ABCNASHVILLE, Tenn.—On June 12–14, Dr. David Schuringa, president of Crossroad Bible Institute, participated in a national conference called “A View from the Pulpit: Faith Leaders and Drug Decriminalization.” He was invited to contribute as a conservative voice and to speak on a panel addressing the faith-based facets of the issue.

The conference, which took place at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, was sponsored by the college, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference. More than two dozen pastors gathered together to address the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs on poor and African American communities.

Notable leaders from the African American community, including Rev. Kenneth Sharpton Glasgow (Executive Director, The Ordinary People Society), Dr. Forrest Harris (President, American Baptist College), Rev. Edwin Sanders (Pastor, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville) and Rev. Derrick Boykin (Associate for African American Leadership Outreach, Bread for the World), were in attendance.

The Drug Policy Alliance released a statement saying that while African Americans compose only 13 percent of the US population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those convicted of drug law violation. Speakers at the conference insisted that African Americans are being disproportionately targeted by drug law enforcement.

“Drug decriminalization had not been on my radar,” said Dr. Schuringa, “but these pastors spoke passionately on the subject and gave me new insights into the perspective of many in the African American community.”

As part of his panel presentation, Dr. Schuringa proposed that if these injustices exist, then certainly a moratorium on drug law felony convictions would be appropriate until equitable enforcement can be demonstrated. “As Christians, we should be alarmed by such injustice, whether it directly affects us or not,” he said.

Many of the leaders gathered also expressed their concern that the War on Drugs is aggravating the problem of hunger in the United States. Drug law convictions can result in the loss of employment, property, public housing, food stamp eligibility and financial aid for college. These losses also affect the families of convicted men and women, including their children. Pastors at the conference expressed their belief that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

The statement issued by the Drug Policy Alliance called on the church to serve “as a sanctuary for those who are considered the ‘least of these among us.’” Dr. Schuringa likewise urged all Christians to take the matter personally: “Whenever the poor or oppressed are suffering, the church is called to respond.”

Read USA TODAY’s article about the conference here.