Faith Leaders from across the country ask for an urgent meeting with President Obama to voice opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline

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Union Theological Seminary: Faith Leaders From Across the Nation Join in Solidarity Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

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"As faith leaders from across the nation, we write to you with a sense of urgency regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the opposition to it led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."

Forty-two faith leaders from across the nation, including pastors, professors, and leaders from more than 20 religious organizations, sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their strong opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The letter claims the continued construction of the DAPL is a clear violation of several laws enacted to protect the environment. Those who signed the letter are asking to meet with President Obama, and demand that he halt the construction of the DAPL, assure compliance with established law, suspend current and any future permits, and guarantee full respect for the sovereign nations within our borders.

Please see the letter below:

Interfaith Appeal for Justice at Standing Rock

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
November 11, 2016

Dear Mr. President,

As faith leaders from across the nation, we write to you with a sense of urgency regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the opposition to it led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We believe that you are aware that many of our denominations have made strong public statements of support of the Tribe and are actively encouraging solidarity among our members.

We view with great alarm the increased militarization and disproportionately violent response to peaceful protesters, the mislabeling of prayerful gatherings as “riots,” the illegal use of attack dogs and chemical sprays, and militaristic aggression on October 27 with armored tanks and heavily armed police that is more commonly associated with wars. So egregious was this recent police attack, that Amnesty International has sent human rights observers to monitor the response of law enforcement to the protests, and the international watchdog group will be asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate police actions.

Given the numerous irregularities and violations of procedures and laws that have marked the stages of approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, we call on you to rectify these steps. The Army Corps of Engineers sidestepped procedures under Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) to grant approval for a project (DAPL) that did not meet the necessary standards. This process also breached the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which require environmental impact statements and opportunities for the public to be fully informed through hearings. Further, the National Historic Preservation Act requires tribal consultation, which was narrow and entirely inadequate.  In addition, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which you gave your solemn word that the United States would support, enshrines free, prior and informed consent on issues affecting their nations.

The scandalous action by the pipeline company to destroy sacred burial grounds is not only a moral outrage but a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. As leaders from a broad range of religious traditions we recognize that the religious freedom of Indigenous Peoples involves the safeguarding of the traditional lands that are the wellsprings of their cultures and spiritual ways of life. We see the protection of sacred lands and the resources located on these parcels of our common planet as one of the most important steps in honoring native peoples and their respective religions. We unite to proclaim today that Indigenous spiritual paths are valid, sacred and utterly indispensable strands within the overall tapestry of human heritage, deserving of the world’s respect and protection.

Utter disrespect was also evident when the location of the proposed pipeline was moved to within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after the citizens of Bismarck, ND rejected its construction due to fears of contamination of the city’s water supply.  The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies appropriately consider themselves “Water Protectors” rather than “protestors.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux maintain that the path for DAPL lies on “unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie." This raises a most serious matter of treaty obligation compliance, which is paramount to this case. Not only has the pipeline company ignored the Department of Justice request to halt construction, but it has taken advantage of the police repelling barricades to work feverishly towards its completion.

The Standing Rock Sioux, along with some 200 Native American tribes and a growing number of individuals and organizations, are acting not only in their own interest but also in the interest of the 18 million regional residents who would see their water supply compromised by an oil spill in the Missouri River. And beyond this very legitimate local concern, all those involved also point to the larger environmental imperatives. A recent study has indicated that total emissions from the DAPL pipeline would be the equivalent of some 30 coal plants.  Total pledges at the Paris climate summit fall well short of the mark for holding global warming to less than 2ºC; emissions from a pipeline of this nature would assure that the United States would not even be able to attain its initial goal. At this critical time when the world must be turning away from fossil fuel use, in the small window remaining, this pipeline instead expands it, risking the irreversible warming that the scientific community warns would lead to catastrophic climate change.

The inherently spiritual actions of resistance of our Indigenous brothers and sisters has come as a response to the imminent danger not only to themselves but to the larger community and indeed, the entire world, posed by the devastating impact of the fossil fuels emissions that would enter the environment. It is no wonder that such a strong stance is being taken by so many.  As persons of faith, we cannot align ourselves with the pursuit of profit at the expense of life itself.  Nor can we turn a blind eye to the destruction of Creation, a gift we are entrusted to preserve.

The power lies in your hands to achieve an immediate halt to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, assure compliance with established law, suspend current and any future permits, and guarantee full respect for the sovereign nations within our borders.  This is our urging, in the name of Life itself.

Prayerfully yours,

Aisha al-Adawiya
Founder, Women in Islam, Inc

Auburn Seminary

Naeem Baig
President, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church
President, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein
Founder, Shomrei Adamah

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon
Senior Pastor and Teacher                    
Christ the King United Church of Christ

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Tom Carr
Chair, Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, CT (IREJN)

Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes
Associate Professor of Worship
Union Theological Seminary

Colin Christopher
Green Muslims                                                    

Rev. Dr. James H. Cone
Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology
Union Theological Seminary

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

Bishop Steven Duncan                            
Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley
Pastor Emeritus
Providence Baptist Church-Atlanta

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Sheikha Tamara Gray
Founding Director
Rabata Inc.

Imam Khalid Fattah Griggs,
Council for Social Justice, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

Rev. Anthony Grimes
Director of Campaigns & Strategy
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson
Auburn Seminary

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary                                
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church

Rev. Stephen C. Holton                                
St. James Episcopal Church
North Salem, New York

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY)

Dr. Jerusha T. Lamptey            
Assistant Professor of Islam and Ministry
Director of the Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement Program (ISJIE)
Union Theological Seminary

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Executive Minister
Wider Church Ministries
United Church of Christ

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
Sound Vision Foundation

Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area
President, United Methodist Council of Bishops

Harriet Jane Olson
General Secretary/CEO
United Methodist Women

Rev. Irvin Porter
Associate for Native American Intercultural Congregational Support
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Linda Sarsour
Mpower Change

Rev. Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries, Denver, CO

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Senior Organizer and Trainer
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Kristin Gill Stoneking
Executive Director
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Shelley Tanenbaum
General Secretary
Quaker Earthcare Witness

Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock
Senior Pastor
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center

Dr. Cornel West

Jim Winkler
National Council of Churches

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

Statements of Support:
-Dallas Friends Meeting (Quakers)
-Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Bruce R. Ough
-Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
-Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
-Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers)
-General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
-Interfaith Statement of Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
-ICNA Council for Social Justice
-Mennonite Central Committee Central States
-Miami Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
-Muslim Faith Leaders
-New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Earthcare Working Group & Indian Affairs Committee
-Orthodox-Catholic Church of America
-Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
-Quaker Earthcare Witness
-Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Baltimore Yearly Meeting Indian Affairs Committee
-The Shalom Center
-Unitarian Universalist Association
-United Church of Christ
-The United Methodist Church, Western Jurisdiction
-World Student Christian Federation, North American Region
-York Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, York, Pennsylvania
-Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

“In light of the Trump administration’s view that climate change is a hoax, the immediate termination of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline becomes all the more urgent.  Halting the pipeline will help preserve God’s household—the atmosphere, the waters and land--from devastation.  It will send a message of hope to the Sioux peoples and millions of disheartened Americans, frightened by a Trump presidency that shows no concern for the future of life on earth."
-Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Founder, Shomrei Adamah

"As Americans, we have a special obligation to honor the religious freedom and human rights of the Sioux and other Native Americans who have gathered to protect the earth in South Dakota. Their struggle in the face of abusive tactics of law enforcement and the desire for short term profits by DAPL at the expense of the long term common interest, is a struggle on behalf of all of us."
-The Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, The Interfaith Center of New York

“We take our stand as Christians, with people of all faiths who stand to protect the sacred”
-Bishop Andrew Dietsche, Episcopal Diocese of New York

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Reservation in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Environmental, racial and cultural justice issues are converging; as faith leaders of diverse traditions, we are united in our commitment to prophetic witness.” 
-Rev. Dr. James Moos, Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries, Co-Executive, Global Ministries

“Unitarian Universalists join other faith groups and indigenous peoples in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous peoples are fighting for future generations and Earth’s most precious resource: water. As people of faith and conscience, we cannot be idle observers to this destruction—and neither can the President of the United States. I urge President Obama to immediately end the construction of this dangerous pipeline.”
–Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association

“At the eve of this thanksgiving Muslims stand with Standing Rock Sioux for the sacred, for the water, for the Earth, and for human dignity.”
-Imam Malik Mujahid, Sound Vision Foundation

“Ultimately, this is a protest about the stewardship of God’s creation and justice for the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. Ultimately, this is a spiritual battle.”
-Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area; President, United Methodist Council of Bishops

"The offering this morning is wood from the North Camp of those on Standing Rock Sioux lands on the Missouri River, protecting it from an oil pipeline being built to run through it; and water from the Hudson River that runs through our Diocese. Like the Cross therefore, the wood is where we take our stand as Christians, with people of all faiths who stand to protect the sacred, for people of 300 native nations are gathered at the Missouri, with many others. The water is that gift of God in Creation, where we step forward in Baptism, to begin our sacred journey.

"We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux because they are our brothers and sisters, created by the same God. We stand with them for the sake of Creation, God's first revelation. We cannot sacrifice anyone for the profit of big business or big government. We stand together."
-Rev. Stephen C. Holton, STM 

“The Pipeline is desecrating three concentric circles of sacred life: Sioux and Lakota sacred land;  the great Missouri River that is the drinking water for millions; and billions of human beings and many other species who are already suffering from the oil that is burning up our planet.”
-Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center


Ian Rees
Ian(at)gzandassociates(dot)com | 215.869.9064
About Union Theological Seminary

Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a seminary and a graduate school of theology established in 1836 by founders “deeply impressed by the claims of the world upon the church.” Union prepares women and men for committed lives of service to the church, academy, and society. A Union education develops practices of mind and body that foster intellectual and academic excellence, social justice, and compassionate wisdom. Grounded in the Christian tradition and responsive to the needs of God’s creation, Union’s graduates make a difference wherever they serve.

Union believes that a new interreligious spirituality of radical openness and love is the world’s best hope for peace, justice, and the care of God’s creation. Empowered by groundbreaking inquiry aligned with practical realism and a bias for action, Union is charting a profound new course for enduring social change. Union graduates make a difference wherever they serve, practicing their vocations with courage and perseverance, and speaking clearly and acting boldly on behalf of social justice in all of its forms.

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