History of FCNL
Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Friends Committee on National Legislation has a long history of focused, successful, nonpartisan lobbying that connects historic Quaker testimonies on peace, equality, simplicity, and truth with peace and social justice issues which the United States government is or should be addressing. FCNL is the oldest registered ecumenical lobby in Washington, DC.
1940–Friends gather to form the Friends War Problems Committee in Philadelphia. The Committee is a forerunner of FCNL. The Committee concerns itself with protecting the rights of conscientious objectors.
June 11-12, 1943–Fifty-two Friends, meeting at Quaker Hill in Richmond, Indiana, establish FCNL. It is the first full-time national religious lobby.
November 3, 1943–FCNL’s first office opens. It is located in the basement of Florida Avenue Friends Meetinghouse in Washington, D.C. It has a budget of $15,000 and a staff of three.
February 27, 1947–Representative James Dolliver of Iowa introduces a bill that requires a pledge by naturalizing immigrants to make themselves available for service in the U.S. military before they may obtain citizenship. FCNL lobbies against the bill in testimony before Congress. The bill is never voted upon.
February 4, 1948–Testifying before Congress, FCNL’s Byron Haworth calls for federal anti-lynching legislation.
June 1, 1949–The Senate Appropriations Committee cuts the aid budget for Palestinian refugees. E. Raymond Wilson, FCNL’s Executive Secretary, spends the day walking up and down the halls of the Senate Office Building, lobbying members of the Foreign Relations Committee to restore the funds. The Senate restores the funds the next day.
March 4, 1952–The Universal Military Training bill is defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives after an eight-year campaign by FCNL.
June 3, 1953–On the occasion of introducing S.Res. 32, which declares the intention of the U.S. to seek worldwide disarmament through the United Nations, Senator Ralph H. Flanders of Vermont reads FCNL statements into the Congressional Record. E. Raymond Wilson and Annalee Stewart of FCNL personally lobby and obtain the co-sponsorship of 17 Democratic and 17 Republican Senators. The resolution passes on a voice vote. Building before FCNL occupied it.
1959–FCNL moves into offices at 245 Second Street NE, Washington, a row house and former grocery store across from the new Hart Senate Office Building.
Summer 1960–FCNL lobbies both political parties’ platform committees to include a recommendation for a stronger presidential role in arms control. FCNL distributes 16,000 copies of Senator Kennedy’s speech of March 7, 1960, calling for the establishment of an Arms Control Research Institute.
September 1961–On a voice vote, Congress creates the Peace Corps. FCNL has been lobbying for the creation of something like the Peace Corps since 1957. Representative Henry Reuss of Wisconsin later says that FCNL’s role in the Corps’ creation was “pivotal.”
June 12, 1964–Twenty-one U.S. Senators send a letter to FCNL’s Richard Taylor, personally thanking him for his help in passing the Civil Rights Act. Richard had taken a leave of absence from Coe College in Iowa to lobby Congress as an FCNL Friend-in-Washington.
May 25, 1972–Testifying before Congress, Sam Levering of FCNL urges “extending the area of peace” to the world’s oceans by approving the Law of the Seas Treaty. Thus begins a 30-year effort to get the treaty passed; the treaty is finally unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 25, 2004.
October 2, 1976 – FCNL Executive Secretary Ed Snyder leads a delegation of church leaders on a trip to Atlanta. There, they meet with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter’s staff, and present a series of proposals on human rights. After being elected, President Carter makes human rights more central to U.S. foreign policy than ever before.
1981 – In her New York University Ph.D. dissertation, “Voices in a Silence,” Karen Shaw Kerpen names FCNL as one of four organizations instrumental in convincing the U.S. government to extend diplomatic recognition to China. Kerpen credits FCNL Friend-in-Washington Gene Boardman with persuading Representative Clement Zablocki to open his influential hearings on U.S.-China policy.
1983 – FCNL Legislative Secretary Ruth Flower becomes the chair of the Domestic Human Needs Working Group of Interfaith Action for Economic Justice; the working group develops a program around the broad issue of welfare reform. The working group’s concerns have a substantial effect on the 1988 welfare bill.
February 3, 1985 – In a letter to the Washington Post, Ed Snyder takes issue with the common Cold War description of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. as two scorpions in a bottle. Rather, he writes, they are “two antagonistic family members who, like it or not, have no alternative but to continue to live in the same house.” Ed Snyder lobbies Ambassador Arthur Hartmann to approach U.S.-Soviet arms talks in this spirit; Hartmann is responsible for briefing President Reagan prior to the summit talks in Reykjavik. The deal that emerges from the summit talks represents a significant thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations.
August 1990 – Congress passes the Americans with Disabilities Act. FCNL has lobbied for the bill since its inception; the collection of lobbyists working on the bill has been meeting in FCNL’s E. Raymond Wilson conference room.
December 23, 1990 – Appearing on the MacNeil-Lehrer New Hour, FCNL Executive Secretary Joe Volk is asked, in reference to the U.S. military’s humanitarian intervention in Somalia, if the military is ever capable of doing “God’s work.” Having consulted with foreign aid workers in Somalia, and thereby having formed the opinion that intervention by unarmed humanitarian groups has a better prospect for success, Volk says no.
1991 – When the first Gulf War begins, FCNL is among the few lobby groups to take a strong stand against it. One of the results of the campaign of opposition is the creation of the Arms Transfer Working Group (ATWG), a lobby coalition dedicated to preventing the sort of irresponsible weapons transfers that give dictatorial regimes the capacity to invade other nations. Joe Volk serves as ATWG’s chair.
1993 – Congress includes as part of the defense authorization bill a ban on research and production of low-yield nuclear weapons, the so-called “mini-nukes.” FCNL has lobbied tirelessly on this issue. The bill is sponsored by Representative John Spratt of South Carolina and Representative Elizabeth Furse of Oregon. Furse is a former American Friends Service Committee staff member. Joe Volk at a press conference.
1998 – Congress approves legislation for a code of conduct on arms transfers that calls on the U.S. government to enter into international negotiations to develop standards for the international arms trade. Beginning in 1993, FCNL took the initiative to convene an arms transfers working group to lobby on this issue, identified Senator Mark Hatfield and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as champions for the legislation, developed swing lists, lobbied members, and developed grassroots campaign from 1993 to 1998.
September 16, 1998 – Burkina Faso becomes the 40th country to ratify the Ottawa Treaty banning land mines, ensuring that the treaty will go into force on March 1, 1999. FCNL has headed up the campaign to compel passage of the treaty, and once again FCNL offices have served as the primary staging ground for the legislative effort.
September 11, 2001 – When terrorists fly airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, FCNL evacuates its Washington offices. The next day, FCNL issues a simple statement of grief, and an appeal to the government not to meet this violent action with further violence. FCNL develops "War Is Not the Answer" response to 9/11, and in the next four years distributes hundreds of thousands of signs, bumper stickers, and other material with this information.
Fall 2004 – Congress eliminates all funding for research on a new generation of “usable” nuclear weapons. This is the culmination of a multi-year campaign that began when the President George W. Bush first included funding for research on these weapons in his budget presentation to Congress. For several years, FCNL lobbyists were virtually the only ones actively working on the Hill and around the country to eliminate funding for the bunker buster nuclear weapon.
August 2005 – After a multi-year capital campaign and construction project, FCNL re-occupies its offices in the refurbished 245 Second Street NE building. The new building has a geothermal heating/cooling system, a “green” roof, and walls made of recycled materials. As a historic structure, the building is exempt from the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but FCNL makes it accessible because it had lobbied for the ADA.
July 2007 - FCNL holds a celebration of the building attended by sixteen members of Congress and hundreds of others.
August 2007 - FCNL's building receives a silver LEED certification.
2007 - FNCL completes the renovation of its Capitol Hill offices as a testimony to environmental sustainability and achieves a Silver LEED (Leadership in Environment and Energy Design) designation. The building is his hailed by members of Congress and many others as a model for the future.
February 2008 - The National Congress of American Indians, which represents more than 250 tribes across the United States, awards FCNL its Public Sector Leadership Award "in appreciation of your tireless support for the Native American community and your work to bring Native issues to the attention of the general public and Congress."
December 2010 - Senate Ratifies New START Treaty with Russia that reduces the number of deployed nuclear weapons in both countries. FCNL leadership of efforts to secure the 67 votes necessary to ratify the treaty is recognized by members of Congress and the administration.