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Advocacy
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Religious liberty is always one generation away from extinction. Therefore, protecting it requires vigilance. The BJC monitors and engages in various arenas to extend and defend religious liberty for all people, including in the courts, in Congress, in the legislative agencies and on the state and local levels.

The BJC monitors church-state litigation, provides analysis of cases and participates in pressing matters affecting religious freedom primarily through amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court briefs. Working with coalition partners, the BJC engages in advocacy opposing or supporting legislative initiatives on state and local levels.

But the BJC cannot be everywhere. We need your help. We urge you to engage your legislative and executive branch leaders at every level to make sure your voice is heard about issues affecting religious liberty.

The legislative branch of government makes the laws by which we live. The executive branch enforces the laws.  Whether on the local, state or national level, the men and women who comprise the legislative and executive branches represent you. These public officials are in positions of leadership to hear from constituents and then represent their interests in government.

Constituents, therefore, play a crucial role in the governmental process. By ensuring elected officials are aware of your support for or opposition to an issue or piece of legislation, you can influence what happens in Washington, D.C., or in your state. Knowing where to look to find information about your representatives is helpful. For a comprehensive web resource on Congress, including pending legislation and links to lawmakers' web sites, visit the Library of Congress site, http://Thomas.loc.gov.

Personal visits and e-mails are often the most effective means of communicating your positions. Whether in the form of visits, written communication or phone calls, each advocacy method has a certain protocol that should be followed for the greatest potential impact. Knowing the best methods of advocacy could make a difference. 

Personal Visits

In addition to their Washington office, each member of Congress has an office in their home district or state where they receive visitors by appointment.

Plan: Determine when you would like to visit and with whom you would like to meet. While a meeting with the member or their highest ranking staffer is ideal, do not be discouraged by a meeting with young staffers.  Never underestimate the influence of any staff member; you may form a beneficial relationship. Call sufficiently far in advance to schedule appointments and be persistent.  On the day of your appointment, leave ample time to find parking, get through security and locate the office where you are meeting.

Prepare:  Research your legislator's position and prepare your arguments accordingly, using brief written summaries when applicable.

Practice:  Before visiting or making a call, practice what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and how long it will take. 

Praise:   When the meeting begins, introduce yourself and indicate that you are a constituent. Communicate any personal, religious, professional or political ties you may have in common. Thank them for scheduling your visit and for positions the public official has taken on matters you care about.

Present:    Keep your arguments specific, short and simple.  Show respect and be courteous.  Share a personal example or story to support your position-keeping it short and on-point.   When asking specific questions, request specific (rather than general) answers and positions.  For example, if seeking support for legislation, give the name and bill number if you know it, and ask for a vote on specific provisions.  Bring relevant supporting material, such as letters or petitions, to leave with the legislator.  After the meeting, send a note or letter thanking the public official for meeting with you and summarizing in writing the main points you made and any understandings you reached at the meeting.  

Letter Writing and E-mail

A letter and an e-mail should be equally formal.

  • Address it to "The Honorable (first and last name of official)."  Include this on the envelope and on the letter or e-mail.
  • Include a salutation:  "Dear Senator/Representative/Governor (last name of official)."
  •  Include your full name, address, phone number and e-mail address.
  • Conclude both a letter and an e-mail with:  "Sincerely, (your first and last name)."
  • In the body of the correspondence, follow the suggestions above for presenting your position and asking for support. 
  • After the vote on the legislation, write a polite note to thank the legislator and respond to his or her vote. Remember, there will be other issues of concern, and you will want to have the official's ear and respect so you can address him or her on those issues in the future.

Note: E-mail is often the best method of contacting an official.  Traditional mail is delayed by the necessary security screening. Most offices will send a response to your e-mail inquiry. 

Phone Call

  • Have notes prepared so you can stick to the subject.
  • State your name and address, making sure to mention that you are a constituent.
  • Ask to speak with the staff person who has responsibility for the subject matter about which you wish to speak.
  • State your opinion clearly and concisely.  The legislator's staff generally keeps a tally of public opinion; therefore you do not have to go into great detail.
  • Be courteous and appreciative of their time.

It is important always to be respectful, persistent and confident in your communications with lawmakers. People are more likely to be open to what you have to say if you are well-informed and courteous. Do not hesitate to make repeated efforts if your issue is not acted upon. Constituents are a priority for elected officials. They work for you, and they will want to hear what you have to say.

 
 
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