American Baptists honor Congresswoman

Rep. Barbara Lee, an American Baptist, is calling for repeal of a law passed to grant the president authority to use military force in the aftermath of 9/11.

By Bob Allen

American Baptist Home Mission Societies affirmed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) as “a champion of peace” during a meeting of the organization’s board of directors last week in Overland Park, Kan.

barbara leeIn January Lee, a member of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif., sponsored H.R. 198, a bill that would repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed days after 9/11 to grant the president broad powers to use military force to fight terrorism.

President Obama, in a May 23 speech on national security, said the time has come “to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.”

“Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat,” Obama said. “Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They’ve not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”

Republicans in Congress argued against allowing the sun to set on the 12-year-old law.

"I believe we are still in a long drawn-out conflict with Al Qaeda,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) “To somehow argue that Al Qaeda is ... on the run, comes from a degree of unreality that to me is really incredible."

Recently Lee submitted five amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, ranging from the repeal of AUMF, the use of military drones, Pentagon spending and the military’s treatment of service members living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of the domestic missions arm of American Baptist Churches USA and board President Clifford Johnson sent a letter voicing the full board’s support for her “public witness” and pledged prayer “for your strength as you live out the courage of your commitments.”

“We realize how seriously you take Jesus’ charge to each of us to be ambassadors for peace and the price you have paid in being a champion for it,” the American Baptist leaders said. “We know that you have often been a solo and solitary voice for peace in the halls of Congress.”

Elected to the U.S. Representatives in 1998, Lee was the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of military force following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. She was a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and has proposed creating a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding.

In 2006 she received the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award from the Progressive National Baptist Convention and a lifetime peacemaking award from the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.