Religious Leaders to Urge Congress to Expand Access to Clean Needles for Drug Users

Press Release February 26, 2008
Media Contact

Bill Piper or Charles Thomas

WHEN: Monday, March 3, at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: U.S. Capitol Building, room HC-6 Capitol (House side), Washington, D.C.

WHAT: Recently Congress lifted a ban on local funding for needle exchange in the District of Columbia. Now scholars and spokespersons from a variety of denominations will converge in the nation’s capital to urge Congress to help save lives by repealing the national ban that prohibits states from using their share of federal HIV/AIDS prevention money on needle exchange programs. They will explain their position and be available for questions from the media.

WHY: The scientific evidence is irrefutable that needle exchange saves lives without increasing drug use. But many politicians say that it’s still “just wrong” to provide clean needles to drug users. It’s time for moral clarification.


* Mary Jo Iozzio, Ph.D., serves on the executive board of the Society of Christian Ethics — comprised of nearly 1,000 ethics professors — which adopted a resolution in 2000 to “encourage the development of needle exchange programs.” Dr. Iozzio is a professor of Moral Theology at Barry University in Florida and an active member of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

* William Martin, M.Div., Ph.D., is a senior fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James Baker Institute at Rice University and a member of the Covenant Baptist Church in Houston. Dr. Martin wrote the authoritative biography of the Rev. Billy Graham.

* John B. Johnson represents the Episcopal Church as a Domestic Policy Analyst in the denomination’s Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C.

* Rev. Michael T. Bell, D.Min., is an African-American minister serving as the senior pastor at Peace Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

*Charles Thomas is the executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI), a national organization of clergy and other people of faith advocating for compassionate policies to reduce the problems associated with drugs. Thomas will provide details about the positions of other denominations supporting needle exchange, including the Union for Reform Judaism; Presbyterian Church USA; United Church of Christ; and Unitarian Universalist Association.

* Naomi Long represents the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s largest organization advocating for drug policies grounded in reason, compassion and justice, and is a member of the executive board of Prevention Works, Washington, D.C.’s local needle exchange program.

All of the speakers will also be available for subsequent phone interviews, which can be arranged by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 301-938-1577.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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