 25:40). This commitment to the needs of the economically disadvantaged begins long before Jesus, with the prophets of ancient Israel. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17). We believe the church bears the sacred responsibility of caring for the poor, wherever they may be, in any epoch, in any community.
For this reason, churches from our denominations have ministered to the poor by building permanent housing, by sponsoring transitional housing units, by providing indoor overnight shelter in church buildings, and by hosting homeless encampments on their properties. We are proud of the church’s leadership in providing housing, but we recognize that this our commitment must be redoubled, since over 8,000 people per year find themselves homeless in King County.
While homeless encampments are controversial within certain neighborhoods on the Eastside, they have become a common part of life in the affluent, middle-class, and poor neighborhoods of Seattle, Tukwila, and Shoreline. They have existed in harmony with their neighbors and have not been the source of any discernible increase in safety or health risks. The sojourns of tent cities to the Eastside, while controversial, have been equally free of adverse impacts.
As a result, we do not believe Bellevue needs to implement such stringent standards against tent cities that the constitutional rights of churches would be set aside. We are concerned about standards that would:
We strongly urge the Bellevue City Council to study the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which requires that, a) any law restricting the use of religious property be the result of a compelling governmental interest, and b) that the least restrictive means be used to meet that interest. We believe this sets a high standard for governmental regulation of religious functions such as tent city, and that Bellevue and other cities must carefully study all facts relating to these requirements, so that any proposed law will have adequate substantiation of need if it seeks to curtail religious freedom.
Because you have taken an oath to uphold the U.S. and Washington Constitutions, both of which protect freedom of religious expression, we know you will make a judicious choice in this matter. We entrust to you the task of protecting freedom of religious expression, one of our most cherished American freedoms. Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett
Roman Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Seattle
Bishop Edward Paup
Pacific Northwest Conference
United Methodist Church
Bishop Chris Boerger
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr.
Regional Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Marcia Patton
Evergreen Baptist Association (American Baptist)
Bishop Nedi Rivera
Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington)
Rev. Dr. Douglas Kelly
Synod of Alaska Northwest
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Dr. Mark Miller
Transitional Interim Conference Minister
Pacific Northwest Conference
United Church of Christ
Rev. John Boonstra
Washington Association of Churches
cc: Councilmember Claudia Balducci
Councilmember John Chelminiak
Councilmember Don Davidson
Councilmember Grant Degginger
Councilmember Conrad Lee
Councilmember Phil Noble
Update: Seattle Times supports Church Council position on proposed Bellevue ordinance. Read the June 9, 2005 editorial>>.
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