Non-profit

Faithful America

Website:

www.faithfulamerica.org

Formation:

2004

2013 (as a CEL project)

Type:

Left-Wing Christian Activist Group

Project of:

Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL)

Executive Director:

Nathan Empsall

Faithful America is a left-of-center activist group which protests center-right policies and runs campaigns related to various social issues.[1]

Since 2013, Faithful America has operated as a project of the Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL), a 501(c)(4) center-left political engagement nonprofit. As such, Faithful America does not file annually with the IRS and all donations to the group are routed to CEL. [2]

Background

Faithful America has existed since 2004, as an offshoot of the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC). NCC has existed since the early 20th century with the goal of unifying Christian denominations under a left-of-center social agenda.[3] The group also described itself as a project of the National Council of Churches supported by TrueMajority and Res Publica. [4]

Faithful America was established to resemble a “religious version of MoveOn.org.”[5] Faithful America serves as a forum for petitions which promote progressive social policies, using a grassroots network of members across the United States. In 2007, Faith in Public Life, a left-of-center, tax-exempt charity, acquired Faithful America.[6] After this acquisition occurred, Faithful America leaders met with then-Iranian regime president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and issued demands to the U.S. and Iranian governments to engage in “direct face-to-face talks” and to stop using “enemy images” of one another.[7] In 2009, Faithful America joined in an ad campaign to support socialized medicine, using biblical framing.[8] That same year, FA activists erected a large ark on the National Mall to frame climate change using religious imagery.[9]

However, the current iteration of Faithful America was reportedly formed in January 2013 under the fiscal sponsorship of the Oakland, California-based Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit which provides sponsorship services to a number of other left-wing organizations. [10]

Advocacy Campaigns

Most of the work done by Faithful America today is orchestrated through petitions posted on the website.[11] Campaigns cover a wide range of left-of-center policies, from a campaign to censor right-wing pundit and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) for referring to Obama’s presidency “anti-Christian” to a petition to tell Congress to “Listen to Pope Francis, Help the Unemployed” after the federal budget deal did not address unemployment to the group’s liking.[12]

The group primarily operates through publishing mass signature gathering campaigns on its website. It is unclear how its signatures are gathered as the group does not verify or publish information regarding its signatories.

Hobby Lobby Lawsuit

In 2012, retail giant Hobby Lobby challenged a portion of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as “Obamacare“) for requiring the company to provide contraceptive options to its employees which violated the Christian religious beliefs of its owners.

In September 2012, Faithful America purportedly gathered 80,000 signatures demanding Hobby Lobby provide the contraceptives to its employees. The group was aided by UltraViolet, a left-wing feminist advocacy organization. [13] After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Faithful America “held a vigil outside of” the company’s headquarters. [14]

Attacks on the Family Research Council

Faithful America has claimed it “forced MSNBC” to stop inviting Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Christian group Family Research Council, for on-air interviews after a multi-month telephone campaign utilizing 20,000 members. [15] Faithful America accused Perkins of having a “long history of extreme, hateful rhetoric against gays and lesbians.” [16]

The campaign was carried out with the support of New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and cited the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center‘s labeling of the Family Research Council as a “hate group.” Robinson told a crowd organized by Faithful America outside of MSNBC’s New York headquarters: [17]

Same-Sex Marriage

In March 2014, World Vision, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid nonprofit, announced it would recognize employees’ same-sax marriages, a position it reversed two days after the announcement. Faithful America reportedly gathered 16,000 signatures supporting its demand for the resignation of board members Jacqueline Fuller and John Park, both Google employees. Faithful American executive director Michael Sherrard accused World Vision of not sharing Google’s “commitment to inclusivity and equality.” [18]

Gun Control

Faithful America has demanded that Roman Catholic bishops in the United States “make gun control a key Catholic priority.” The group has called gun control a “‘pro-life’ voting issue.” [19]

Other Issues

Faithful America has launched petitions in favor of organized labor while strongly opposing deportation of illegal immigrants and the construction of a border wall.[20] Faithful America also claimed credit for bringing attention to the Sisters of Loretto, a small group of nuns in Kentucky who opposed the construction of a new pipeline. Faithful America started a petition to halt the project, which gained over 30,000 signatures, and the project was halted.[21]

Controversies

Signature Verification

Faithful America typically does not release information about the signatures it gathers for its petitions on political issues, save their total count. This has led to a number of accusations of obfuscation or overinflation of actual signature counts on the group’s petitions.

On April 17, 2014, a letter penned by James Goodness, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark, claimed that only 483 names out of 22,500 signatories to a Faithful America petition claimed residency in the Newark archdiocese. Of the 483 residents, none were recorded by the archdiocese as “donors, parishioners, or members of the Catholic faith”; and only 13 of the 483 names were actual signatures. Goodness pointed out a number of other flaws with Faithful America’s document: [22]

  • Only 483 names claim residency in the archdiocese. However, none of these provided evidence or corroboration of affiliation as donors, parishioners, or members of the Catholic faith. (Of the 483, only 13 are actual signatures.)
  • There are numerous duplicate entries/listing of names.
  • 100 pages (two-sided) in the document are totally blank.
  • 50 pages of blogging appear (as if lifted from newspaper sources).
  • 98 percent of the document is a typed listing of names/towns from states other than New Jersey — primarily the Midwest and West Coast (including Alaska and Hawaii), with no apparent evidence or corroboration of the individuals’ affiliation with the Catholic Church.
  • An extensive number of names in this document clearly indicates the petitioner is a member of the clergy of a Protestant or other denomination, given designations as Reverend and Mrs., Reverend and Mr., Pastor Jill, etc.

In May 2013, Faithful America claimed that it had gathered the signatures of over 20,000 Christians demanding ESPN suspend sports analyst Chris Boussard, a practicing Christian, for comments concerning NBA player Jason Collins after Collins (also a self-identified Christian) announced he was gay. Boussard had told an ESPN interviewer:[23]

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you are living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.

When the Christian Post asked for verification of the alleged petition signatures, Faithful America would not supply any.[24]

Funding

Faithful America is fiscally sponsored by the Citizen Engagement Lab. As such, the group does not file annually with the IRS and all donations to the group are routed to CEL. [25] Accordingly, Faithful America’s website notes that donations to the group are not tax-deductible under the IRS code, a statement consistent with the rules governing 501(c)(4) nonprofits such as CEL. [26]

CEL itself receives a significant portion of its funding from its 501(c)(3) fundraising arm, the Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL) Education Fund. The CEL Education Fund’s top donors include the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (formerly Institute), Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, and the Energy Foundation. [27] [28]

Because Faithful America is a CEL project and not a standalone tax-exempt nonprofit, its budget is not published and grants to the group are not revealed. However, the service Foundation Search reports $800,000 in 7 grants between 2005 and 2014 to the National Council of Churches (Faithful America’s fiscal sponsor between 2004-2013) and the CEL Education Fund bearing grant descriptions that reference Faithful America. These donors include the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, Gill Foundation, Arcus Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. [29]

In addition, an archived version of Faithful America’s website notes that the group was originally supported by TrueMajority and Res Publica. [30]

Leadership

Rev. Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal priest, is the executive director of Faithful America. He had previously worked at Sierra Club and Organizing for America before assuming leadership role of Faithful America in July 2019. [31] Michael Sherrard was the former executive director of Faithful America, a position he had held since 2012. [32] Sherrard previously worked as a senior platform strategist and deputy political director for the agitation group MoveOn.org from 2008 to 2012. From 2007 to 2008, Sherrard was an online organizer for Sojourners, a similarly “social justice” advocacy group that purports to spread Christian teachings through left-wing political activism. [33] From 2005 to 2007, he was an associate at the Washington, D.C.-based political consultancy M&R Strategies, founded and operated by NEO Philanthropy founder and former New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) executive director Donald Ross. [34]  Sherrard was named one of the “14 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014” by left-of-center think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).[35]

Other named leaders include Katey Zeh, interim director for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an organization that feels it has a “duty to bless” abortion clinics.[36]

References

  1. “About Us.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://faithfulamerica.org/about/ ^
  2. “Campaigner – Faithful America.” NationBuilder. June 15, 2015. Accessed July 19, 2019. Original URL: https://nationbuilder.com/campaigner_faithful_america. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Faithful-America-campaigner-job-posting.-07.2019.pdf. ^
  3. Mislin, David. “Why a Large Church Group Had Little Impact When It Opposed Kavanaugh’s Nomination.” The Conversation. April 16, 2019. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://theconversation.com/why-a-large-church-group-had-little-impact-when-it-opposed-kavanaughs-nomination-104512. ^
  4. “About Faithful America.” Faithful America (archived webpage). Archived June 11, 2004. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20040611012249/http://www.faithfulamerica.org/About.htm ^
  5. “Faithful America (FA).” Discover the Networks. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/faithful-america-fa/. ^
  6. “Faithful America (FA).” Discover the Networks. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/faithful-america-fa/. ^
  7. “Faithful America Starts Direct Talks with Iran.” Campaigns Wikia. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://campaigns.fandom.com/wiki/Faithful_America_starts_direct_talks_with_Iran. ^
  8. “Faithful America (FA).” Discover the Networks. Accessed July 17, 2019.

    https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/faithful-america-fa/. ^

  9. “Faithful America (FA).” Discover the Networks. Accessed July 17, 2019.

    https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/faithful-america-fa/. ^

  10. Kevin J. Jones. “Don’t let ‘Faithful America’ group silence Catholics, critic warns.” Catholic News Agency. October 3, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/dont-let-faithful-america-group-silence-catholics-critic-warns-98232 ^
  11. “Our Current Campaigns.” Faithful America. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://www.faithfulamerica.org/campaigns/. ^
  12. “Our Current Campaigns.” Faithful America. Accessed July 17, 2019. http://www.faithfulamerica.org/campaigns/. ^
  13. Tim Talley. “Pastors protest Hobby Lobby on morning-after pill.” Peoria JournalStar. September 27, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.pjstar.com/x1238769784/Pastors-protest-Hobby-Lobby-on-morning-after-pill ^
  14. “About Us.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://faithfulamerica.org/about/ ^
  15. “About Us.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://faithfulamerica.org/about/ ^
  16. “Faithful America Petitions MSNBC To Take Tony Perkins Off The Air.” Huffington Post. December 17, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/faithful-america-msnbc-tony-perkins_n_1282162 ^
  17. “Faithful America and Bishop Gene Robinson Deliver 20k Signatures to MSNBC.” YouTube (Faithful America.) February 15, 2012. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://youtu.be/_SWFjeRqYdc ^
  18. Sarah Pulliam Bailey. “Can You Be a Christian and Support Same-Sex Marriage?” Charisma News. April 10, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.charismanews.com/us/43464-can-you-be-a-christian-and-support-same-sex-marriage ^
  19. “Stopping gun violence is a ‘pro-life’ voting issue.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://act.faithfulamerica.org/sign/bishops_guns/?source=fa_campaignpage_img ^
  20. “Stopping Gun Violence Is a “pro-life” Voting Issue.” Faithful America. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://act.faithfulamerica.org/sign/bishops_guns/?source=fa_campaignpage_img. ^
  21. Stuart, Hunter. “Fracking Companies F—-d With The Wrong Nuns.” HuffPost. December 07, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bluegrass-pipeline-kentucky-nuns_n_4225741. ^
  22. James Goodness. “LETTER: Take a closer look at the makeup of Faithful America.” LeHigh Valley Live. April 17, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/2014/04/letter_take_a_closer_look_at_f.html ^
  23. Leonardo Blair. “Group Won’t Verify Claim That Over 20,000 Christians Want ESPN to Suspend Chris Broussard for ‘Gay Bashing.'” The Christian Post. May 2, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.christianpost.com/news/group-wont-verify-claim-that-over-20000-christians-want-espn-to-suspend-chris-broussard-for-gay-bashing.html ^
  24. Leonardo Blair. “Group Won’t Verify Claim That Over 20,000 Christians Want ESPN to Suspend Chris Broussard for ‘Gay Bashing.'” The Christian Post. May 2, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.christianpost.com/news/group-wont-verify-claim-that-over-20000-christians-want-espn-to-suspend-chris-broussard-for-gay-bashing.html ^
  25. “Campaigner – Faithful America.” NationBuilder. June 15, 2015. Accessed July 19, 2019. Original URL: https://nationbuilder.com/campaigner_faithful_america. Archived here: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2019/07/Faithful-America-campaigner-job-posting.-07.2019.pdf. ^
  26. “Donate to Faithful America.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://act.faithfulamerica.org/donate/donate/ ^
  27. Information provided by Foundation Search. “Citizen Engagement Lab Education Fund.” Accessed July 19, 2019. www.FoundationSearch.com ^
  28. Alec Torres. “Citizen Engagement Laboratory.” Capital Research Center. November 18, 2016. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/citizen-engagement-laboratory/ ^
  29. Information provided by Foundation Search. Grant description: “Faithful America.” Accessed July 19, 2019. www.FoundationSearch.com ^
  30. “About Faithful America.” Faithful America (archived webpage). Archived June 11, 2004. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20040611012249/http://www.faithfulamerica.org/About.htm ^
  31. “About Faithful America.” Faithful America. Accessed October 25, 2019. https://act.faithfulamerica.org/signup/about-us/. ^
  32. “Michael Sherrard.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-sherrard-7711563/ ^
  33. “About Us.” Faithful America. Accessed July 19, 2019. http://faithfulamerica.org/about/ ^
  34. “Michael Sherrard.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-sherrard-7711563/ ^
  35. The Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. “14 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014.” Center for American Progress. March 19, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2019. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2014/03/12/85709/14-faith-leaders-to-watch-in-2014/. ^
  36. Maule, Will. “Minister Defends Mission to ‘Bless’ Abortion Clinics.” Faithwire. July 12, 2019. Accessed July 17, https://www.faithwire.com/2019/07/11/minister-argues-that-it-is-right-to-bless-abortion-clinics/. ^
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