Friends from Apache Stronghold have asked for a big media push in these days leading up to their court hearing on March 21st. Public opinion can sway judges! Can you write a letter to the editor for a local or national newspaper or other media outlet? See below for a sample letter to the editor that our communications coordinator, Michaela Esau, drafted:
Please adapt and share this sample letter to the editor with news outlets in your region. Email Michaela Esau at email@example.com if you have any questions and please share any news outlets that run your letter.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Apache Stronghold’s Case for Oak Flat
As Apache Stronghold takes their religious freedom case for Oak Flat (Chi’chil Biłdagoteel) to the 9th Circuit Court, they will be joined in solidarity by people of all faith backgrounds. On March 21st in Pasadena, CA, Apache Stronghold will argue that allowing the destruction of Oak Flat by a 2 mile-wide copper mine is a violation of their right to religious freedom.
Mennonite Church USA, Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, and Sikh Coalition are among the religious groups who have filed amicus briefs to support Apache Stronghold. These amicus briefs advocate the religious freedom of all faiths – not just the Christian faith. The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery is one group of Christians who stand in solidarity with the San Carlos Apache. They worked to gain amicus brief sign-ons from congregations and the larger Mennonite church. Members of the Coalition local to Pasadena will host Apache Stronghold, while members from San Francisco, Tucson, AZ, and even Kansas City, KS will travel into town to take part in vigils during the court case.
Oak Flat is sacred to the San Carlos Apache and is part of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest. The rights to Oak Flat were signed over to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of foreign mining company Rio Tinto, through a midnight rider attached to the National Defense Authorization Act in December 2014. Since the San Carlos Apache hold ceremonies at Oak Flat and believe that the sacred land is home to their creator, Ussen, and their ancestors, destroying the site would violate their religious freedom. The mining of Oak Flat will irreparably damage the health of Arizona’s environment and the spiritual health of the San Carlos Apache. Apache Stronghold, a non-profit group of Apaches and their allies, sued the United States government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While they lost their federal court suit, the United States government withdrew the environmental impact statement, delaying Oak Flat’s transfer into the hands of Resolution Copper. Apache Stronghold then took their case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where they lost in a 2-1 decision.
However, in a rare and surprising move, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case should be reheard – this time, in front of eleven justices instead of three. When the court rehears Apache Stronghold’s case in Pasadena, their decision could set a precedent for sacred site cases to come. A victory for Apache Stronghold would be a victory for Indigenous spirituality everywhere. If Apache Stronghold loses their case, it will expose the hypocrisy within the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, illuminating that Indigenous spirituality and Christianity are not given equal protections under the law.
If you live near Pasadena, I invite you to witness this monumental court case, and the Christians and other people of faith standing together with the Stronghold Apache. I will be one among them in (name your hometown). It is incumbent upon the 9th Circuit Court judges to uphold our shared value of religious freedom. I will be standing with the Apache Stronghold in this prayerful stance on March 21st, when the case is heard. #saveoakflat
For more on how to write a letter to the editor, see: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/advocacy/direct-action/letters-to-editor/main