A group of leaders from Portland's faith-based community gathered around the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the namesake boulevard to sign a commitment against tobacco.
Yugen Farad Rashad, of LifeWorks NW's African American Tobacco prevention program, organized the group of faith leaders as part of an ongoing campaign against smoking.
"Now we're making a knee print on where we worship and pray," Rashad said.
The 20-degree temperatures didn't keep the faithful from signing the document that created a pledge to create tobacco-free campuses. That means no smoking in parking lots, common areas or church-owned lands. Among those who signed the document included Albina Ministerial Alliance vice president Leroy Haynes, Ecumenical Ministries' David Leslie, Augustana Lutheran's Norma Trimble and Mark Knutson, New Hope's Robert Jointer and Highland Christian Center's Kevin Howard.
"With tobacco companies targeting our urban youth, we feel we must challenge this battle with all the scientific evidence we have," Haynes said.
For some, it's a personal battle. Many have seen relatives die of respiratory disease and some are smokers themselves.
"I'm a smoker on the way to becoming an ex-smoker," Howard said. "It's difficult for a lot of us."
While a restriction on smoking on church grounds could cause many to simply walk onto a public sidewalk, Rashad and others are hopeful it will encourage those who want to quit.
"I know everybody has a right to do what they want to do," Jointer said, adding that many people do want to quit. "The fact that is will be an inconvenience … they need all the encouragement they can get to kick that atrocious habit."
Rashad has been leading a campaign to get community leaders and restaurant and bar owners to pledge their establishments smoke-free before a new anti-smoking law goes into effect in January 2009. After the law takes effect, it will be illegal to smoke in any establishment with two employees.