Friday, June 6, 2014
PC (U.S.A.) General Assembly commissioners receiving personal calls on overtures
If you are a commissioner to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), you may receive mail-outs and brochures from various organizations. But you should not be getting calls to your personal/home phones. And if you get a call and they argue with you about how you are going to vote that is truly unacceptable. It could be classified as harassment. This is what has been happening to at least some commissioners and they should feel free to report it to GA officials.
Several commissioners have received personal phone calls from Jewish Voices for Peace about the Presbyterian vote on divestment. Some callers have engaged commissioners in an argument making them defend their views. They are a small Jewish group who are part of the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions movement. They wish for commissioners to vote yes on divestment. But it does not matter, for or against, no organization or person has the right to engage commissioners in their home or personal life.
One commissioner received first a voice mail and then an e-mail leading him to believe that his name had been googled. The e-mail came via Trude Bennett, of the Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (The information was at the end of the e-mail.)
The voice mail stated:
"My name is Trude Bennett and I'm calling from Durham, I'm a member of Jewish voice for peace and we support divestment from companies that are involved in the Israeli occupation. And we know that you are going to be participating in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Detroit And. I'd like to speak to you and and to let you know that there are many Jews who are very grateful for the discussions and concern in the Presbyterian Church, and we're really hoping that the vote might really call for divestment at this General Assembly and I would be happy to speak to you more about this, refer you to more information, and I will send you an email message to follow up on this and then give you more info, perhaps over the weekend. Thanks so much bye bye."
There are possibly two ways individual telephone numbers may have been obtained, by a search on the internet or through the Office of the General Assembly. The last way, via the OGA, is bounded by some rules. This is what the GA Manual states:
"List of Participants Upon request, the Stated Clerk shall make available the list of participants registered for a session of the General Assembly to entities of the General Assembly, councils of the denomination, educational institutions, teaching elders, ruling elders, and independent organizations composed primarily of members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). A fee will be charged for lists or mailing labels to cover the costs incurred for printing, postage, and handling."
One important point to see in these instructions. The lists are for Presbyterians, and although it does not say so, it is very doubtful that phone numbers would be included. It is rude to make personal calls about GA issues, but to argue, as I have stated, is harassment.