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Is MoveOn Breaking Faith with the Progressive Community?

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 3/28/14

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PRESS RELEASE

Press Contacts: 

Pat Johnstone, 415-847-1940, organizing4marin@gmail.com

Guy Johnson, 714-824-9656, guyparalegal@sbcglobal.net

Deeply concerned about a recently revealed "Open Platform" policy on the MoveOn.org petition site, lead volunteer organizers from around the country are speaking out in an effort to inform MoveOn members and the progressive community about this issue.

"I joined MoveOn because I found an organization that espoused my own core progressive values", said Guy Johnson, a Regional Organizer from Orange, California. "Events in 2013 have shaken that relationship with the discovery that MoveOn Petitions has adopted an "Open Platform" policy that allows non-progressive groups and individuals to post petitions on the site, so that even the KKK can post a petition as long as the language used is not 'offensive'."

The policy came to light this past October when MoveOn Council leaders in Hawaii were alerted by their state legislators that they were receiving petitions from MoveOn opposing marriage equality. MoveOn members throughout Hawaii had been working diligently, with state legislators and coalition partners, to pass a marriage equality act. As a special session was about to begin to debate the issue and recommend passage of the bill, proponents of the marriage equality bill were devastated to find that a right wing church group had used MoveOn's petition tools to create last minute uncertainty in the minds of legislators about MoveOn's position. While the bill ultimately passed, much damage was done to the coalition effort, the safety of MoveOn members in Hawaii and the credibility of MoveOn as a reliable partner in the progressive community.

Response was swift from MoveOn volunteer leadership. A letter to the MoveOn Board and staff, signed by 18 top volunteer leaders from around the country, stated, "The undersigned Regional Organizers are calling on you to immediately stop the misguided practice of hosting petitions on MoveOnPetitions.org that are clearly in violation of the core progressive values of MoveOn members."""

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The letter went on to quote a Huffington Post article saying, "We ask that you stand by the statement made by Steven Biel (Director of SignOn as the petition site was then known) to the Huffington Post on 10/23/12:

"We don't answer to shareholders; we answer to our members -- seven million Americans who share a commitment to making our country better through collective action. We will never, ever, ever give right-wing front groups a channel for co-opting our members' organizing." (   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-biel/you-cant-be-neutral-on-a-_b_2007264.html )

"MoveOn has no moral or civic obligation to host information or petitions antithetical to our stated progressive values,"  the letter continued. "We quote from Steven Biel again:

"In short, we take sides, and we're proud of it. We're for economic justice, equality for women and LGBT individuals, ending poverty, racial justice, quality education for all, a clean environment, and peace. Because like Howard Zinn said, you can't be neutral on a moving train."  ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-biel/you-cant-be-neutral-on-a-_b_2007264.html )

The letter concluded , "Stand by Steven Biel's stated commitment, enforce the Terms of Service for the MoveOn Petition site that explicitly prohibits this content and stay true to the progressive values we all joined MoveOn to support." ( http://petitions.moveon.org/terms.html )

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"I find it astonishing that MoveOn can violate its terms of use for the petition site," said Mara Cohen, a Regional Organizer from Skokie, Illionois. "Although the staff maintains it is an operational issue, I believe it to be a political issue that members should have a voice in and that may impact people's willingness to donate to MoveOn.  Do we want to subsidize this effective petition organizing tool for groups with beliefs are opposed to the shared progressive ideals of MoveOn members?"

"During the long course of  negotiations on this issue, MoveOn has refused to change the "Open Platform" policy, and has also refused to put this issue up for a vote from MoveOn's membership despite MoveOn's claim to be a grassroots, bottom-up organization," added Maria Schafer, a Regional Organizer from the New York metropolitan area. "That's why I am joining in this effort to educate the progressive community about MoveOn's stance on this issue."

"I believe, no matter what we do at this stage will change MoveOn's strategy allowing anyone to use MoveOn petitions for any issue, even when the petition is in direct opposite of the organization's core values and mission," added Deborah Curtis of Phoenix, Arizona. "I cannot in good conscious continue to use my energies to support an organization that has drifted so far from it's own core values." Curtis has resigned her position as Regional Organizer for Arizona.

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