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Office on Violence Against Women – Action Alert

Monday, 18 December 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

I belong to a variety of email listservs. I received the following email from one of my subscriptions, and I am hopeful that folks will respond. If there is anything about which I am passionate and seek to support, it is an attempt to end violence. The following email is a way that one organization, in conjunction w/ the government, has attempted to address violence against women from an Interfaith and Eccumenical way.

Office on Violence Against Women – Action Alert

We need your help. As you may know, since late summer FaithTrust Institute has had a very difficult time with the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in the Department of Justice (see updated memo below). We just received word that we will receive no funding from OVW to address the faith concerns of victims of sexual and domestic violence after January 31, 2007.

Perhaps you attended one of our OVW trainings in recent years. If so you know better than most what we do and why we do it.

FaithTrust Institute has been providing technical assistance training and developing resources for OVW since 1998. We are the primary national program doing this work, and we are highly regarded and much appreciated by advocates and religious leaders alike. Now, suddenly, OVW has changed its interpretation of the governmental regulations regarding “faith-based programs.” FaithTrust Institute can no longer discuss “religion” at all in our trainings. Much to our dismay, all eight (8) of our project proposals for the next two years have been rejected by OVW. Our confusion and frustration are underscored by the form letters we received. OVW has offered no explanation for its rejection. They have discontinued working with us and we don’t know why
Because our mission is to work together with many faiths, organizations, and individuals to end sexual and domestic violence, we cannot ignore the religious component of our work. It is our work.

We need your help to get OVW to reconsider our project proposals for the next 2 years. And we need it immediately. We know that for many of you, this is busy holiday time. But your help is crucial to us. Please take a few minutes to send a letter, make a phone call, or schedule a visit with your elected officials. Specifically, I am asking you to do three things:
1. Please write to the new Director of OVW, Mary Beth Buchanan, telling her you rely on and support our work, your religious affiliation, and the need for our national training to continue. We are optimistic that the she will be responsive to your communications, and during the next two weeks there is a window of opportunity for her to reverse some of the previous decisions regarding FaithTrust Institute’s training programs.

PLEASE SEND BY EMAIL AND FAX A HARD COPY. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Marybeth.buchanan@usdoj.gov (remember to include mfortune@faithtrustinstitute.org in the CC field of your email).

FAX: 202-307-3911

Ms. Mary Beth Buchanan
Office on Violence Against Women
Department of Justice
800 K St. NW #920
Washington, DC 20530

2. Please write to, call or schedule a visit with your senators (www. senate.gov ) and representative ( http://www.house.gov). All elected officials have local offices, and talking with a member of his or her staff is a great way to ensure that your representative knows that the work of FaithTrust Institute is crucial in ending sexual and domestic violence. AND they may be available NOW before the new Congress convenes.

Here are some suggested talking points:

• FaithTrust Institute is the national leader in multifaith technical assistance addressing sexual and domestic violence
• Many of the trainings done by FaithTrust Institute for the Office on Violence Against Women were at the request of the Office on Violence Against Women
• FaithTrust Institute’s teaching and materials addressing “faith issues” for victims of sexual and domestic violence do not violate the principle of separation of church and state
• FaithTrust Institute has received the Office on Violence Against Women support and provided high quality and popular technical assistance programs for 8 years
•The rejection of FaithTrust Institute’s 8 concept papers for 2007-2008 is abrupt, unexpected and without explanation
•Tell of your experience with FaithTrust Institute and why you think the Office on Violence Against Women should continue its support
•State your religious affiliation and/or the organization you represent
• Request that FaithTrust Institute’s concept papers be reconsidered and that funding from the Office on Violence Against Women be restored

3. During this critical time, please consider making a special contribution to FaithTrust Institute on our Website.

I know I can count on you to help us, and I am grateful for your willingness to do so. As I mentioned, there is a two-week window of opportunity right now to ask the Office on Violence Against Women to reconsider funding FaithTrust Institute for the next two years. Please join with us today to ensure that we can uphold our mission to help end sexual and domestic violence.

Gratefully,

Rev. Marie M. Fortune
Founder and Senior Analyst
FaithTrust Institute
Background Memo

December 2006
From: Marie Fortune, FaithTrust Institute
RE: OVW Funding and Faith-based Agenda

Many of you have heard by now that FaithTrust Institute has encountered problems with the current administration of OVW regarding our Technical Assistance grant. So I wanted to give you a quick summary of the issues.

We realize that many programs both secular and faith-based are struggling with OVW at this time. So we do not feel at all “special,” but we do feel puzzled since we had assumed that we were providing a program that was consistent with their agenda.

Because we talk about religion and domestic violence, FaithTrust Institute’s funding from the Department of Justice has ended.

• Even though that’s exactly what we have been doing for the past eight years, funded by and enthusiastically supported by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in the Department of Justice (2005-2006 — $1.2 million)
• Even though our multifaith Religious Resources and Roadblocks program of training religious leaders and advocates to deal with the faith issues facing victims has been more successful than we ever imagined
• Even though we have three times more applicants for these OVW trainings than we have space to accommodate
OVW has changed the rules. While they used to urge us to address issues of faith, now they will not allow it.

FaithTrust Institute has received funding from OVW since 1998. Due to recent changes in their rules and practices FaithTrust Institute funding from OVW that enables us to train religious leaders on the Religious Resources and Roadblocks to Ending Violence Against Women has ended.

Through this training we have prepared more than 500 leaders from across the country and from many faith communities to address the faith aspects of domestic violence. They, in turn have made a tremendous ongoing impact on thousands of lives.

FaithTrust Institute was recently notified by OVW that we cannot speak of religion during any training they fund. We were informed one week prior to a scheduled recent training that we would need to revise or remove more than 50% of our agenda and materials or the training could not happen. OVW postponed the training until all of the presentations and materials were removed that pertained to “religious teachings.”

As you can imagine this came as a shock — especially under the Bush administration which has urged federal support of faith-based programs. Since 1998, we have faithfully carried out our responsibilities, working cooperatively with OVW to train religious leaders to address faith issues and domestic violence. Now, while our work has not changed over these eight years, the rules have.

Our issue with OVW is a difference of interpretation of regulations relative to separation of church and state. They believe we are promoting a particular religious teaching. We believe we are teaching leaders that any religious teaching can be a roadblock or a resource to ending domestic violence; and yes, we promote ending domestic and sexual violence.

Let us assure you that we are strongly committed to the separation of church and state and avoid proselytizing or favoring one religious tradition over another. In fact, we train people running faith-based programs that may receive federal funds how to deliver services in ways that do not violate the separation of church and state. We address the misuse of many religious teachings that support and condone domestic violence. We are religious leaders and we help our colleagues understand the potential roadblocks that religion can present — and the potential resources it can bring to seeking safety, healing and justice for battered women and their children and victims of sexual assault.

This work must continue. These projects will not be funded in 2007-2008:

•Training for rural leaders of faith-based organizations and domestic violence agencies on sexual violence and the related faith issues
• Multifaith basic and advanced training for religious leaders on the Religious Resources and Roadblocks to Ending Domestic Violence
• Resources and training on domestic violence in Muslim communities
• Training and education for religious leaders on domestic violence in Jewish communities

We are discussing these developments with our Senators and Representatives in order to raise appropriate questions about OVW funding of technical assistance.

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