United Methodist Join Voices for Victory Against Sex Trafficking in Nevada

June 03, 2013

By the Rev. Art Gafke

In a major victory for victims of sex trafficking, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a landmark bill. State Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto introduced Assembly Bill 67 in the recent legislative session in part because she knew of broad public support through Nevadans for the Common Good. 
This broad-based, interfaith organization, began in May of 2012 to address various problems in Nevada. All ten United Methodist congregations in the Las Vegas area are involved. Desert Southwest Bishop Robert Hoshibata, along with the Roman Catholic and Episcopal bishops, gave support, and District Superintendent Candace Lansberry provided leadership. Early on the realities of sex trafficking of children and youth of Nevada demanded attention. In January 2013, over 20 meetings were held with Assembly members and State Senators to let them know that Assembly Bill 67 was of major concern. These meetings were held in various churches involving over 200 people.
California-Nevada United Methodist clergy joined the effort. The Rev. Rob Jennings-Teats greeted a large delegation from southern and northern Nevada at First UMC, in Carson City, in early February at a joint press conference co-sponsored by Nevadans for the Common Good as the Attorney General presented the legislation. The Revs. Karla Bowman, Nadine DeWitt, and John Sublett gave support to the effort as well. 
Two years ago, in the last legislative session, three of four anti-sex trafficking bills died in committee due to partisan division. This time, Nevadans for the Common Good congregations worked with both Republicans and Democrats to assure the passage of the legislation. 
With the new law, sex trafficking in Nevada is now a major crime, with increased penalties, acknowledgement that victims are not criminals, assets of traffickers are able to be seized, and those convicted will be listed on the official registry as sex offenders. 
Even though the legislation is now Nevada law, there is more to be done regarding sex trafficking of children and youth, and Nevadans for the Common Good will be involved. In addition, issues of vulnerable elderly, education and immigration are targets for attention.  
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