2015 Saturday Lunch Plenary: The Role of the Church in the “War on Drugs”

EAD Saturday Lunch Plenary

Co-Sponsored by the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, the Drug Policy Alliance and Open Society Policy Center

During the last 40 years the United States, under Presidents from both parties, has fought a War on Drugs. The number of people incarcerated has risen exponentially as has the number of people, families and communities that have been devastated because of long periods of incarceration. Addiction has continued largely unabated as drug possession and usage has been addressed with criminalization and incarceration, rather than as a public health crisis. Thus, the War on Drugs is an abysmal failure.

Therefore, what should the faith community be doing to stop the War on Drugs? What policies should we be advocating for and what grassroots movements should we be building to ensure that this war is stopped once and for all?


Keynote Panelists (Partial List)

Ethan NadelmannEthan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. Nadelmann received his B.A., J.D., and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard as well as a Masters’ degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and taught at Princeton University for seven years. He has authored two books – Cops Across Borders and (with Peter Andreas) Policing The Globe – and his writings have appeared in most major media outlets in the U.S. as well as top academic journals (e.g., Science, International Organization), policy journals (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Washington Quarterly, Public Interest) and political publications from the right (National Review) to the left (The Nation). He is interviewed frequently by media, including “The Colbert Report,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and news programs on all the major U.S. networks as well as dozens of networks elsewhere.


Rev. Edwin SandersThe Reverend Edwin C. Sanders, II, is the Senior Servant and Founder of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. This congregation has attracted a broad cross-section of people with the mission of being “inclusive of all and alienating to none.” Metropolitan has outreach ministries in the areas of substance abuse, advocacy for children, sexual violence, and harm reduction, in addition to providing services to persons infected with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS through the First Response Center, which Rev. Sanders founded in 1992.

Rev. Sanders is a graduate of Wesleyan University, where he received the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology in 1969. He specialized in Cultural Anthropology, and his thesis was entitled, “The Black Church as a Revolutionary Institution.” Rev. Sanders’ professional life also began at Wesleyan, as Co-Director of the African American Institute, and he is a former member of the Wesleyan University Board of Trustees. He has done graduate study at Yale University Divinity School and as a special student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. The opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe and Africa was afforded Rev. Sanders as one of the first fellows of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.


EAD_LogoJasmine L. Tyler is the senior policy analyst for global health and drug policy at the Open Society Foundations, where she promotes the reform of domestic and international drug policy.

Prior to joining Open Society, she was deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she worked closely with Congress and the advocacy community to effectively shape public health, criminal justice, and health policy. She has also worked as research director for the Justice Policy Institute, contributing to research on the criminal justice system and juvenile justice reinvestment.

Tyler has contributed to several publications on mass incarceration, racial justice, and the war on drugs. She holds an MA from Brown University and a BS from James Madison University, both in sociology.




Douglas Walker, M.Div.Douglas Walker, M.Div., National Coordinator for Criminal Justice Reform, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society



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