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Anti-Israel Church Activists Claim a Divestment Victory in United Methodist Pensions Sale

"Anti-Israel activists are claiming this decision by the pension board as a victory for their cause to gain political momentum heading into PCUSA General Assembly." -- Mark Tooley, IRD President
Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639, jwalton@TheIRD.org
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Anti-Israel activists are claiming the reported decision of the United Methodist Church's pensions agency to divest from holdings in a British private prison contracting company as a victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) will sell $110,000 worth of stock holdings in the British company G4S, which supplies security equipment to Israel for use in prisons. While United Methodists overwhelmingly rejected anti-Israel divestment by a 2-1 margin at their 2012 General Conference, the legislative body offered guidance opposing private prison contractors in 2004. In 2012, GBPHB implemented a screen prohibiting investment in companies that derive more than 10 percent of revenue from the management and operation of prison facilities.

The move comes on the eve of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly gathering June 14-21 in Detroit, Michigan. Presbyterian commissioners at their 2012 gathering narrowly rejected divestment from three companies that do business with Israel, and this year are expected to again consider a series of overtures from anti-Israel activists, including divestment.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

    "Although anti-Israel church activists cheer this decision, the pensions agency has not publicly commented. The United Methodist Church has separate, unrelated restrictions on investment with private prison contractors.

    "Anti-Israel activists, including an official with the church's missions agency, are clearly attempting to portray this decision by the pension board as a victory for their cause to gain political momentum heading into PCUSA General Assembly.

    "The pensions agency should publicly respond to these claims by anti-Israel activists, which if true, would defy firm rejection of anti-Israel divestment by the church's governing body. These activists who seek to enroll the church in demonizing Israel serve neither peace nor justice for anybody."