Se resuelve, con la aprobación de la Cámara de __________, Que esta 79a Convención General afirme la dignidad de todo ser humano creado a imagen de Dios y, por lo tanto, esté en contra de toda esclavitud humana en cualquier momento, bajo cualquier forma, bajo cualquier circunstancia; y asimismo
Se resuelve, Que esta 79a Convención General ruegue al Obispo Presidente y a la Presidenta de la Cámara de Diputados que designen un grupo de trabajo compuesto por doce teólogos, expertos en derecho constitucional, litigantes, expertos en procedimientos legislativos, líderes y representantes de organizaciones de derechos civiles, ciudadanos que han regresado y académicos de la justicia penal conocedores de la historia, el contenido y los efectos persistentes de la esclavitud transatlántica; y asimismo
Se resuelve, Que el grupo de trabajo desarrolle estrategias para eliminar el lenguaje de la Enmienda XIII a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos que autoriza la esclavitud legal después de 1865; que dice: "Ni la esclavitud ni la servidumbre por contrato, salvo como castigo por un delito del cual la parte debió haber sido debidamente condenada, existirá dentro de los Estados Unidos, o en cualquier lugar sujeto a su jurisdicción..."; y asimismo
Se resuelve, Que el grupo de trabajo se una a la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal para colaborar con los socios ecuménicos/interreligiosos episcopales para apoyar iniciativas con el fin de ofrecer un nuevo lenguaje constitucional que ponga fin a la esclavitud 'sin excepción'; y asimismo
Se resuelve, Que la Convención General solicite al Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Programa, Presupuesto y Finanzas que considere una asignación presupuestaria de US$30,000 para llevar a cabo esta resolución.
In 1861 when the Civil War broke out, there were more than 4 million people held as slaves in 15 southern and border states. They were considered chattel and lived in conditions that dehumanized them by denying basic rights. They were under complete control of their owners and as such could not speak their native language, could not learn how to read or write, marriages were banned and children were often taken away from parents and sold to the highest bidder, sexual assault of enslaved women ran rampant, the work was long and hard, and violence was a way of life.
In 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to abolish slavery. In this statement, it abolishes slavery except for punishment for a crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted. Consequently, this left the door open for African Americans to continue to be enslaved by another name. They were at risk of being arbitrarily arrested and hit with court fines that had to be worked off for them to be released. In addition, there was the matter of the Black Codes. As Michelle Alexander states “Clearly the purpose of the black codes in general and the vagrancy laws in particular was to establish another system of forced labor. In W.E.B. Du Bois’ words: ‘The Codes spoke for themselves…No openminded student can read them without being convinced they meant nothing more nor less than slavery in daily toil’.” (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, 2010, The New Press, p. 28)
During the Reconstruction Era, the Black Codes were overturned, and legislation was passed to protect the freed slaves. This Era was short-lived. It was replaced by laws that would soon be known as Jim Crow of which vestiges remain today. Jim Crow laws destroyed everything that had been put in place in support of African Americans, establishing a system that reasserted the white hierarchy placing African Americans in a position of being accused and convicted of a crime. In fact, the strides that African Americans made were replaced with convictions under vagrancy laws and other menial laws created to disenfranchise. Consequently, they found themselves having to serve out the costs and fines to secure their release. As prisoners, they were sent out to do forced labor by working on the railroads, farms, plantations, and so forth. With no other recourse, they exchanged one form of slavery for another.
The use of state-sanctioned slavery continues today as a New Jim Crow throughout the United States. As Michelle Alexander states “The criminal justice system was strategically employed to force African Americans back into a system of extreme repression and control, a tactic that would continue to prove successful for generations to come.” (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, 2010, The New Press, p. 32). In short, the exception to the 13th Amendment is being used to promote and maintain the world’s highest mass incarceration rate and prison-for-profit in our country today.
It is so crucial an imperative for the Church as the children of God to stand up for the rights of human beings both in the United States and around the world. But, we must begin here, in our nation at this time. Our Baptismal Covenant commits us to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Addressing a constitutional exception clause with our best scholarship and dedicated partners will help to bring about justice and restore the dignity of countless thousands of people who continue to be consigned to slavery, legally, in the United States of America.
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