Text of Faith Leaders’ Letter to Portland City Council

Dear Mayor Wheeler and City Council Members,

We, the undersigned Portland-area faith leaders, are writing to you today to request that you join us in opposing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720 and H.R.1697). If adopted, this pending federal legislation would prohibit “U.S. persons” from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country friendly to the United States. It would criminalize activities by “U.S. persons” that support boycotts called for by “international government organizations” such as the United Nations Human Rights Council. Merely requesting information about such boycotts would become illegal.  Violators of the Act would face prison terms as long as 20 years and fines up to $1 million.

As faith leaders we are concerned about any threat to civil liberties.  This legislation poses a grave threat to Oregonians’ and all Americans’ right to free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has noted, “This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs…”Even if no one is prosecuted under this law it would have a chilling effect on dissent and would have ominous implications for any kind of direct political action that protests powerful interests.

Boycotts are a form of non-violent collective action that allow ordinary people to make their voices heard.  In this country we have a long tradition of boycotts,beginning with the Boston Tea Party. In the 1960s boycotts organized by African American churches helped overturn Jim Crow laws.  Boycotts sponsored by the United Farm Workers Union helped win concessions from growers.   More recently, boycotts have been used to protest the States of Arizona and North Carolina when these states passed laws targeting immigrants and transgender people.

Both the United States and Oregon constitutions guarantee the right to free speech.  In the landmark 1982 decision, NAACP vs Claiborne Hardware, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of free speech.  We believe that the First Amendment’s right to free speech is core to our democracy and must be defended vigorously.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act specifically targets supporters of the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement. B.D.S. seeks to pressure the State of Israel to end five decades of military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem.  However, while we are concerned about the countless Human Rights violations endured by the Palestinians as a result of the occupations, we are not asking you to endorse B.D.S.  Moreover, the signature of any individual below does not imply an endorsement of B.D.S.  However, we acknowledge the right to boycott Israel if an individual, business, or organization chooses to do so.   If the Israel Anti-Boycott Act becomes law, our neighbors, family members and friends could be subject to ruinous fines, arrest and imprisonment. Faith leaders, including some of us, support B.D.S. as a matter of conscience.    Some of us represent denominations that have officially endorsed B.D.S. Others of us do not support B.D.S.   But we all agree that it is intolerable that anyone should face felony charges and possible imprisonment because they support this campaign.

We are confident that the City Council would not want to see the spectacle of Portlanders prosecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights.  We ask you to condemn the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.  We respectfully ask you to formalize your opposition by passing a resolution condemning it.   Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely, (see list of signatories below)

The Rev. Catherine Alder, United Church of Christ

The Rev. Denise Andersen, United Church of Christ

Curtis Bell, President, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East

The Rev. Molly Carlson, Conference Minister, Central Pacific Conference United Church of Christ

The Rev. Arik Clark, Presbytery of the Cascades (PCUSA)    (Portland)

The Rev. Deacon Stephen Denny, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church

The Rev. Jean M. Doane, United Church of Christ

The Rev. Elizabeth Durant, Assistant Minister, Portland First Congregational United Church of Christ (Portland)

The Rev. Diane Dulin, United Church of Christ (Central Pacific Conference, Portland)

The Rev. Beth Estock, United Methodist Church

The Rev. Dr. Constance Hammond, Episcopal

The Rev. Dr. Dale Harris, United Methodist Church (ret)

The Rev. Adam Hange, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Hillsboro

The Rev. John Newton Hickox MDiv, UCC, Americans Committed to Justice and Truth

Rabbi Debra Kolodny

The Rev. Christopher Laing, Episcopal Church, Diocese of Oregon (Portland)

Bishop Calvin D. McConnell, United Methodist Church (ret) (Portland)

The Rev. Deacon Marla McGarry, Episcopal Church

Rev. Dr. James Moiso, Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) (Portland)

The Rev. William Mullette-Bauer, United Methodist Church

The Imam Abdulah ef. Polovina, Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization

The Rev. Cecil Prescod, Minister of Faith Formation, Ainsworth United Church of Christ

The Rev. Jeanne Randall-Bodman, Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ (Milwaukie)

The Rev. David Randall-Bodman, Senior Minister Bethel Congregational UCC

The Rev. Heather Riggs, Oak Ridge United Methodist Church (Portland)

Pastor Steve Ross, Rose City United Methodist Church (Portland)

The Rev. Edward A. Rouffy, Episcopal Church (Portland)

The Rev. Gayle Sheller, Church of the Brethren (Hillsboro)

The Rev. John Shuck, Southminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)

Sr. Marcia Sims, SSS (Salem)

The Rev. Steven J. Sprecher (ret) United Methodist Church (Lake Oswego)

The Rev. Rod Stafford, Portland Mennonite Church

The Rev. Anthony C. Thurston, Episcopal Church (Portland)

The Rev. Canon Richard Toll, D.D.., DMin, President Friends of Sabeel North America (Portland)

The Rev. Anne Weld-Martin, United Methodist Church

Rabbi Joseph Wolf, Havurah Emeritus



Recently added:


Imam AbdulahPolovina

Rev. Todd  Bartlett, Exec Director, Camp and Retreat Ministries, Oregon/Idaho Conference UMC





























Portland-area faith leaders urge City Council to oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Portland-Area Faith Leaders Ask Portland City Council to Protect Free Speech Rights


For immediate release:


Nearly 40 Portland-area faith leaders have sent an open letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and members of the Portland City Council requesting that they publicly oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation currently in Congress that would criminalize support for boycotts of Israel initiated by international governmental organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council. (See attachment.)


“This legislation poses a grave threat to Oregonians’ and all Americans’ right to free speech,” the letter warns, citing opposition by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Signed by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, the letter notes that the proposed law carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and fines as high as $1 million for any “U.S. persons” found guilty of supporting such boycotts, despite the fact that boycotts are a recognized form of free speech under the U.S. Constitution.


“Many Oregon faith leaders are rightly fearful of this bill,” noted the Rev. Diane Dulin of the United Church of Christ.  “Many of our denominations have endorsed specific initiatives in favor of boycott, authorizing divestment and/or encouraging U.S. Congressional sanctions against Israel based on its human rights violations.”


Altogether, twelve Christian denominations have adopted resolutions supporting tactics of economic leverage and political sanctions to address these issues.  These church bodies include the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Mennonite Church USA.  The Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace is also on record in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) measures.


“Our City Council needs to speak out in defense of the freedom to boycott,” said David Newman of the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. “This is a time-honored method of nonviolent protest used by the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the LGBTQ community. If this right can be denied to Palestinian rights supporters, it is only a matter of time before this right is in jeopardy for everyone.”


Occupation-Free Portland (OFP), a coalition of religious, social justice, human rights, and socialist organizations, formally requested that the City Council speak out against the Israel Anti-Boycott Act at a Council session in January.


“To date, many members of the Oregon congressional delegation and the Multnomah County Democratic Party have gone on record opposing this bill as currently written,” noted Rod Such, a spokesman for OFP, citing the public opposition of Senator Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio. “Every elected official in Oregon needs to take a stand on this bill and uphold our fundamental democratic rights–rights by the way that the Israeli government continues to withhold from Palestinians.”




Enlace and Occupation-Free Portland Issue Joint Press Release on City Council Victory

For Immediate Release


Press Contacts:

Amanda Aguilar Shank, Enlace

Rod Such, Occupation-Free Portland

Responding to Pressure from Social Justice Activists, Portland City Council Halts All Investments in Private Corporations

On Wednesday 4/5/2017 the Portland, Oregon, City Council voted 5 to 0 to adopt a new City Investment Policy that ends all future investments in corporate securities. The decision followed three hours of public testimony that was overwhelmingly in support of Socially Responsible Investing.

“We celebrate this victory as it moves the City out of the business of investing in corporations that behave in ways that are so fundamentally opposed to the values we hold as a community,” said Hyung Nam, member of the former Portland Socially Responsible Investments Committee (SRIC).

The April 5 vote was the culmination of a process that started in December 2014 with a decision by the City Council to enact a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) screen and appoint a seven-person SRIC. The charge for the SRIC was to hear public testimony, review research, and develop an annual report with recommendations to the City Council for companies to be added to the City’s Do-Not-Buy list. These companies would be ineligible for investment based on multiple violations of the City’s SRI criteria.

In October 2016, the SRIC issued its first report to the City Council. The report found that nine companies violated multiple SRI criteria. In November 2016, the City Council received the SRIC report and heard extensive citizen testimony concerning primarily two of the companies on the list–Caterpillar and Wells Fargo. In December 2016, the City Council opted to take a three-month pause in all corporate investments and tasked the City Treasurer with reassessing Portland’s investment policy and commitment to a SRI lens for all City corporate investments.

At the April 5, 2017 hearing, the City Council heard the City Treasurer’s proposal, which proposed eliminating the citizen SRI Committee and using the proprietary Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment-screening tool, MSCI, as the sole way to evaluate a company’s SRI eligibility for City investments.

Citizen testimony at the April 5 hearing gave a resoundingly negative response to the City Treasurer’s proposal. A coalition of groups representing Palestinian human rights, private prison divestment, proponents of a municipal bank and climate justice argued that the proposed plan was completely devoid of any transparency and community input. The proposal lacked a tool to screen for values that Portlanders embrace. In testimony that was sung rather than spoken, the Raging Grannies challenged the Council with the words “From Standing Rock to Palestine and here in Portland town, Human life is under attack and the right thing must be done. Human life or profits, which side are you on?”

Initially, Council member Chloe Eudaly proposed amendments to the Treasurer’s resolution. These amendments called for the City to add Amazon, Caterpillar, Bank of NY Mellon, and Nestle to the proposal and for these companies to be placed on the Do- Not-Buy list. Ultimately, what won the day was the City Council passing a resolution proposed by Council member Dan Saltzman to prohibit Portland from investing in any corporate securities.

“This decision is a huge victory for citizen activism,” said Maxine Fookson of Jewish Voice for Peace and Occupation-Free Portland. “Through bringing the discussion of the egregious practices of companies such as Wells Fargo and Caterpillar into the light of day, the City Council opted to withdraw our taxpayers’ financial support from these corporations.”

“Although we would have preferred seeing the City keep its socially responsible investing policy and its SRIC so as to highlight the worst of the worst corporations and in order to encourage better corporate behavior, the compromise amendment at least ensures that our tax money will not be complicit in human rights violations in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere,” Fookson added.

Wells Fargo is the largest financier of private prison corporations, which are widely known for human rights abuses of detainees and understaffing and poorly trained and low-paid workers. Wells Fargo, which is also financing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), has gained notoriety for fake customer accounts and fraudulent and discriminatory lending practices that particularly target communities of color.

Caterpillar is heavily profiting from involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In violation of international law, Caterpillar sells the Israeli military weaponized bulldozers that are used as weapons of war to demolish Palestinian homes, villages, and agricultural lands. Churches, student groups and numerous international human rights organizations have attempted to engage Caterpillar to urge them to cease supporting this brutal military occupation, but the company has disregarded all attempts at engagement. In addition, Caterpillar was contracted to dig the Dakota Access Pipeline and is a favored company for construction of the US-Mexico Border Wall that Donald Trump is proposing.

“The City of Portland has taken strong stands in opposing DAPL and fossil fuel extraction,” noted Curtis Bell of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East. “It was only consistent for the City to disinvest from the companies engaged in those projects.”

Divestment from companies such as Wells Fargo and Caterpillar–companies that do such grave harm–is a strong statement for corporate responsibility. Though the City Council voted to make this statement in a more generic way, Enlace and Occupation-Free Portland applaud the fact that Portland will no longer be complicit with companies whose practices are so diametrically different from the social values Portlanders cherish. Both groups also welcomed the testimony given on behalf of a public bank and echo the insistence of climate justice organizations that Portland stay on record in support of keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

“In this age of Trump, we see our movements coming together internationally to push back against a corporate agenda that seeks profit over investment in people and the planet,” said Amanda Aguilar Shank, Interim Director of Enlace, convener of the National Prison Divestment Campaign. “In Portland and nationally, our communities are demanding that our cities become Freedom Cities, sites of resistance and also sites of visionary advances, like what we have seen in Portland today.”

Statement by Occupation Free Portland in Opposition to the Investment Policy Proposed by the Portland City Treasurer

Statement by Occupation Free Portland in Opposition to the Investment Policy Proposed by the Portland City Treasurer

March 29, 2017

Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of religious, social justice, and peace organizations, today released the following statement in response to a proposal from Portland’s City Treasurer that eliminates the city’s Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) policy. The proposal also eliminates the citizen advisory committee established to make recommendations under the SRI policy. In its place, the City Treasurer proposes to place Portland’s investments in corporate securities entirely in the hands of a Wall Street firm known as MSCI. The statement reads as follows:

We recognize the difficulty that the City Council had in December 2016 in agreeing unanimously on the recommendations of the city’s SRI Committee as to what corporations should be on the Do-Not-Buy list, particularly with regard to Wells Fargo and Caterpillar.

Occupation-Free Portland would like to point out, however, that the Council had previously agreed unanimously to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) because of its violations of the rights of indigenous people, to recognize the need to curb fossil fuel extraction, and to declare Portland a Sanctuary City. OFP commends the City Council for these positions taken in support of the environment and human rights.

The Council should now be able to see its way to act in accord with these principled positions given that Wells Fargo financed DAPL and Caterpillar was a major contractor in the building of it. Wells Fargo finances the fossil fuel industry and Caterpillar’s Oil and Gas Division and its Pipeline Division are key players in fossil fuel extraction. Wells Fargo also finances the private prison corporations that manage or own immigrant detention facilities, and Caterpillar is President Trump’s favored contractor for building the anti-immigrant wall on our border with Mexico.

It’s time for the City Council to act on its principles by not investing in corporations that are engaged in the very practices it condemns.

However, the main purpose of this statement is to address the new proposal on investment decisions being offered by the City Treasurer. We wish to explain why this is a bad policy and why the council should anticipate widespread community resistance to it. The only limit on the city’s investments in the Treasurer’s proposal would be to screen out corporations having less than a BBB environmental-social-governance (ESG) rating as provided by the evaluation corporation MSCI-ESG. But MSCI-ESG ratings are proprietary, which means Portland taxpayers would have no idea what goes into the rating decisions. The public will have no knowledge of the factors MSCI-ESG took into account and the factors that it simply ignored. Most importantly, neither the people of Portland nor the City Council itself will have any say in how the tax money is invested.  Thus, the proposed investment policy is completely lacking in both transparency and public input.

Furthermore, we have been advised that this proposal which essentially delegates the City’s investment authority to a Wall Street-based investment company, without any opportunity for further analysis by the Council –may well be illegal since it appears to violate the “delegation of powers theory” under the Oregon state constitution.  Governmental authority must be exercised by a governmental entity; it may not be delegated to a standard-setting private agency.

The City’s ceding of its decision-making authority to MSCI-ESG to determine whether a corporate security investment is permitted additionally may be in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Oregon’s Public Meetings law.  The City Treasurer is proposing that the City rely solely on reports that are proprietary and confidential, with no opportunity for citizens to review and respond to such reports, therefore, constituting a “meeting” that is not open to the public.

Given these concerns, we would like to know if this proposal has been vetted by the City Attorney, and if so, what the City Attorney’s findings were.

The main purpose of MSCI-ESG is to assess investment risk, not to explore whether corporations are engaged in human rights transgressions, unfair labor practices, corrupt corporate practices, or damaging environmental projects. What is now a relatively transparent process would become opaque to public scrutiny. It would completely negate the democratic process enabled by the previously adopted Socially Responsible Investments policy. Under the Treasurer’s proposal, there would be no citizen-based Socially Responsible Investments Committee, and there would be no democratic way for community groups to provide input to the city’s investment decisions. This is not acceptable in a City that champions progressive values.

From publicly available MSCI-ESG reports, we know that this rating agency gives 0% weight to issues of corporate ethics and fraud. This is especially alarming when you consider that both Caterpillar and Wells Fargo have been caught red-handed in fraud. Wells Fargo was found to have defrauded two million customers with phony customer accounts. Caterpillar’s headquarters was recently raided by four federal agencies after a government-commissioned report concluded the company was guilty of accounting fraud in avoiding the payment of $2.7 billion in taxes.

We are also disturbed that MSCI-ESG appears to give little weight to human rights considerations in its evaluation of corporate behavior. Human rights are of special concern to the people of Portland. Citizen groups in Portland are deeply concerned about the rights of people of color, immigrant rights, indigenous people’s rights, LGBT rights, the rights of Palestinians, and the human rights of all groups.

If the Treasurer’s proposed policy had been in place some years ago, then it is likely that the City Council would not have been able to put the Carbon Tracker 200 corporations and perhaps Wal-mart on the Do-Not-Buy List. We do not have access to current MSCI ratings of corporations, but we know that five years ago fossil fuel corporations such as Chevron and Exxon had ratings that were much higher than BBB. We know nothing about Wal-mart’s ratings.

The only reason the SRI policy has appeared contentious is because Wells Fargo lobbyists have opposed placing Wells Fargo on the Do-Not-Buy list and because some supporters of the Israeli government have opposed placing Caterpillar on the list. One of the Israeli government supporters conceded at a November 2016 City Council hearing that the objection to Caterpillar was raised only because Caterpillar does business with the Israeli army and has been the target for many years of campaigns by activists for Palestinian human rights. Otherwise, there would have been no objection to placing this corporation on the Do-Not-Buy list for violating six of the seven criteria under the SRI policy, including violations of the indigenous rights of the Sioux nation at Standing Rock, the Xinca people in Guatemala, and the Lenca people in Honduras. In effect, they asked that an exception be made for violations of Palestinian human rights and that violations of Palestinian human rights be allowed.  But as you well know, the very concept of universal human rights is threatened when exceptions are made for certain ethnic or racial groups.

We recognize that the City Council may wish to avoid controversy by adopting the

Treasurer’s proposed policy which has the appearance of objectivity. But as we have pointed out such objectivity is only apparent. Controversy over the city’s investment decisions will not disappear under such a policy.

Occupation-Free Portland calls on the City Council to ensure transparency and citizen participation in its investment decisions and to respect the human rights of all people without exception. We commend the City Council’s decision in 2015 to initiate an SRI policy that has become a model for other cities to follow around the country. We join together with our allies who work for the rights of immigrants, for the rights of indigenous people, for climate justice and in opposition to private prisons in asking the City Council to reinstate the SRI policy and the SRIC and to add Wells Fargo, Caterpillar, Nestle, and Amazon to the Do-Not-Buy list.

Our proposed draft resolution can be found here:



Press Release: City of Portland Votes to Cease Investments in All Corporate Securities Including Occupation Profiteer Caterpillar and Prison Profiteer Wells Fargo

December 23, 2016

Press Contacts: Maxine Fookson: info@jvp-pdx.org
Peter Miller: info@auphr.org

In Historic Vote City of Portland Votes to Suspend Investments in All Corporate Securities Including Occupation Profiteer Caterpillar and Prison Profiteer Wells Fargo

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday 12/21/16, Portland’s City Council halted investments in all corporate securities including Caterpillar and Wells Fargo, two companies of particular concern for violations of multiple criteria of the City’s Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) policy. Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of Palestinian human rights organizations and church groups, and the Portland Prison Divestment Coalition, convened by Enlace, and representing 25 leading racial and migrant justice groups, with support from the environmental group, 350pdx.org, joined forces to urge the City Council to make the historic move to place Caterpillar and Wells Fargo on the City’s do-not-buy list.

The coalition of groups successfully urged the City Council to support the recommendations of the appointed Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRIC) to divest from Caterpillar and Wells Fargo for violating criteria set forth in the city’s SRI policy.

As the hearing opened, Commissioner Steve Novick introduced an amendment to add Wells Fargo and Caterpillar to the City’s Do-Not-Buy list. Commissioner Amanda Fritz immediately added an additional amendment to stop all investments in corporate securities until the new City Council can return to this issue in 2017.

The City Council’s unanimous approval of Fritz’s amendment means that not only Caterpillar and Wells Fargo but every corporation is now ineligible for Portland investments.

“After today’s decision, it will be important for Caterpillar and other corporations to have discussions in their board rooms about their corporate conduct, and decide to make the change to not sell products and services to human rights abusers,” noted Palestinian-American lawyer Hala Gores.

Weighing in on the Portland City Council decision, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, comprised of over 40 Rabbis and Rabbinical Students from across North America and Israel/Palestine, stated, “Many of us in the Jewish community deeply appreciate the solidarity of people of conscience in pursuing conscientious nonviolent strategies, such as socially responsible investing as a path towards building a more ethical and sustainable world. Thank you, members of the City Council, for your commitment to ethical investing and for setting an example for other cities of what socially responsible investing looks like.”

Occupation-Free Portland Steering Committee member Maxine Fookson added, “We applaud City Commissioner Steve Novick, who, in his opening statement, countered the accusations by opponents to placing Caterpillar on the do not buy list that Occupation-Free Portland is motivated by anti-Semitism and the reference to the Jews within OFP as being ‘fringe’.”

Novick said, “I share the desire of folks in Jewish Voice for Peace” (part of Occupation-Free Portland) “to make Israel a better country. Frankly I was disturbed a few weeks ago to hear them referred to as ‘fringe Jews’”.

In earlier hearings, and in written testimony, the broad coalition of groups and community members presented compelling evidence of Caterpillar’s and Wells Fargo’s violations of human rights, tax avoidance, unfair labor practices, environmental desecration and corrupt corporate governance.

Occupation-Free Portland (OFP) focused on the case of Caterpillar, a company that knowingly sells its militarized D9 bulldozers to the Israeli military for use in home demolitions, destruction of agricultural land and destruction of Palestinian city and village infrastructure.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that corporations are responsible for human rights violations – even those committed by their customers’ use of their products, if the corporation knew or should have known of such use by the customer. For over a decade Caterpillar has been informed of concerns with the use of its D9 bulldozer in the Israeli occupation.

Occupation-Free Portland Steering Committee member Curt Bell said, “The City’s vote yesterday afternoon makes me proud to live in a city that refuses to invest hard-earned tax dollars in companies that not only violate human rights but also desecrate the earth.”


Enlace: Portland City Council Votes to Stop Investing in Wells Fargo, Caterpillar and All Corporate Securities



December 21, 2016

Press Contacts:
Jamie Trinkle, Enlace
jamie@enlaceintl.org | (503)-757-4375
Maxine Fookson, Occupation-Free Portland
mfookson@gmail.com | (503)-381-7465

Portland City Council Votes to Stop Investing in Wells Fargo, Caterpillar and All Corporate Securities

December 21 – Portland City Council voted today to temporarily halt investing in all corporate securities, after broad community pressure to end investments in prison lender Wells Fargo and Caterpillar. Earlier this year, the Socially Responsible Investments Committee (SRIC)  recommended the city end investments in ten of the “worst of the worst” corporations, including Wells Fargo and Caterpillar. The Portland Prison Divestment Coalitionconvened by Enlace and representing 25 local leading racial and migrant justice organizationsOccupation-Free Portland, and clergy applauded the city’s step to align its investments with its values by stopping investments in Caterpillar and Wells Fargo. The city vote today means Portland is joining the chorus of local governments ending investments in Wells Fargo, and is a leader in ending ties with Caterpillar, the company Trump has said will build his wall to keep out the millions of immigrants he plans to forcibly deport. 

Currently, the City of Portland has investments in both Wells Fargo and Caterpillar, yet both companies fail to meet multiple criteria of Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) Policy. City investments in these two companies raised concerns around environmental desecration, weapons production, abusive labor practices, human rights abuses and corporate governance. Commissioner Steve Novick introduced an amendment today to add Wells Fargo and Caterpillar to the city’s do-not-buy list. Commissioner Amanda Fritz immediately added a friendly amendment to stop all investments in corporate securities until the city council can return to this issue in the first quarter of 2017. Fritz’s amendment replaced Novick’s resolution and amendment. The city’s unanimous decision today will stop new investments in all corporate securities until the council reconsiders this issue in 2017.

“We applaud the city council decision and this action confirms our commitment to progressive social values and a true commitment to sanctuary. We are proud to be part of a national movement that is challenging the anti-immigrant, racist, xenophobic and antisemitic ideology of the Trump Administration,” said Cecelia Beckwith, volunteer with Enlace, convener of the Prison Divestment Campaign. 

“As a city employee who works with youth and encourages those youth to seek work with the city, I’m relieved that the city is taking a step towards not investing in Wells Fargo and private prison lenders. I won’t have to wonder how much of my paycheck is coming from the prison industrial complex,” said Leila Haile, Parks and Recreation Employee and organizer with Sankofa Collective Northwest. 

Wells Fargo is one of the principal financiers of the private prison industry. Private prison companies use the bank’s credit to expand and lobby for increased criminalization and incarceration which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities. Wells Fargo’s financing institutions with a well documented history of human rights abuses coupled with their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline and their fraudulent account scandals place Wells Fargo in violation of Portland’s SRI criteria. Today, Portland joins the States of Illinois, OhioCalifornia, and Massachusetts, and cities of ChicagoSan FranciscoSeattleSacramentoMinneapolis in cutting ties with the bank.  

Caterpillar’s human rights violations include: use of their militarized bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes, lands and infrastructure; environmental concerns due to contracts to build the Dakota Access Pipeline and environmental degradation from mining and dam construction with Caterpillar equipment in Central America; tax avoidance; anti-labor practices; weapons manufacturing; and violations of corporate ethics for refusing to engage with church and human rights groups about the manufacturing and use of their their products to violate the human rights of Palestinians.

“After today’s decision, it will be important for Caterpillar and other corporations to have discussions in their board rooms about their corporate conduct, and decide to make the change to not sell products and services to human rights abusers,” testified Palestinian lawyer Hala Gores. 

This is a critical moment in our nation’s history. As vulnerable communities organize in anticipation of the incoming Trump administration, Portland’s action today is representative of bold local leadership to stand firmly in speaking out against practices that trample human rights, corporate ethics, and desecration of the environment. 


Professional photos and video of today’s hearing and vote available upon request. 

The Portland Prison Divestment Coalition, convened by Enlace, is a collaboration of the city’s leading Black, immigrant, LGBTQ, faith, civil rights and labor organizations. The Coalition, and the National Prison Divestment Campaign has gained widespread support from a public that is outraged by the targeting of Black and brown communities by local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),  and the sprawling incarceration system that private prisons operate within. The coalition is composed of: ACLU Portland, American Friends Service Committee, Black Lives Matter Portland, Causa Oregon, Enlace, First Unitarian Church, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, NAACP – Portland, National Lawyers Guild Portland, Northwest Accountability Project, Occupation Free PDX, Oregon Education Association, Oregon Immigrant Activists, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland Association of Teachers, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, PDX Jobs with Justice, Sankofa Collective Northwest, SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, Unite Oregon, Urban League of Portland, Voz: Workers’ Rights Education Project. Together these faith, labor, and community organizations form a powerful force for what is right in our community. We represent over ten thousand Portlanders.

The Prison Divestment Campaign was convened by Enlace in 2011 in response to the role that private prisons play in the expansion of criminalization and incarceration of immigrants and people of color in the United States. The campaign has over 200 endorsers nationally who represent immigrant, Black, LGBT, labor, and community groups.

An Open Letter to the Portland City Council From JVP Rabbinical Council

An Open Letter to the Portland City Council
From the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council (source)

“No city in the United States should be invested in corporations that profit from military violence. Compassion and equity is what we seek. Saving, and not destroying lives is what we are commanded to pursue.”  Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

We write to you as members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council to encourage your efforts to place Caterpillar on Portland’s Do Not Buy List. We applaud your ethical commitment to socially responsible investing, and want to communicate our support as Jewish leaders who work for justice and peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.

We know you will likely be criticized by groups that claim to speak for the entire Jewish community. However, as Jewish leaders, we believe there is by no means a uniformity of opinion on this issue in the American Jewish community. There is, in fact, a growing desire within the North American Jewish community to end our silence over Israel’s almost 50-year occupation of Palestine and to speak out for the rights of Palestinians.

We encourage the placement of Caterpillar on Portland’s Do Not Buy List for its reprehensible track record and violations of six of the seven criteria established by Portland’s Socially Responsible Investment Committee. A few of the company’s human rights violations include: use of their bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes and infrastructure, environmental concerns around contracts to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, and environmental degradation from mining and dam construction in Central America with Caterpillar equipment. Caterpillar has also participated in tax avoidance, anti-labor practices and weapons manufacturing.

To invest your own resources in corporations which pursue your vision of a just and peaceful world, and to withdraw your resources from those which contradict this vision is a bold move, and one that we want you to know is supported by a large, and ever growing Jewish community committed to social and environmental justice.

Contrary to what you may have heard, many of us in the Jewish community deeply appreciate the solidarity of people of conscience in pursuing conscientious nonviolent strategies, such as socially responsible investing as a path towards building a more ethical and sustainable world. Thank you, members of the City Council, for your commitment to ethical investing and for setting an example for other cities of what socially responsible investing looks like.

With prayers for peace, and with appreciation for your commitment to a more just world,

JVP Rabbinical Council, a council of over 40 Rabbis and Rabbinical Students from across North America and Israel/Palestine.

Clergy Letter to Mayor Hales and Portland City Council

Dear Mayor Hales and Portland City Council Members:

As leaders in the Portland faith community, we commend the Portland City Council for its socially responsible investment (SRI) policy. Implementing this comprehensive SRI framework and process makes Portland a model city for other municipalities across the country. As Rev. William Sinkford said at the November 30 hearing, “investments are moral decisions.”

The Human Rights Commission and the Socially Responsible Investment Committee invested many hours of study and heard citizen testimony examining corporations whose troublesome practices make Portland’s investments inappropriate and misaligned with the city’s values. Now it is the City Council’s turn to assume leadership in response to the Human Rights Commission and SRI Committee’s thoughtful recommendations and add all 10 recommended companies to the city’s Do Not Buy list.

The multitudes of voices heard in support of full adoption of the SRI Committee’s recommendation at the city council hearing represent a diverse segment of Portland’s population directly impacted by the corporate profiteering of the 10 recommended companies. We heard powerful testimony from immigrant workers, from those facing the impacts of our unjust system of mass incarceration, from Palestinian refugees, from indigenous water protectors recently returned from Standing Rock—all urging the council to fully adopt the recommendation.

Including all 10 companies on the Do Not Buy List would remove Portland investments from two corporations that are of particular concern to us. Those named at the recent three-hour hearing as “the worst of the worst” in violation of established principles and values, Caterpillar and Wells Fargo, were identified repeatedly by dozens of citizens who testified before the council November 30.

In response to the destruction of land and violence against peaceful water protectors in North Dakota, the Portland City Council has joined Mayor Hales in solidarity with indigenous activists protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses the Standing Rock Reservation. It would be consistent with the resolution in support of the Water Protectors that Portland cut its funding to Caterpillar, a company that is hugely involved in the pipeline construction and that has no concerns about the ethics of this project.

Caterpillar’s violation of environmental, labor, and human rights standards is well documented. Caterpillar was ranked in the top 100 toxic air polluters based on EPA records. Because of illegal home and infrastructure demolitions in Palestine and involvement in digging the North Dakota Access Pipeline, Caterpillar has earned widespread denouncement across the country. Caterpillar violates six of the seven standards established by the city council to measure socially responsible corporate ethics.

Additionally, American Christian denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ have divested from Caterpillar, following many years of attempted engagement to urge cessation of its military contracts with Israel.
Wells Fargo is also one of the worst of the worst. This bank is one of the primary financiers of private prison corporations. It is widely known that private prison corporations operate from a profit motive, and have been found to widely violate the human rights of those incarcerated in these institutions.

As local faith leaders, we commend you for entering the unavoidably controversial arena of socially responsible investment practices. We urge you to act out of love and compassion rather than fear. We urge you to listen to those who are suffering directly at the hands of these profiteering companies. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Inevitably, bold leadership must prove capable of principled decisions in determining how city funds are invested. Please do not undermine the model process you have set in motion—adopt the full recommendations from the SRI subcommittee. This decision may be politically difficult, but it is not particularly complicated. Years of engagement by churches and community groups document these companies’ unwillingness to meet Portland standards for protection of human rights, respect for labor and environmental standards, and enlightened corporate ethics.

We appeal to you: Do the right thing today.
We also pledge to you: We in the faith community will have your back.

The Reverend Diane Dulin, United Church of Christ Central Pacific Conference Wider Church Ministries
The Reverend Canon Richard Toll, Episcopal Priest (Retired)
The Reverend Catherine L. Alder, United Church of Christ
The Reverend Marla McGarry-Lawrence, Episcopal Deacon
The Reverend John Newton Hickox, United Church of Christ
The Reverend Elizabeth Durant, United Church of Christ Central Pacific Conference Justice & Witness Ministries, First Congregational United Church of Christ-Portland
The Reverend Doctor James Moiso, Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Reverend Dan Simmons, National Director for World Vision Jerusalem (retired)
The Reverend Lynne Smouse Lopez, Pastor, Ainsworth United Church Of Christ
The Reverend Lawrence​ Hansen, Cana House
The Reverend Don Frueh, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ
The Reverend Jill E. James, Lutheran (ELCA) Clergy (Retired Chaplain)
The Reverend Doctor Constance Hammond, Episcopal Church
The Reverend Canon Joseph A. Dubay, Episcopal Priest (Retired)
The Reverend John A. Shuck, Cascades Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Reverend Denise Andersen, Clackamas United Church of Christ
The Reverend Deacon Stephen Denny
The Reverend Forster W. Freeman, Lake Oswego, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, D.Min. (Retired)
The Reverend Bill Sinkford, Sr. Minister, First Unitarian Church Portland
The Reverend Jessie Smith, Vicar, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Ron Werner, Jr, Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Reverend Brian E. Brandt, Ph.D., Lutheran (ELCA), Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Beaverton