Faith In Public Life has impacted public debates in unique ways on a variety of issues. Below are some highlights of our work in recent years – click the titles below to learn about each success.
Resurrecting the Loaves and Fishes
In March 2013, FPL helped organized a nationwide “Loaves and Fishes” day during which faith communities in 16 states held 21 different events invoking Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish. The goal was to send a potent reminder to Congress and state legislatures to protect families and seniors, reject austerity, and remind them that we have enough for everyone in this country. There were seven deliveries of loaves and fish, including one to Rep. Paul Ryan’s office in Janesville, WI. Jewish groups participated using matzo and gefilte fish. Additionally, FPL produced an animated video asking why lawmakers are choosing to worship at the “altar of deficit reduction.” Together with PICO National Network, Interfaith Worker Justice, NETWORK: a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Bread for the World, Catholics United, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and others, we lifted the voice of the faith community across the country to tell our lawmakers that “it doesn’t take a miracle to make a moral budget.”
Preventing Gun Violence
After the tragedy in Newtown, many foresaw swift passage of comprehensive new gun violence prevention legislation. And yet, the gun lobby’s massive $250 million budget has allowed it to successfully pressure legislators to protect gun “freedom.” Faith in Public Life has worked tirelessly to bring the prospect of new legislation back from the brink through rallies, marches, sign-on letters, and phone banks. Our efforts have lifted the voices of Catholics, mainline Protestants, and evangelical Christians, as well as Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and others. Among the highlights of these efforts: teaming up with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to generate more than 4,700 calls from voters of faith to Senators in ten key states in March and April 2013; media outreach to generate press coverage for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s national call day, during which voters of many faiths placed 10,000 calls to Senators; and media support to Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. During the 2013 March for Life in Washington, FPL coordinated a statement signed by more than 60 prominent Catholic theologians, priests, nuns, and justice leaders that drew great media attention, including a New York Times story featured on the front page of the National section.
Nuns on the Bus
Following the Vatican’s surprising crackdown on women religious and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) false assertions that his proposed federal budget that would slash the social safety net reflected Catholic Social Teaching, Faith in Public Life and fellow progressive organizations recognized an opportunity to re-affirm the work of Catholic sisters while simultaneously denouncing Rep. Ryan’s immoral budget choices. Seizing that unique media environment, FPL played a pivotal role in devising the “Nuns on the Bus” strategy, a nine-state tour through Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states highlighting the work of Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve those on the economic margins and stand to be harmed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. FPL directed “Nuns on the Bus” media strategy and amplified the Catholic Sisters’ moral messaging on the economy with media training, press materials, coordinated press events, and cable booking expertise. A FPL staffer acted as the traveling press liaison, ensuring media coverage in over 1,400 national and local outlets including the Associated Press, CNN, CBS Evening News, New York Times and Washington Post.
The Golden Calf: Highlighting the Idolatry of Greed, and Religious Participation in Occupy Wall Street
Faith in Public Life worked with other faith groups, notably Catholics United, to construct a paper mâché golden calf in the midst of the Fall 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests. The calf, a potent symbol from Scripture, symbolized the idolatry of greed, materialism, and excess. FPL traveled to New York with the calf and joined an interfaith service and march at Zuccotti Park, helping catalyze the religious element of the Occupy protests and telling a national story in the media about the moral dimensions of the movement.
Ayn Rand vs. the Bible: Challenging Immoral Economic Priorities
Faith in Public Life worked with key allies in the faith community to expose the contradiction between conservative lawmakers’ devotion to Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy and their professed Christian values. FPL worked with Catholics United leader James Salt, who, along with FPL staff, caught up with Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) after a speech at a Religious Right conference and challenged Rep. Ryan for basing his federal budget plan on the teachings of Rand rather than principles of social justice. The encounter, which aired on MSNBC’s The Ed Show and earned extensive online news coverage, also earned over 50,000 views on YouTube, forced Rep. Ryan onto the defensive about his misguided priorities for the federal budget and deficit reduction and helped build the values component of the economic debate
Profession of Faith at Georgetown
As part of a larger FPL effort to call out Representative Paul Ryan for falsely characterizing his conservative fiscal beliefs as consistent with his Catholic faith, FPL rallied support from nearly 90 Georgetown faculty members to sign a letter of protest to coincide with Ryan’s visit to the campus in March 2012. The signers – including over a dozen Georgetown Jesuit priests and professors of theology, history and government – did not object to Ryan speaking on campus, but offered a stinging critique of his distortion of Catholic values. The scholars also sent Ryan a copy of the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by the late Pope John Paul II, so he could brush up on his Church teaching. The effort earned widespread media coverage, including 188 media hits in the Associated Press, Reuters, Politico, the Washington Post, and Religion News Service, and cable bookings on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC for FPL-trained spokespeople.
Faith in Public Life worked with New York-based and national faith leaders and organizations to challenge Representative Peter King’s (R-NY) misguided Congressional hearing on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community. FPL ran a robust fact-checking operation on the blog, worked with partner organization through the “Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values” coalition and others on coordinated media strategies, and developed and disseminated effective message points to allies. FPL also spearheaded a letter from Long Island religious leaders urging Rep. King, who represents part of Long Island, to cancel the hearings and instead work with the Muslim community.
Spotlighting Nuns’ Support for Health Reform
During the final days of the health care debate, Faith in Public Life worked with sixty women religious, representing nearly 59,000 nuns, who sent a letter to Congress supporting health reform and challenging misinformation about abortion provisions. With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ opposing the bill, the nuns’ letter assured undecided pro-life Catholic Members of Congress that supporting the legislation was in keeping with Catholic teaching, a crucial success that helped ensure passage of health reform. FPL pushed this letter to the press, earning exclusive Associated Press coverage, cable news segments and a range of other media hits. This development followed FPL’s extensive work throughout the debate debunking the politically toxic myth that the legislation provided federal funding of abortion.
Rallying the Faith Community for Health Reform
In August 2009, Faith in Public Life organized a call-in and webcast to rally the faith community around health care reform at a pivotal moment of the national debate. President Obama, 140,000 people of faith, and clergy leaders from key states all participated in the call. Cosponsored by over 30 other religious organizations, the call was streamed on C-Span TV and radio and carried on other radio stations throughout the country, earning FPL and its partners extensive media coverage. The event, called 40 Minutes for Health Reform, challenged the misinformation and hostility running rampant that summer around the health care debate.
The Compassion Forum
During the 2008 election season, Faith in Public Life hosted a nationally televised forum with presidential candidates and diverse faith leaders from across the ideological spectrum in a conversation focused on an array of issues of moral concern. CNN aired the Forum live nationally and internationally, as did Christian Communication Network, which also rebroadcast the Forum to thousands of churches nationwide. The forum received high praise from liberal to conservative commentators and outlets.