Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
The Friends Committee on National Legislation is a Quaker lobby organisation in the USA. It seeks to bring spiritual values and Friends' testimonies to bear on public policy decisions at the Federal level.
The FCNL community works to create the world we seek through strategic lobbying in Washington, DC and nation-wide grassroots advocacy. FCNL is led by a prophetic Quaker vision for our world and grounded in the pragmatic work with Congress needed to get there.
FCNL works on both domestic and foreign policy issues.
Origins and History
FCNL was founded in 1943. Its first office was in the basement of Florida Avenue Friends Meeting House in Washington, D.C. It had a budget of $15,000 and a staff of three.
Over the years, they have seen how persistent, honest, and respectful relationship-building with members of Congress can change national policy.
For example, FCNL was instrumental in the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961.
In 1964, 21 U.S. Senators sent a letter to one of FCNL’s Friends in Washington, Richard Taylor, thanking him for his help in passing the Civil Rights Act.
FCNL participated in efforts to oppose the Gulf and Iraq Wars.
In response to the military build up following the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, FCNL developed the War is Not the Answer campaign, distributing more than one million signs, bumper stickers, and other campaign materials bearing the slogan shown in the picture.
In 2005, FCNL moved into new purpose-built headquarters, which have since received awards for their environmentally sustainable design.
Funding, Governance and Scale of Operations
FCNL is governed by a General Committee currently made up of 184 Quakers, appointed either by one of the 26 Yearly Meetings in the US, or one of seven national Friends’ organisations, representing all three Quaker traditions in the US.
The General Committee meets annually, and decides the FCNL’s priorities for each session of Congress. In preparation for this there is a process of discernment by local Quaker meetings and Friends churches around the USA, culminating in a policy statement. The priorities set by the General Committee draw heavily on this.
The executive committee oversees the program and administration of FCNL between Annual Meetings. There is a permanent staff of lobbyists and strategic advisers. From time to time, experienced Quakers may be appointed for short periods as ‘Friends in Washington,’ acting as forceful advocates for change on major issues.
FCNL also works with a network of ‘contacts’ in local Quaker meetings and churches who keep them informed of concerns and advocacy work by Friends in their area.
A parallel organisation, the FCNL Education Fund, informs members of the public and government leaders about issues of concern to Quakers, including war, the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, conventional and nuclear arms control, the environment, federal budget priorities, and Native American issues.
In 2013, FCNL had an annual income of approximately $1.5M, while the Education Fund had an income of $2.4M. Of this, 74% came from donations by individuals and 5% from Quakers Meetings or Churches. The remainder came from endowments, bequests or foundations.
Methods of Work
FCNL lobbyists ask questions, seek common ground, and work to build mutual trust and understanding, with members of Congress and congressional staffers. They make a point of talking with—and listening to—everyone, including those with whom they do not expect to agree.
We lobby by seeking connection with the Divine Light in each person, no matter our preconceived ideas on their point of view. This approach empowers the FCNL community to enter a congressional office with an open mind and an open heart.
Areas of Current Work
FCNL’s work is organised under the broad themes of Peace, Justice for all, and Community and the Environment. Current priorities include:
Peace: the use of drones, Iran, the Middle East, peacebuilding policy (especially concerning US interventions to prevent atrocities occurring) and defence spending.
Justice for All: issues of immigration, Native American affairs, campaign finance, gun violence, mass incarceration, the use of torture, and Guantanamo Bay.
Community: domestic poverty, taxes and the federal budget.
Environment: issues of climate change and sustainable energy, regularly reminding members of Congress that
All on this earth are interdependent, and we are strongly mindful of the call to be wise stewards.