Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Media Relations Assistant, came to FPL from NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s Associate Program after studying economics at Saint Joseph’s University. She blogs about tax and budget issues on Bold Faith Type.
Laurie Goodstein detailed the Catholic bishops fight over religious liberty this week in the New York Times. Interviewing FPL Senior Writer and Catholic outreach coordinator John Gehring on the bishops’ ongoing struggle for relevance in public policy debates:
Bishop Lori said in his speech, “The services which the Catholic Church and other denominations provide are more crucial than ever, but it is becoming more and more difficult for us to deliver these services in a manner that respects the very faith that impels us to provide them.”
The bishops have also been lobbying the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the religious exemption to the mandate in Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul that requires private insurers to pay for contraception. The exemption, as currently written, would still require Catholic hospitals and universities to cover birth control for most of their employees — which the church says is a violation of its religious freedom.
Some liberal Catholic commentators have criticized the bishops’ priorities, saying they are playing into the culture wars. John Gehring, Catholic outreach coordinator with Faith in Public Life, a liberal religious advocacy group in Washington, said, “The bishops speak in hushed tones when it comes to poverty and economic justice issues, and use a big megaphone when it comes to abortion and religious liberty issues.
add a comment »
During last week’s CBS/National Journal foreign policy debate, several GOP candidates decried foreign development assistance as nothing more than wasteful spending. Ignoring years of evidence documenting its crucial role in protecting national interests and safeguarding millions of vulnerable people from hunger and disease, Governor Rick Perry said he would zero-out current levels of aid and require countries to “re-apply” for support.
As a response to the impending “supercommitee” deadline (and perhaps the GOP debate), five former Secretaries of State crossed party lines and called for the protection of the foreign aid budget while identifying it as “…the one area where leaders of both parties can find common ground and come together to ensure a better, safer world and a more prosperous future.”
Along with all the former Secretaries of State, Richard E. Stearns, head of World Vision USA, called on all Americans to stand up in support of human need programs around the world. As the head of the largest evangelical aid organization, Stearns asked that Americans and policymakers recognize both the moral value and economic importance that foreign assistance affords:
From The Wall Street Journal:
Americans should understand that foreign aid strengthens democracy. A 2006 report out of Vanderbilt University and the University of Pittsburgh found a direct connection between U.S. aid and increased democratization and good governance, as measured by the Freedom House index. Evangelicals generally support promoting democracy abroad not only because they support the values on which our country was founded, but also because they are strong advocates for the freedom of religion that accompanies democratic values.
Then there are the lives saved. Our aid programs don’t have an unblemished record, and waste and corruption need to be rooted out. But Pepfar, for example, is now providing lifesaving drugs to three million people living with AIDS, mostly in Africa. It also provides care and support to another 2.5 million orphans and vulnerable children. If Congress cuts that program 10%, my organization estimates, 400,000 people will lose their medicine and potentially lose their lives.
Hopefully the majority of evangelicals who believe the foreign assistance budget is too generous and should be cut will pay attention to Stearns argument. More importantly, it’s crucial that budget-crafting policymakers take heed before it is too late.
Photo: Richard Stearns
add a comment »
One of the most damaging myths about free-market capitalism is the unfounded belief that unregulated markets will naturally lead to socially beneficial results. According to the theory, if corporations engage in harmful policies, shareholders will hold them accountable and so there is no need for regulation to help ensure corporations are behaving in ways that benefit the broader society.
But this ideal quickly falls apart in practice. For one, most people (whose investments take the form of employee-sponsored retirement accounts or mutual funds) have no idea what companies they even own stock in. They just give their money to investment companies who make the decisions and report back on the rate of return of the entire portfolio.
The result is that, in practice, shareholders are only likely to challenge companies when earnings statements aren’t high enough–only further encouraging them to put social responsibility on the backburner when it conflicts with greater profits.
Trying to expose and rectify this structural problem, Sister Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have long been vital to efforts intended to pressure executives to do more of “God’s work” and curb corporate excess and greed. The New York Times profiles them this week:
Long before Occupy Wall Street, the Sisters of St. Francis were quietly staging an occupation of their own. In recent years, this Roman Catholic order of 540 or so nuns has become one of the most surprising groups of corporate activists around.
The nuns have gone toe-to-toe with Kroger, the grocery store chain, over farm worker rights; with McDonald’s, over childhood obesity; and with Wells Fargo, over lending practices. They have tried, with mixed success, to exert some moral suasion over Fortune 500 executives, a group not always known for its piety.
“We want social returns, as well as financial ones,” Sister Nora said, strolling through the garden behind Our Lady of Angels, the convent here where she has worked for more than half a century. She paused in front of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. “When you look at the major financial institutions, you have to realize there is greed involved.”
Under ICCR’s watch, executives from Goldman Sachs to Wal-Mart and McDonalds have been rightly rebuked for ignoring the common good in pursuit of profit. People of faith have long been calling for a triple bottom line (environmental, social and financial concerns), and it is without question that women religious like Sister Nora Nash led the way.
Photo credit: Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
add a comment »
The 2011 American Values Survey from Public Religion Research Institute (which we’ve already blogged about some this week) provides some interesting insight into Americans’ religious and political beliefs. The polling clearly shows that people are in search of answers on how to address America’s growing wealth inequality. Elected officials should take note that Americans are not fooled by claims that decreased taxes and increased profits for the richest 1% of the country will lead to jobs and prosperity for everyone else.
A strong majority (60%) of Americans agree that the country would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal, while 39% disagree.
Strong majorities of Democrats (78%) and Independents (60%) agree that the country would be better off if the wealth was more evenly divided. In stark contrast, more than 6-in-10 (63%) Republicans and Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement (62%) disagree.
Majorities of every major religious group and religiously unaffiliated Americans agree that the country would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal.
Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Millennials agree that the U.S. would be better off if there was a more equal distribution of wealth. Among seniors, less than half (46%) agree.
Not only are Americans tired of the current system and lack of opportunity, but it appears they are ready to support concrete policy solution that decreases economic disparity:
Seven-in-ten (70%) Americans favor “the Buffett rule,” a proposal to increase the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million per year, compared to only 27% who oppose it.
While solid majorities of Democrats (85%) and Independents (70%) support increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year, just over half of Republicans (52%) and only 4-in-10 Tea Party members favor it.
Less than half (43%) of Americans who most trust Fox News favor increasing the tax rate for Americans making more than $1 million a year (55% oppose it). In contrast, approximately 8-in-10 Americans who most trust any other media outlet favor such an increase (82% for broadcast news, 76% for CNN, 81% for MSNBC, and 84% for public television).
add a comment »
Affirming the faith community’s call for withdrawal from Iraq, a Gallup poll out yesterday shows that the majority of Americans (75%) support President Obama’s decision to withdrawal troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year generally fits with Americans’ wishes, if not those of many Republicans. Americans have been opposed to the Iraq war for many years. Since 2005, on average, a majority have said the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.
Thankfully, the political will to withdraw American troops from Iraq will now be in line with the public’s long-held consensus.
add a comment »