• Join Archbishop Durocher and Urge the Synod to Consider Greater Roles for Women in the Church
    Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a “more widespread and incisive female presence” in Church. One Canadian Archbishop, Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, is taking that call seriously by proposing that the Synod on the Family, which is currently under way in Rome, reflect on the possibility of bringing more women into leadership and decision making and to open the way for female deacons. Ordaining women deacons would make for “a more widespread and incisive female presence” in many aspects of Church life and ministry. Women deacons would be able to preside at baptisms and weddings as well as proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass. Having women ordained to serve in these roles would help bishops meet many of the Church’s ministerial needs in the face of the present priest shortage. Additionally, the presence of women in these roles would bring an urgently needed female perspective to our public worship and reflection on the Scriptures. Ordaining women to the diaconate would not be new. Recent scholarship has shown that women were ordained to the diaconate in the Church in the West for 1200 years and to the present in the East. Women deacons number among ministers named in the Bible and manuscripts of medieval texts used by bishops include prayers and rituals for ordaining women to the diaconate. It is time to restore that tradition. Women are ready to serve. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, 80% of trained, paid lay ecclesial ministers currently working in the Church in the United States and 58% of students currently enrolled in formation programs for ministry are women. In those dioceses throughout the country that have restored the permanent diaconate, the wives of men who became deacons were required to attend the same formation programs. All of these women constitute a large pool of potential ministers who could be readily – if not immediately—available to serve in the diaconate and other decision-making roles in the Church. We urge the Synod on the Family to consider greater roles for women for the good of the Church.
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    Created by Russ Petrus
  • Bring back beloved Iowa pastor and community member Max Villatoro
    Six months ago, it was with heavy hearts that we received word that Pastor Max Villatoro, a beloved father, husband, pastor, and community member was deported and had landed in Honduras. Although we have mourned Pastor Max’s absence from his family, friends, and community, we will not give up. Our struggle to keep the Villatoro family together continues as we work to reunite Max with his family and community. Through generous donations, we have been able to send Max’s children to Honduras to visit their father and to support the family as they await Max’s return. Advocates in Iowa and DC continue to put pressure on government officials to reverse Max’s deportation order, but we can’t do it without you. For six months, the Villatoro family has been forced to live thousands of miles apart, separated by our nation’s immoral and unjust immigration system. As people of faith, we cannot allow this tragic situation to go on. We must continue to tell Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that six months is too long -- it’s time to bring Pastor Max home! Because of our shameful immigration system, Max’s children have been left without a father. Gloria, his wife, has been left to support her family and raise her children by herself. And the community as a whole has been left to deal with the loss of a true leader. Max should never have been deported away from his family and community. The last six months have been too long -- let’s join together and bring Max home. Thank you for continuing to stand with us. In solidarity, – Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office and Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, Iowa -- Pastor Max's Story: Pastor Max was detained early in the morning on Tuesday, March 3, by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as he stepped outside his family's home. He wasn’t given a chance to say goodbye to his wife and four U.S. citizen kids – Anthony, Edna, Angela, and Aileen. Max is the pastor of the Iglesia Menonita Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City. He has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Max was originally targeted for deportation because of an immigration identification related charge from 1999. His detention and deportation is absolutely devastating to his family, his church and the community where he has been a leader for years. Pastor Max is a model of what it means to be a servant leader in his community. He has worked for years to strengthen Iowa City and to care for his neighbors. Each day he demonstrates incredible compassion, faith and character. In February, President Obama said that ICE officials would be held accountable for deporting individuals who qualify for relief. As a pastor, community leader and father of U.S. citizen children, Max clearly presents no public safety or security threat and therefore should qualify for relief through the President’s recent immigration executive order. And, even though a federal judge has temporarily delayed some of the President’s immigration actions, ICE guidelines state that immigrants like Max should not be a deportation priority. Max should not have been deported before he had a chance to qualify for relief.
    2,792 of 3,000 Signatures
    Created by Tammy Alexander & Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler
  • Dear Presidential Candidates: #WeMakeAmericaGreat
    As people of faith and moral courage, we believe all people are part of one family, and that we need to act together to build a world that respects everyone’s dignity. We reject the messages of candidates whose platforms, language, and campaigning exclude, discriminate against, and perpetuate violence towards members of our communities because of their citizenship status, gender, race, or sexuality. Many 2016 presidential candidates have chosen to build their campaigns on fear. Their use of xenophobic, racist and derogatory language has activated nationalist and white-supremacist groups throughout the country, inspiring further hate speech and violent hate crimes against immigrants and people of color. More so-called “moderate” presidential hopefuls have failed to stand up against these dangerous ideas. Some have defended the racist term “anchor babies” to describe infants born to undocumented parents, recommended we track immigrants like FedEx packages, and suggested we send air-strike drones to the U.S.-Mexico border. Our Values As people of faith and moral courage, we are called to welcome the sojourner and love our neighbor. We are appalled by the ugly, divisive, and cowardly tactics from candidates running for the most powerful office in our country. The United States was founded on the moral principles of liberty and justice for which civil rights leaders have struggled to make a reality for generations. We can’t move backwards to policies that resurface segregation. Instead we must move forward, with moral principles that value the diversity of all people and make America great. This includes immigrants, both new and established, and a range of identities in gender, faith, sexuality, race, and ethnicity that enrich our communities and strengthen the values we hold as people of faith and people of good conscious. Our vision of a better and more just world means calling on all political leaders to recognize the inherent value of all people, regardless of citizenship status, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. Please sign this petition if you are ready to dump the divisive language and policy proposals pushed by extremist candidates, so that together, we can make America great!
    1,549 of 2,000 Signatures
    Created by Rev. Noel Andersen
  • Tell Goff Public: Stop Promoting For-Profit Prisons
    The mass incarceration of vulnerable people in our country is a profound injustice and must stop. Jesus taught his disciples to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive the debts of others." (Matthew 6:12) Minnesota has the second lowest prison population in the nation, yet has the second highest growth in incarceration rate. As a result of this trend, our prison population is overcapacity and state officials are considering investment requests to open a new private prison facility in Appleton. Our current prison system in Minnesota unjustly and disparately impacts people of color. African Americans make up 35% of prisoners despite being just 6% of the state’s population. Rather than working to heal this racialized injustice and invest in reforms to keep people out of prisons, Swift County has hired Goff Public to promote the opening of a for-profit prison owned by Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) - the largest and oldest private prison owner and operator in the U.S. which has extracted nearly $1 billion in profits over the past 5 years. CCA’s prisons have been dogged by allegations of maltreatment, neglect, and abuse. As just one heinous example, just this past July in Texas, 250 immigrant children were given the wrong dose of vaccine in a CCA facility. This dehumanizing prison system which profits off incarceration of human beings is a deep and profound violation of the sanctity of human life. Minnesota can do better; Goff Public can do better; we can do better than solve the prison overcapacity problem by simply building more prisons, especially prisons making a profit off the vulnerable in our society. Minnesota has no place for a company like CCA, or any company that seeks to profit off incarceration. Therefore as people of faith, we call Goff Public to cease and desist their efforts to promote the CCA facility in Appleton MN, or any for-profit incarceration enterprise.
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    Created by ISAIAH Minnesota Picture
  • Pope Francis: America needs your faithful message of care for the Earth
    Pope Francis, your first visit to America comes at a critical time. As you have powerfully stated, many people, including some “committed and prayerful Christians,” tend to “ridicule expressions of concern for the environment,” while “others are passive.” Many of the same people, including candidates for our presidency and elected officials, are stirring old embers of racial and religious prejudice and fear in an effort to get attention and votes. When we, as Americans of many faiths, think of our children and grandchildren, we feel the urgency of this moment even more, because, as you say, “the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” We affirm that the cries of pain we feel are interconnected - from the demonization of immigrants, to racial animus, to economic inequality, to ecological destruction -- and we hope that your visit can help ignite a moral (r)evolution that shows us a better path. Multi-faith leaders are developing a plan to help congregations around the country translate your call into action, and we will gather to announce that plan at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, the same day you address Congress. Many others are hosting vigils and prayer services to welcome your message of hope and inclusion. Thank you for your visit, Pope Francis. May God guide and empower you to speak the truth to those in power.
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    Created by Brian McLaren
  • Pope Francis, urge the world's bishops to keep our parishes open
    Around the world, our bishops have increasingly responded to the priest shortage by closing, merging or clustering parishes. According to canon lawyer, Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD, "The parish reconfiguration process used by dioceses . . . can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God's people but the church as an institution." In the United States • Parishes have been merged or closed in Philadelphia, PIttsburgh, Boston, Cleveland and many other urban and rural places. In New York City, the Archdiocese recently merged or closed more than 70 parishes, often in the face of staunch opposition by committed parishioners. When the Pope visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School, he will learn that the parish was tragically closed in 2007 amid protest. In the following years, two funerals, one for Carmen Gonzalez and the other for Carmen Villegas were held on the sidewalk when the bishop refused to open the doors of the parish. Today loyal parishioners still gather and hold prayer services trying to keep their faith community alive. All of these mergings and closings are a source of tremendous pain and suffering for those who have shared a common Eucharistic life for generations with significant numbers walking away from the Church and never returning. Further, services to the poor offered by these parishes have been, too often, interrupted or extinguished. The Leadership Team of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is calling for a reset of the pastoral strategy that relies on parish closings and mergings. It sees the closing of any parish not requested by the members themselves as invariably wounding the Body of Christ. It leaves casualties among the people of God rather than healing. It withdraws the church from various ‘peripheries.’ Such steps betray Pope Francis’ call for the church to function as a field hospital for the marginalized. Other options must be identified and implemented, including the ordination of married viri probati. In Australia • Father Ian McGinnity, Chairman of the National Council of Priests points out, “In Australia, which is a vast land with the tyranny of distance, many rural communities do not have resident priests and only have access to the Eucharist on a monthly basis. In our populous urban areas, parishes have had to be amalgamated due to the shortage of priests, which has not only placed additional burdens on an already overworked pastor, but also has subsumed some churches' unique identity and community.” In Austria • Father Helmut Schüller, spokesman for the Pfarrer-Initiative Österreich, points out that the Catholic Church is at a crossroads and that those in leadership must provide the necessary priests or develop new forms of community leadership. He notes how Bishops' conferences are keeping to their defensive administrative strategy of merging independent parishes into vast, impersonal parish associations stating, "That is pretty much the most unimaginative thing one can do." In Germany • Father Wolfgang Gramer Rottenburg-Stuttgart representing the Deutsche Pfarrer-Initiative remarks, “In Germany I can see clearly that our priest numbers are declining every day. But I also recognise that there is a real chance that a Christian parish will discover the way of the Holy Spirit and see new forms of living the gospel – either with or without a priest. We still possess many members with special gifts, and we must find ways of allowing these gifts to flourish in the service of the community." In Ireland • Father Tony Flannery, founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, states that “the problem we have in Ireland is clustering of parishes, leading to added pressure on aging priests, and inevitable amalgamation, and formation of bigger, more impersonal, units" In Switzerland • Dr. Markus Heil, Deacon and Chairman of Pfarrei-Initiative Schweiz notes, “We have different models of clustering parishes. In the beginning these clusters looked reasonable, but the longer the process went on, the smaller parishes in the cluster felt increasingly neglected. At the same time they began to wonder if they were really part of a future strategy, or whether the real plan was to allow them to starve, merge and disappear. As they are not aware of any clear future plan it is difficult to organise and mobilise. In the end, they just disappear."
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    Created by Deborah Rose-Milavec Picture
  • Tell Congress: People of Faith Support the Iran Nuclear Deal
    As Christians, we feel called to speak out for the possibility of peace. We live by God’s call to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14). The Iran Nuclear Deal is proof that adversaries can negotiate and arrive at workable solutions without resorting to armed conflict. It is vital to support this agreement so that the nations of the world will have a pathway forward to avoid the spectre of nuclear war. As faith leaders from the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war, we have a particular responsibility to speak boldly when opportunities arise that lead to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at home and around the world. This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons. We welcome people of all faiths to stand with us for peace, urging Congress to support the international agreement with Iran and reject legislation to undermine the deal. ABOUT THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL The July 2015 diplomatic agreement with Iran will dramatically shrink and impose unprecedented constraints on Iran's nuclear program. In exchange, the international community will begin to lift sanctions on Iran. It also establishes the most robust monitoring and inspection regime ever negotiated to verify Iran’s compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program. This agreement helps de-escalate tension in a region that is already suffering the effects of war and violence in ways unimaginable to most of us in the United States. It is also a testament to the effectiveness of diplomacy to take countries from the brink of war and resolve concerns peacefully. There is no question we are all better off with this deal than without it. Rejection of this deal would be a rejection of the historic progress our diplomats have made to make this world a safer place. The stakes on this matter have never been higher. That is why more than forty national organizations, including more than a dozen faith-based groups led by the National Council of Churches, wrote a letter earlier this year urging lawmakers to vote in support of this deal. The groups noted that this "will be among the most consequential national security votes taken by Congress since the decision to authorize the invasion of Iraq.” Read the letter signed by over 100 leaders of faith and moral courage: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/pages/iran-letter-sign-on This is a moment to remember the wisdom of Jesus who proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).This agreement moves us further away from the possibility of war and another nuclear-armed nation.
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    Created by Steven Martin
  • People of Faith Stand with Sandra Bland’s Family to Demand Justice
    On the morning of July 13, 2015, Sandra Annette Bland was found dead in her jail cell at the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, TX. The video of Sandra's brutal arrest confirms she was subject to a violent, racist and traumatic encounter with the police. And though we still don’t know what happened next, one thing is clear: a traffic stop for a failure to signal should not lead to death. Since Sandra’s death, clergy and others have been keeping a daily vigil outside the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and County Jail. The lack of transparency surrounding both Sandra’s death and arrest has led to a national outcry demanding #Justice4Sandy. We want people to know that Sandy still speaks; her voice can’t be silenced. But over the past week, opposition to our peaceful vigil has escalated – and we are being harassed by law enforcement. First, the space where we gathered was barricaded. Then the tree providing shade for our vigil were cut down. We continue to receive death threats and were told by Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith to “go back to the church of Satan that you run.” As people of faith and moral courage, we condemn these acts and stand with the Bland family in their pursuit of justice for Sandra. Specifically we’re demanding the Department of Justice: 1) Open an investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding Sandra’s arrest and death. 2) Call for the immediate termination of Officer Brian Encinia who unlawfully arrested Ms. Bland. 3) Uphold the right of people of faith to peacefully assemble and protest free of intimidation, harassment, and fear. OUR VALUES The Black Lives Matter movement awoke our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. As people of faith and moral courage, we have a responsibility to stand in the gap of this broken system that has taken the lives of so many people. Amplifying stories like Sandra’s is one step in building a world where Black lives matter, and all of us can live in safety and peace. We invite people of faith to support the Bland family’s demands for justice for Sandra, and defend our ability to mourn and vigil.
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    Created by Rev. Hannah Bonner
  • Tell Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to drop charges against #BlackLivesMatter protesters
    In December of 2014, over 3,000 people of all ages, races, and religious traditions gathered at the Mall of America to proclaim that Black Lives Matter; to proclaim an end to the "business as usual" economic policies which oppress and impoverish; and to proclaim that the terrorization of people of color through police violence and mass incarceration must stop. The gathering was a beautiful expression of non-violent protest and was filled with clergy, families, activists and artists who sang, preached, spoke-out and engaged in a powerful die-in. As protesters laid their bodies on the floor in symbolic death and solidarity with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, and the thousands more lost to police brutality, I stood with other clergy, encircling the peaceful protesters, and prayed. With hands lifted heavenward, I prayed that our economy (and the Mall of America which so powerfully represents it) would stop using the bodies of Brown and Black people to enrich the few. I prayed that the hundreds of police who surrounded us wearing bullet-proof vests, riot helmets and carrying weapons could see, especially in this season of the birth of the Christ child, the truth about the humanity and vulnerability of Black and Brown lives. I prayed that somehow I might continue to find the courage to put my white, woman’s, clergy body in the places that Jesus would have put his body—in solidarity where people are harmed. But instead of receiving our multiracial, peaceful ritual as a witness for justice, the Mall of America and the City of Bloomington responded with police in military and riot gear, shutting down the Mall for a period of time. “What started as a demonstration of Dr. King’s vision of the 'beloved community,' became a reminder of what Dr. King warned could destroy our nation: the triple giants of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism,” said Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of the protesters charged. The Mall of America and the City of Bloomington augmented their militarized response by infiltrating meetings and surveilling social media to find the organizers of the protest and charge them with multiple offenses, including trespassing—an action that even former prosecutors have called a misuse of power. Instead of protecting the powerless from the powerful-- the mandate from our faith traditions and, indeed, the core ethical responsibility of our legal system--Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson has used her great power to buttress the powerful against those who hold far less power. On August 5th, in response to a defense motion, the most serious of the charges were dropped against the organizers. But there remain offenses which still require costly legal fees to fight. We demand that City Attorney Sandra Johnson drop ALL the charges against the #MOA36. OUR VALUES This die-in and the prayer that surrounded it were my Advent and Christmas practice. They were my way of marking the reality that God seeks to be born into real people’s lives and real people’s suffering. When Black and Brown lives still don’t matter enough to be paid a living wage, or kept out of the school to prison pipeline, or be spared a fatal bullet from a police officer’s gun, then people of faith of all races need to witness to the fact that Black Lives Matter—even in the rotunda of the Mall of America. HOW IT WILL BE DELIVERED To highlight the need for an end to business as usual and a new economic way of life that honors Black and Brown lives, we will personally deliver these signed petitions to City Attorney Sandra Johnson during the Labor Day commemoration.
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    Created by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel
  • Tell ICE: Stop Deportation of Jewish Homeschooling Family
    No mother should be forced to flee her homeland in order to homeschool her children because of anti-semitic bullying. Yet, Petra Albrecht was not free in Germany to homeschool her children because Germany’s outdated laws have banned homeschooling since World War I. German families who choose to homeschool their children face legal action, including prison, the loss of custody of their children and fines. Petra had chosen to homeschool her youngest child Jayson because he was experiencing anti-Semitic bullying in school, in a country where a least one-fourth of the population remains openly anti-Semitic even post World War II. She lost her parental rights and was forced to flee to the U.S. But here the family has come across more hardship. Petra and Nicole were picked up by Immigration Enforcement and have been in U.S. immigration detention for 11 months, in separate facilities. Jayson was sent back to Germany alone, and is being held in an orphanage in or near Berlin, though he had an open asylum case. The German government refuses to tell the family his exact whereabouts, and the U.S. government refuses to release Petra and Nicole. OUR VALUES To be Jewish is to be an immigrant. The Albrecht family continues a history of Jewish migration that reaches back to the Old Testament and our exodus from Egypt – stories we retell on holy days. That’s why one of Judaism’s central teachings is to “welcome the stranger” as you would a friend. We’re calling on all people of faith and moral courage to stand with Petra, a mother separated from her children, and demand immigration enforcement officials release and reunite her with Jayson and Nicole. In his last letter to his family before being extradited to Germany, Jayson wrote, "I promise you that we will be together again soon..."
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    Created by Christina Fialho of CIVIC Picture
  • People of Faith Stand with Planned Parenthood
    People of faith cannot stay silent as women’s health and their reproductive decisions are once again politicized and attacked. Armed with misinformation and a disregard for women’s moral authority, some political and ideological groups have launched an offensive against an institution that provides critical medical and reproductive care to women nationwide. These attacks against PPFA and its affiliates attempt to undermine not only women’s health but also their moral agency. As people of faith, our voices can sound a clarion call for justice, women’s moral autonomy, and nationwide access to reproductive health services. Add your voice to the chorus of people of faith calling for continued federal funding for PPFA, an end to playing politics at the expense of women’s health, and a culture-wide recognition of the morality of women’s reproductive decisions. Stopping federal funding to Planned Parenthood would deny access to birth control, pap smears, STI prevention, and cancer screenings for millions of women. For many women, Planned Parenthood is the only affordable, accessible healthcare provider in their community. Planned Parenthood does not receive federal dollars for abortion care services. Preventing unintended pregnancies, providing sexuality comprehensive sexuality education, screening women for cancer, and ensuring women’s reproductive health – this is the life-saving work for which PPFA receives federal funding. To stop those funds would be to put women’s health in jeopardy nationwide. Many have seized this political moment, launching a campaign to defund Planned Parenthood. Some have even threatened another government shutdown if their legislative attempts to defund Planned Parenthood fail. Playing politics to restrict or deny access to family planning services is morally wrong. Recent attempts to defund Planned Parenthood have sought to stigmatize abortion and marginalize women’s moral authority. Individual women make their reproductive health decisions, including the decision to have an abortion, with serious reflection, consultation with loved ones, insights from faith and values, and a deep consideration of specific circumstances. The real life stories of women demonstrate the morality of decisions about abortion. Assertions that deny women’s authority to make moral decisions about their reproductive lives seek to stigmatize women who choose to have an abortion. When you sign this petition, you'll be invited to the Religious Institute’s network of more than 15,000 people of faith.
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    Created by Rev. Debra Haffner Picture
  • Sign the Faith Community Letter to President Obama on the Addiction Crisis
    Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is an insidious public health crisis, impacting more than 85 million Americans. For too long, too many people have remained silent. The time is now to end that silence, and we urge the Obama Administration to join with our movement on October 4, 2015 when the UNITE To Face Addiction Rally will take place in Washington, DC. As faith community leaders, we support this effort because: WE WITNESS daily how the lack of understanding about recovery and addiction prevents individuals from living fulfilling lives. WE RECOGNIZE that urging individuals to speak out publicly about their recovery – and to encouraging families to share about their loss – will remove the shame of addiction. WE COMMIT to expanding the range of recovery ministries, programs, and resources that allow people seeking help to set their own goals and build on their strengths as individuals. WE SPEAK with a unified voice in a movement dedicated to developing comprehensive, long-term solutions to the devastation of addiction. WE VIEW the inclusion of a diverse representation of faith traditions as a key to solving our nation’s addition crisis. The groundswell for change requires hands on involvement at the basic unit of all faith traditions: the congregation. As faith community leaders, we are ready to make a difference. With the help of you and your Administration, we can ignite a growing movement to solve our nation’s addiction crisis.
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    Created by Bradley Reichard