Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Should Stay Out of Financial Games of Politics

"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is pulling millions of dollars in investments out of three U.S. companies tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
In a close vote at its annual assembly in Detroit on Friday, the church voted 310-303 to divest $21 million from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
The church says Caterpillar supplies products to Israel that are used to destroy Palestinian homes, Hewlett-Packard provides logistics and technology to help enforce the naval blockade of Gaza, and Motorola Solutions provides military and surveillance systems in illegal Israeli settlements.
But immediately after the vote, church leaders said the decision was not a judgment against Israel. "In no way is this a reflection for our lack of love for our Jewish sisters and brothers," Moderator Heath Rada said." CNN

Here's why I don't agree with the recent announcement by the Presbyterian Church in America to sell investments in these companies. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is harming American industry and innovation and the hard work that the thousands of company employees do in their jobs every day. These are enormous companies: Caterpillar employed 125,341 people as of Dec. 2012, Hewlett-Packard: 317,000 in 2013, and Motorola Solutions: 22,000 in 2012. 

I didn't think I'd ever have to support American industry single-handedly, but I do think it's wrong for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to get into politics by making this decision because it's a two-edged sword. Where does entering world politics stop for a church? Surely every  multi-national company could be faulted for one reason or another. Apart from being narrow-minded, it's hypocritical in a church that should value inclusion and seems to me close to anti-Semitism.

It's thought that these companies aren't helping Palestinians. The importance of helping Palestinians is an attitude that has pervaded the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in recent years. It has already divested companies with operations in Israel, noting that church divestments in the 70s helped end Apartheid. That last assertion sounds rather grandiose to me; I'd need to see evidence of that. To me, limiting investments in these companies is an absurd stance and is a decision reeks of church politics, and someone always wins and loses with politics. Besides, what's wrong with investing in agricultural machinery, computers, and telephones?

These companies employ many thousands, and the ones singled out by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) currently employ thousands in America whose present salaries, future pensions, and the lives of their families, might be affected through no fault of their own. It's an insult to the personal histories of all employees and is hurting them for church-political reasons. The Church will instead help to contribute to global poverty and global hunger if these machines and devices aren't made and sold overseas. Who knows how the companies and my friends in Israel might retaliate? 

Full disclosure: it's a church I haven't joined. You may not know, as I haven't said this before on this blog, but I happen to be the grand-daughter of a Presbyterian minister in Canada, and grew up going to Church on Sundays in Ottawa with very devout parents. I think I have as much right as anyone to throw in my two cents, and hope my Canadian friends show better financial acumen than this.

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