The National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) created Faithful America (FA) in 2004, with the aim of making the latter a “religious version of MoveOn.org.” Characterizing itself as “an online community of tens of thousands of citizens motivated by faith to take action on the pressing moral issues of our time,” FA “mobilizes” its members by soliciting their participation in petition-signings, letter-writing campaigns, demonstrations, and lobbying events. Such activity is typically orchestrated in conjunction with organizations that have similar, though not necessarily religious, agendas.
Active in a broad range of issues, FA, which does not share affiliation with any particular faith or denomination, has been particularly aggressive in promoting:
The redistribution of wealth (“end poverty and promote economic security for all”)
An end to the Iraq War and to enhanced interrogation procedures vis a vis prisoners-of-war (“promote peace and restore America’s commitment to human rights and diplomacy”)
The enactment of policies to combat global warming (“prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change”)
The creation of a government-run heath care system
The dismissal of any notion that radical Islam poses a threat to the West, or that most Christian evangelicals are politically conservative (“counter hate speech and misinformation in the media pertaining to people of faith”)
FA’s history statement asserts that the project began in June 2004 as an initiative to raise $36,000 for a television advertisement condemning the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal in Iraq. Aired on both the Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya news channels, the ad stated:
“A Salaam A’alaykum [‘Peace be with you’ in Arabic]. As Americans of faith, we express our deep sorrow at abuses committed in Iraqi prisons. We stand in solidarity with all those in Iraq and everywhere who demand justice and human dignity. We condemn the sinful and systemic abuses committed in our name, and pledge to work to right these wrongs.”
The key founders of FA were Ricken Patel and Tom Perriello, who served as the project’s first co-directors. Patel is a fellow with the pro-socialist organization Res Publica and a co-founder of Avaaz.org, a website devoted to leftwing activism. As of 2008, he was a board of directors member with Faith in Public Life (FPL), which later acquired FA. Perriello, for his part, co-founded Avaaz.org, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Res Publica. FA has thanked Res Publica and True Majority for having provided “strategic advice…[which] helped Faithful America establish itself as a valuable source for faith-based online activism.” In 2008, Perriello won the House of Representatives seat representing Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.
In October of 2004, Vince Isner, who previously worked for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, became FA’s first full-time director. In addition, the legendary antiwar activist William Sloane Coffin became an honorary FA chairman, a position he held until his death in 2006.
Working in concert with other, likeminded organizations, FA currently lists its partners as The Jewish Council For Public Affairs, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the NCC, Sojourners, and Vote the Common Good. It has also collaborated on occasion with Res Publica and Avaaz.org.
In 2005, FA and the National Council of Churches began a “Ringing for Remembrance” campaign in which churches and religious institutions rang bells weekly in remembrance of Americans and Iraqis who had recently been killed in the Iraq War. Additional partners in this initiative included Democracy Rising (an antiwar organization headed by Ralph Nader) and Clergy and Laity Concerned About Iraq.[
In 2007](http://dynamodata.fdncenter.org/990_pdf_archive/203/203798596/203798596_200712_990.pdf) the organization Faith in Public Life (FPL) “acquired and began the re-launch of FaithfulAmerica.org.” That same year, FA undertook its own direct diplomatic engagement with Tehran when a delegation from the group met with then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former president Mohammad Khatami, who had held that office from 1997-2005. Following the meeting, FA issued a number of demands (to the U.S. and Iran) that included, most notably:
After Barack Obama took office as U.S. President in 2009, FA became very active in promoting the socialization of the U.S. health care system. Toward that end, FA joined Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, FPL, the Gamaliel Foundation, the PICO National Network, and Sojourners in an ad campaign that ran in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Carolina. The same coalition led a “40 Days for Health Reform” initiative that sought to frame the issue as a biblical and ethical imperative.
FA views global warming as a phenomenon that is likely to cause “drought, disease, catastrophic crop failure,…drastic changes in weather,…and flood.” During the December 2009 United Nations climate-change talks in Copenhagen, FA and Avaaz.org collaborated to erect a large ark — symbolizing the possibility that mankind may someday need a means of fleeing a major natural calamity — on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The purpose of this display was “to show our leaders what’s at stake in the Copenhagen talks.”
In 2007, the Knight Foundation gave the National Council of Churches a $250,000 grant earmarked for an FA program designed to help “mainstream faith leaders” become “much better equipped with talking points, policy papers, intellectual support, prepared testimony, draft op-eds, sermons, study guides and church bulletins — and more able to unite around a shared policy agenda.” FA also received two Open Society Institute grants of $400,000 apiece in 2008.