Speechless by Default? (Nov 05)

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Its funny how we don't know or we forget that having a broken heart or having a heavy heart is a real physical sensation until we get right up on it and then it hits us–"what is this thing in my chest I can suddenly actually feel?" We forget that our hearts are real sometimes until they are actually in pain from a loss.

I think the same may be said for freedom. We may forget how acutely the lack of freedoms will affect us and those we care about until we experience the real effects of their loss. But we must not wait that long.

The link below is to an article by Rick Cohen entitled "Slippery Slope Leads to Rocky Road for Nonprofits." It is about a bill in front of Congress concerning affordable housing financing which has amendments attached which would abridge nonprofit grantees' freedom of speech as nonprofits. The article shows how our legislative system is working right now in an area that is critical to nonprofits, and it explains the resulting "chill" that comes with such processes–including the very real ways that suppression of nonprofit advocacy rights would affect our work and our communities.


The weird thing is that the pot of money to which suppressive amendments are being attached will be dipped into by nonprofits and businesses alike yet it is only nonprofits and their constituents that would effectively be shut out of the country's politics were this amendment to pass. Business would not stand for this kind of nonsense.

If we allow ourselves to get shut out of politics it effectively shuts us out of helping to craft the future of our nation and our communities.

We all need to get much louder in our defense of nonprofit rights like free speech, advocacy, lobbying, and free association. Our boards need to understand and exercise these rights actively–otherwise they will atrophy. Eventually we might begin to act like these rights don't exist–that we are not due them–that they are not critically important in achieving our missions and the sectoral mission of making sure that the people of this country have ways to organize their voices to affect public policy. Get your board focused on advocacy.

On a more immediate basis, ratchet up your intelligence-gathering about efforts of nonprofit opponents in your localities and states trying to do what they're aiming to do to the affordable housing legislation. The battle for protecting nonprofits occurs in more locales than within the Capital Beltway.

Sometimes, you don't really miss something until the moment you fully realize that you've lost it for good. Don't let this happen to our advocacy rights.