Testimony on HB544 (2021)

On Tuesday, May 5, 2021, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the NH state budget, House Bills 1 & 2. The commonly-called “divisive concepts” bill (HB544) has been incorporated into House Bill 2. The Executive Director of the NH Council of Churches submitted the testimony below to their hearing:

Dear Members of the Senate Finance Committee,

I wanted to reach out to you asking you to remove the “divisive concepts” clauses in H.B. 2 borrowed from the now-tabled H.B. 544 from the Senate version of the state budget.

The sins of racism, sexism, genocide and more continue to wound our nation. When seeking the national healing that God can provide, Christians often refer to 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This verse points out that God will heal our nation only after humility, confession and repair of past wrongs. Despite how some people present the “divisive concepts” clauses, these provisions will limit our ability to have the honest conversations the God expects of us..

In the Granite State, the NH Council of Churches is made up of nine diverse traditions, including Protestant, Unitarian Universalist and Orthodox bodies. Together, there are about 380 individual congregations across our state. Many of these churches are already having the needed, honest conversations on racism, sexism, genocide and other difficult topics. Some examples include:

  1. Our support for last year’s bill requiring Holocaust and Genocide Education in our public schools. The Council continues to participate in this work to ensure that all understand the cost of silent complicity with atrocities at home and around the world. The vague language of the “divisive concepts” clauses jeopardizes this important work.

  2. The newly-formed NH Interfaith Collaborative is offering Zoom webinars to train faith communities on how to have difficult conversations in a healthy way. In January, the Interfaith Collaborative invited members of Governor Sununu’s COVID-19 Equity Response Team to speak honestly about racial inequities uncovered in the pandemic.

  3. Denominational bodies and local churches have partnered with the Black Heritage Trail to understand better how their historic congregations supported and benefited from trafficking in enslaved people brought here from Africa to our home state.

These are only a few ways that our churches are doing the work that can heal our nation as God intends. This work should show public schools, workplaces and all of us that these conversations are nothing to fear. When it comes time to vote on our budget, stand with our courageous faith communities and strike this language so that we can together see our land healed.


Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director