Biden urged to create federal reparations commission by hundreds of faith leaders

Washington DC - The pressure on President Joe Biden to create a federal reparations commission is mounting as more than 200 faith leaders added their voices to the growing demand for justice.

Rev. Stephen A. Green, chair of Faith for Black Lives, is among the leading activists behind the interfaith letter to President Biden demanding the creation of a federal reparations commission.
Rev. Stephen A. Green, chair of Faith for Black Lives, is among the leading activists behind the interfaith letter to President Biden demanding the creation of a federal reparations commission.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The National Council of Churches USA (NCC), Faith for Black Lives, and hundreds of faith leaders sent a letter to the president on Tuesday urging him to establish a commission before Juneteenth.

"We – the undersigned faith leaders representing millions of people of faith from around the country – strongly urge you to issue an executive order to establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans," the letter reads.

The signatories, who include representatives from various Christian denominations as well as Jewish and Muslim groups, call for the creation of a commission according to the guidelines laid out in the House bill HR 40 and its Senate companion S 40, both reintroduced in January this year.

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Though HR 40 garnered record levels support following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, House leadership failed to put the bill to a vote in the 117th Congress. Now, yet another Black History Month has come and gone without the president acting on growing calls for an executive order.

The interfaith coalition has warned that any further delay on reparative justice will only inflict more damage: "The US cannot mend its political, economic, and social brokenness until it addresses its own transgressions against people of African descent."

"Only an honest and complete assessment of the harms done by the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and racial discrimination that provides for the restoration of those harmed will right the wrongs of the past that still haunt us today."

Faith leaders unite behind a federal reparations commission

President Joe Biden has so far not established a federal reparations commission, despite declaring his support for a reparations study while on the campaign trail.
President Joe Biden has so far not established a federal reparations commission, despite declaring his support for a reparations study while on the campaign trail.  © WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Reparations advocates have long hoped that interfaith efforts will make an impression on Biden, who is a practicing Catholic.

In November 2022, a group of more than 2,000 Catholic sisters and associates called on the president to fulfill his campaign promise of establishing a reparations study commission.

"The National Council of Churches historically has stood on the frontlines in advancing a vision of racial justice in America to build a beloved community," Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, NCC interim president and general secretary, said in a statement following the latest letter campaign. "This historic letter to President Biden from a diverse coalition of faith leaders speaks to the fierce urgency to preserve American democracy through reparative justice."

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Faith for Black Lives Chair Rev. Stephen A. Green added, "We encourage President Biden to pursue a pathway of racial healing and transformation in this country by establishing a Presidential Commission to Develop Reparations Proposals."

"As attempts to erase Black history spread across the nation, it is imperative that we respond with a federal approach to address the harms and vestiges of slavery and segregation."

Cover photo: ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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