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July 03, 2014

Is Presbyterian Divestment About Human Rights or Jewish Sovereignty?

PCUSA Logo.jpg

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted last month to divest from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli defense establishment because the denomination does not want to profit from human rights abuses.

The GA voted to instruct officials responsible for the PCUSA’s investments to sell stock in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, and Caterpillar.

Apparently, Israeli self-defense is bad but profiting from censorship in China and the destruction of water supplies in Mongolia is OK.

A quick perusal of the funds owned by the Presbyterian Foundation’s New Covenant Growth Fund reveals that in June of 2013, the church was invested in three China-based companies, two of which have questionable human rights records. (The Presbyterian Foundation oversees the endowments of local PCUSA churches and non-pension related investments owned by the denomination. The denomination’s Board of Pensions oversees employee pensions.)

According to a report issued on June 30, 2013, the Presbyterian Foundation owned close to $9 million worth of American Depositary Receipts (or ADRs) in Baidu, an internet company that, according to numerous credible reports, blocks Chinese citizens from accessing websites that criticize the Chinese government.

That should sounds like a human rights abuse. In most quarters, free speech is a bedrock human right.

Sadly enough, the company was able to defend against a lawsuit in the United States successfully arguing, bizarrely enough, that it had a first amendment right to censor websites.

The upshot is this. The Presbyterian Church (USA) was, as of June 30, 2013, profiting from censorship in China. And no one in the denomination called on the church to divest from the company responsible.

But that’s not all. The Presbyterian Foundation also had, as of June 30, 2013, a small $587,000 stake in China Shenhua Energy, a state-owned energy company which, according to Greenpeace, has used so much water in its coal-to-liquid manufacturing process, that it has caused a drastic drop in water levels, causing surface vegetation to die in Mongolia. It has also polluted water local water supplies.

So here we are. As of June 30, 2013, the PCUSA was profiting from the destruction of natural resources upon which local herders rely for their livelihoods. And no one in the denomination called on the church to divest from the company responsible. Yes, there was a overture calling for the church to divest from fossil fuels – which failed – but no specific calls for the church to divest from the company responsible. (And by the way, there has been little, if any attention in the PC(USA) to the use of slave labor in the Chinese economy.)

“Presbyterians believe firmly that their investments must be in alignment with their values,? the denomination tells us.

Are censorship and desertification PCUSA values?

If they aren’t, why have there been no overtures targeting these two companies by name for divestment at PCUSA assemblies?

The Presbyterian anti-divestment group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, called it exactly right when they reported that “there has been no effort made to divest from companies doing business in China, Iran, Russia, Syria or other nations where there are well-documented human rights abuses, including persecution of Christians.?

Snapshots readers are invited to peruse the Presbyterian Foundation’s schedule of investments for June 30, 2013 here. There are a lot of companies in the Presbyterian Foundation’s portfolio. A quick perusal found two Chinese companies that profit from human rights abuses of one form or another. There are probably others.

But for Presbyterians obsessed with the evils of the Jewish state, they’re easy to miss.

It’s time to help them out.

Posted by dvz at July 3, 2014 10:19 AM


Mistaken date in this article. You wrote June 30, 2103, but I think you meant 2013. Just a heads up

DVZ: Thanks for the heads up!

Posted by: Yoni Hachen at July 3, 2014 11:59 PM

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