Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) is a non-partisan coalition of 25,000 members, which includes 750 houses of worship, 1,000 clergy of all faiths, and people of goodwill, ten chapters (and growing!), many partner and affiliate organizations, most of the judicatory leaders in the state, and activists in every House and Senate district in Virginia, all working for a more just society.
Founded in 1982, VICPP is the largest statewide advocacy voice for the faith community in Virginia. The organization focuses primarily on issues of racial, social, and economic justice. With more than 25,000 activists connected with the organization, VICPP’s grassroots work is organized through local chapters and affiliates, partner congregations, and individuals across the Commonwealth.
We work with Virginians of all faiths including people who identify as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, humanist, “spiritual, not religious,” "religious none," and people of goodwill. We are a racially, ethnically, and demographically diverse group that includes immigrants from around the world. Our board and staff reflect this diversity. We are committed to making the Commonwealth a more welcoming and just state for ALL.
VICPP is an advocacy organization, not a social service one. Although we support and appreciate the great work and ministries provided by social service agencies across the Commonwealth, we complement that work by addressing policy issues. One bill can magnify or negate thousands of hours and millions of dollars’ worth of social service work.
Historically, VICPP has been a leader on poverty issues, working on expanding school breakfast programs, reducing predatory lending, and advocating Medicaid expansion. Today we focus on racial justice, immigrant rights and economic justice issues like requiring employers to offer paid sick days.
To be effective, VICPP must be strategic about the issues on which it focuses. VICPP is “the lead” on some legislation, which means we help draft the legislation, recruit sponsors and build statewide support on the issue. On other issues, we support the work of partner organizations. In large coalition efforts, like Medicaid expansion, our role is primarily to engage the faith community in all aspects of the initiative.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy engages people of faith and goodwill in advocating racial, social, and economic justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer and action.
Our work is informed by these core values:
- Living our faith commitments through action for justice and public witness
- Upholding the inherent dignity and worth of all people
- Including and honoring diverse voices
- Learning from and acting in solidarity with people who are marginalized
- Participating in justice coalitions
- High-quality work
- Stewardship of resources
- Diversity and inclusion
- Collaboration and cooperation
- Valuing and caring for all
- Respecting individual and family needs
Everyone is encouraged to sign up to receive our weekly email updates to stay informed about our events, activities, and advocacy alerts and join in our work to advocate social justice.
By sharing your email, your voice will be amplified as we advocate public policy.
As a non-profit organization, we depend on donations and grants and we welcome your contributions. Anyone who contributes $30 or more will become a member who is entitled to vote at the annual meeting and on an annual issue survey. If you would like to become a member and the $30 fee is a barrier to participation, please click here and pay what you can on our donation page.
For several years in the late 70’s and early 80’s, a group of religious leaders, including Rev. James Payne (Presbyterian), Rev. Fletcher Lowe (Episcopal), Bishop Walter Sullivan (Catholic) and others began meeting informally to work on human needs public policy. The group saw the critical need for an inclusive, interfaith voice to advocate just public policies in the Virginia General Assembly.
Initially, there were conversations about creating a public policy arm within the Virginia Council of Churches, but it was decided to set up a separate interfaith organization that could focus on social justice issues with a united voice representing all faith traditions.
The Center’s first meeting took place in October 1982 in the Franklin Street headquarters of the Greater Richmond YWCA. That occasion was the culminating milestone of a year of planning by a group of Virginia Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Presbyterian pastor the Rev. James A. Payne was the founding director of the Center. Upon his retirement in 1990, the Center underwent a time of transition with executive leadership from several directors, including the Rev. Dr. C. Dow Chamberlain, a United Methodist minister and the Rev. Canon J. Fletcher Lowe, an Episcopal priest who had been an active member of the VICPP organizing body. Rev. Lowe provided strong leadership on behalf of the interfaith community, serving from 1997-2004. In 2004 the Rev. C. Douglas Smith took over as director, serving for eight years.
Under Smith’s leadership, VICPP purchased and undertook a green renovation of a historic 19th century building in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom that now serves as VICPP’s home. Mr. Marco Grimaldo served as director from February 2012 to April 2015 and strengthened VICPP’s work on immigrant rights. Before and after Grimaldo, the Rev. Charles Swadley led the Center during two stints as interim director.
Ms. Kim Bobo was hired as Executive Director in February 2016.
On December 17, 2018, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light (VAIPL) merged with VICPP, and in 2021 the organizations separated. VAIPL continues its work to address climate change and achieve environmental justice in Virginia. VICPP encourages congregations who want to advocate for environmental justice causes to reach out to VAIPL directly and work with them.
Over the years, VICPP has been blessed with phenomenal staff and board members and the same is true today. The Center has a wonderful and committed Board of Directors and talented and hardworking staff.
Join us and amplify your voice for justice!
A: The Center’s Board of Directors determines priority issues.
A: When the priorities have been determined, resources such as facts and “talking points” are developed and shared with our supporters to assist in advocacy efforts with their legislators.
A: Virginia Interfaith Center staff, in consultation and collaboration with faith and advocacy groups, assist in the selection of specific issues for which legislation is written, introduced, and promoted. We do not merely react to legislation – we also help create and support legislation.
A: The Interfaith Center follows legislative issues set by its Board, which directs staff on policies and issues. Typically, issues where there is no clear agreement between religious traditions are not tracked closely.
A: The Virginia Interfaith Center is governed by a Board of Directors. Some directors are elected at the Annual Meeting by those in attendance and by proxy ballots. The Board hires the Executive Director, sets the budget priorities, and approves the legislative agenda.
A: Yes. The Interfaith Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization, therefore all contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.
A: IRS regulations permit the participation of tax-exempt, faith-based organizations in limited, defined lobbying efforts. Most of our activities, such as our flagship educational program, Social Justice University, and our research, are not considered “lobbying” by the IRS. Advocacy trainings and issue-oriented forums are actually educational events, not lobbying. Examples of lobbying are meeting with a legislator to discuss specific legislation and distributing action alerts to our grassroots network regarding specific legislation. Simply put, lobbying is trying to influence a legislator to vote a particular way on a specific bill.
A: As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, the Virginia Interfaith Center is prohibited from endorsing candidates for any political office. We may and do engage in issue-oriented discussions with candidates, but never endorse any candidate or political party.