American Values Network (AVN)

July 23, 2011

With Burns Strider in the lead role, the AVN was founded in 2009 as a 501(c)(4) organization. With this classification it is allowed to do issue-based organizing, advertising, and lobbying and is allowed to raise money through non-tax-deductible donations. Strider, along with his partner from the Eleison Group, Eric Sapp currently serves as President and Executive Director, respectively. [1] [2]

According to Strider, the AVN grew out of a desire among left-leaning faith activists to “build a national organization committed to grass-roots building, networking, communicating, and activating a mainstream and authentic voice that would organize and speak out for progressive policy and issues from a faith and values perspective. We wanted something that would amplify and work in harmony with groups such as [progressive faith groups] Sojourners, Faith and Public Life, and Catholics in Alliance.” [3]

The AVN describes its purpose is to enroll, engage, and enable faithful Americans and others of goodwill to stand up, speak out, and actively participate in building up the American family and community values that have always been at the core of our successful efforts to create a “more perfect union.”

“We believe America needs leaders who understand public service is a calling, and who know they will be held accountable not only by voters, but by their Creator. We should not be afraid to proudly embrace the traditional and fundamental values that have guided and defined our country since its inception and helped make America a shining beacon of hope and freedom around the world.

The American Values Network and its state affiliates offer citizens a grassroots avenue to active involvement–engaging the issues they care about and the values that define our nation.
In so doing, the American Values Network seeks to be the SALT of public and political discourse in America, preserving our values and heightening awareness of the key ingredients required for a prosperous society.

American Values Network goals:
Speak Out for an Effective and Active Engagement of Faith in the Public Square
Activate Community Grassroots and Communications Networks
Learn How to Get Real Results in the Political and Public Policy Process
Tackle the most pressing moral issues of our time” [4]

AVN is headed by founder, Burns Strider, a native of Grenada County, Mississippi and is founding partner of the Eleison Group, the nation’s leading consulting firm committed to creating common ground between the political, business and non-profit worlds and America’s diverse faith, religious and values-based communities [5]. He has served in an array of positions including Senior Advisor and Director of Faith Based Outreach to U. S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and her campaign for President, Director of Policy for the U. S. House Democratic Caucus, Senior Advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) , Director of the U. S. House Democratic Faith Working Group and Rural Working Group, regional Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Chief of Staff to U. S. Congressman Ronnie Shows (D-MS).

In 2007 Strider was named as one of the 12 most influential Democrats in the nation on faith and values politics and issues by Religion News Service.

Strider has also worked on more than 30 campaigns. He has developed communications plans that have been used in over 35 congressional and statewide races as well as a teaching tool for the National Democratic Institute in their work with progressive political parties in foreign countries. He has been a commentator for National Public Radio and has taught and lectured at various political workshops and Universities around the nation including Princeton University, the Pew Forum and Camp Wellstone. Burns is a published essayist and is a featured blogger on BeliefNet , FaithfulDemocrats [6] and Huffington Post [7].

Members of AVN’ National Advisory Committee includes Sam Arora (Maryland, Georgetown University Law Delegate, American Bar Association ), Bonnie Campbell (Iowa, Former IA Attorney General), The Reverend Leah Daughtry (Washington, DC, Former Chief of Staff, National Democratic Party Former CEO, Democratic National Convention, Denver Fellow-in-Residence, Harvard University ), The Reverend Jim DeLange (California, Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council), Catherine Dodd (California, Board of Directors, Glide UMC), John A. Eaves, Jr. (Mississippi, Eaves Law Firm), Don Fowler (South Carolina, Former Chair of the Democratic National Committee), The Reverend Henry Green (Maryland), Brenda Gullett (Arkansas, Former State Senator), The Reverend Darrell Jackson (South Carolina, State Senator, Senior Minister, Bibleway Church), Jesse Lava (Massachusetts, Master in Public Policy candidate, Harvard University, Communications Consultant), Karin Quimby, Ph.D. [8] (California, Co-Director, ECOFaith ), The Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (New Jersey, Contributing Editor, [9], Office of Religious Life and the Chapel, Princeton University), The Reverend Luonne Rouse (New York), The Reverend William Smart (California), Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Maryland, Former Lt. Governor, Author, Noted Advocate), The Reverend Frank Trotter (California), Marisa B. Van Saanen (Connecticut, Yale Law School ’10 Former Faith Liaison, World Bank), Gloria Williamson (Mississippi, Former State Senator Former MS Democratic Party Chair), The Reverend Phil Wogaman, Ph.D. (Maryland, Ethicist, Author). [10]

Besides being in the forefront of the Ayn Ryan and the Bible controversy, where AVN states on their website, “GOP leaders and conservative pundits have brought upon themselves a crisis of values. Many who for years have been the loudest voices invoking the language of faith and moral values are now praising the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand whose teachings stand in direct contradiction to the Bible.”[11]

AVN has used the Bible and religious teachings to advocate for:

* the new START treaty, which was passed in December, 2010 and complete nuclear disbarment. [12]

* Supporting the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) [13].

* Even though the U.S. has 9.2% unemployment, on the verge of having our credit rating lowered and basically broke, AVN believes in more Foreign Aid programs to combat global hunger, poverty, and the effects of climate change and spur development is proven to promote regional stability and global peace.
They are also a fragment of the cost involved in responding to terrorist attacks, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters. Just as it makes no sense to pay $1,000 to save $100, it makes no sense to cut programs that are effective and save lives only to pay a far higher cost later for the consequence of our inaction. If we cut now, we will pay later.” [14]

* AVN believes that “We need scripture in the budget debate. As we enter a heated budget debate, we believe that one aspect of the progressive response to the Republican budget must be a willingness to discuss budget and tax policies from a moral perspective and to challenge Republicans to continue during this debate on the budget, the faith-laden dialogue that they have so eagerly embrace during this ast month on other issues.

It would be a mistake for every government leader to begin using scripture to support progressive budget positions, and that is not our intention with this document (See Reference link..OM). Progressives must strive above all else to be authentic and humble when and if we bring faith into the public square. On the other hand, since so many leaders can speak authentically about faith, we firmly believe that progressives should not cede the prophetic language of scripture–and its ability to inspire and frame issues in a moral context–to the other side. Progressives should not be losing on the Bible.” [15]

* Climate Change (Global Warming) “poses grave dangers to the world’s poor and America’s national security. Our failure to answer the call to be good stewards of God’s creation has consequences. As food, water, and land become scarce due to climate change, millions of people here at home and globally are suffering and American security is endangered by the threat of political destabilization in regions around the world. An unprecedented assembly of religious and military leaders has come out urging our leaders to craft energy and climate policy that will create jobs, reduce our dependence on
foreign oil, and pay special attention to the needs of those most affected by climate change and our attempts to combat it.” [16]

* Healthcare, advocating that it is a moral values issue. [17]

* Advocated for the Stimulus [18]

AVN is affiliated [19] with The American Values Network Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to promoting the values that have guided and defined our nation by providing citizens with the resources to stay informed about the most pressing matters of our day and enabling them to be effective advocates for our shared values [20], Mississippi Values Network [21], The Frontier Project [22].


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