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Religious Groups Join the Fight to Save Affirmative Action in Michigan
Feature Story by Daniel Gutman and Tyler Lewis - 10/18/2006
Religious leaders representing churches, synagogues, and mosques throughout Michigan have come together to voice their strong opposition to Proposal 2, a ballot proposal to ban affirmative action and equal opportunity initiatives in state contracting, education, and employment in the state.
"Passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will undermine Michigan's basic commitment to justice, equality and inclusivity. This proposal is an outright assault on equal opportunity and should this anti-affirmative action proposal pass, Michigan will be taking a giant step backward," said the religious leaders, in a September 12 joint statement.
Imam Hassan Qazwini, head of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press that protecting equal opportunity for minorities and women is a ""concern in all our faiths."
The coalition of nearly 200 religious leaders is the most diverse religious coalition formed in the Detroit metropolitan area since the response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, according to Steve Spreitzer of the National Conference for Community & Justice (NCCJ), who organized the rally to announce opposition on September 12.
Every religious leader present at the rally received resource packets from the NCCJ. Catholic leaders have put together and distributed more than 100,000 copies of a four-page brochure to over 800 parishes outlining their opposition to Proposal 2.
Michigan Catholic Conference has educated its members about Proposal 2 by including information in their newsletters for members and bulletins for parishes. It has also provided message points for priests to use in sermons.
Rev. Charles Adams, a well-known Detroit minister and pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, said that ending affirmative action "makes sense only if we are ready to ignore injustices that still exist."
Racial and gender disparities in Michigan are clear. In Michigan, the median family income for white families is $56,320; for Hispanic families, it is $41,252; for African-American families it is $35,536, according to the 2000 Census. And Michigan women earn only 67 cents for every dollar men earn - 10 cents below the national average -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Faith communities and clergy join the long list of constituency groups opposed to Proposal 2.
One United Michigan/Michigan United (OUM/MU), a diverse coalition of more than 200 mainstream Michigan organizations representing women's groups, educators, business groups, racial and ethnic minority groups, and labor, has conducted a public education campaign to inform Michigan voters how Proposal 2 would roll back progress in the state.
"Support for affirmative action is indeed a moral imperative given the continued presence of discrimination in our state, and we look forward to Michigan's religious leadership informing their communities about the importance of this issue," said Heaster Wheeler, executive director of the Detroit NAACP and OUM steering committee co-chair. OUM has developed a toolkit to aid religious leaders in educating their members about Proposal 2.
Proposal 2 is sponsored by former California businessman Ward Connerly. Connerly sponsored similar initiatives to ban affirmative action in California (Prop. 209) and Washington (Initiative-200) - states that have since seen dramatic declines in minority participation in state contracting and in admissions to the state university systems.
- OUM religious toolkit (pdf)