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Jess interned at Faith in Public Life in Fall 2011.

The Golden Calf Comes to Washington

December 16, 2011, 9:00 am | By Jess Brown

The Golden Calf Marches to the CapitolIn October, an interfaith coalition unveiled a golden calf at Occupy Wall Street that garnered worldwide attention. The calf, an image from the Book of Exodus, represents the idolatry of today’s corporate greed.

On Thursday morning, Catholics United joined Occupy DC members, Franciscan Action Network, and the National Nurses United union in McPherson Square to march the golden calf from the Occupy encampment to the Capitol.

At the conclusion of their march, James Salt, head of Catholics United, presented 8,000 petition signatures from Catholics around the country urging Speaker Boehner (R-OH) (who is also Catholic) to listen to the recommendations of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and support a tax on financial transactions to help regulate Wall Street.

This financial transaction tax – as written in HR-3313, the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) — would institute a .03% fee on all financial transactions. Speaking to reporters and a Boehner aide, Salt explained the proposal:

SALT: [The tax] will make the Wall Street markets that caused the economic crisis in the first place more accountable to the common good and generate revenue in a moment of huge deficit.

The bill currently has 19 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Evangelical Leaders Call for Rethinking Nuclear Weapon Policies

December 9, 2011, 12:00 pm | By Jess Brown
nuclear weapon.jpg

Last week, a group of prominent evangelicals penned a Washington Post op-ed calling for a rethinking of international nuclear policies. “Nuclear weapons, with their capacity for terror as well as for destruction of human life, raise profound spiritual, moral and ethical concerns,” they said.

They also outlined concrete steps toward ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used:

“As leaders in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), we believe thoughtful application of evangelical principles and consideration of the current realities support:

  • Re-examining the moral and ethical basis for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence
  • Maintaining the taboo against nuclear use
  • Achieving verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles
  • Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
  • Increasing safeguards against accidental use
  • Resolving regional conflicts
  • Preventing the unauthorized spread of fissile material
  • Continuing dialogue on the effects of possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons”

The letter was signed by Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Dennis Hollinger, president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, John Jenkins, of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, and Jo Ann Lyon, of The Wesleyan Church.

This statement echoes the faith activism around last year’s START nuclear arms reduction treaty. The NAE joined fellow evangelicals at the Two Futures Project as well as Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders calling on Congress to ratify this important agreement.

Promoting peace is a central component of almost all faith traditions and now is the time to put their faith into action toward making our world safe and secure for all.

Photo credit: Kingdafy, Fotopedia

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Democrats Court the Young and the Faithful

December 2, 2011, 1:15 pm | By Jess Brown

Wednesday, the Young Democrats of America held a press conference with Democratic Members of Congress and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to reaffirm the party’s commitment to young voters of faith. Specific outreach plans include organizing on faith-based college campuses and setting up trainings and service days.

In the 2008 election, Democrats made major gains with young evangelicals, in particular, and the new “Faith and Values Initiative” by the YDA shows that the party is once again going to be aggressively courting this and other young religious constituencies.

Recent polling shows they may have a good opportunity to do so. The values of religious Millennials are notably much more in line with efforts to increase wealth equity than with the Tea Party creed of selfishness, and the historic wedge issues of same-sex marriage and abortion don’t hold the same influence with young values voters as with their older counterparts.

Additionally, with unemployment among young people at an all-time high, the question of which party will provide a more moral pathway to job creation will no doubt be important to young voters of faith.

The event also featured some inspiring remarks by Rev. Derrick Harkins, an FPL board member and the DNC’s new Director of Religious Outreach, who argued that core faith values of justice and compassion have always been central to the Democratic Party.

Watch it:

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Tennessee Clergy Meet to Prevent Spread of Anti-Immigrant Laws to Their State

December 2, 2011, 11:04 am | By Jess Brown

Earlier this year, anti-immigration legislation in Alabama outraged civil rights and faith leaders in that state and around the country. Clergy such as William Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, took action against what he has dubbed “the meanest immigration Law in the nation” by joining a federal lawsuit against it.

Fearing that similar, nefarious measures may be implemented in their state, an interfaith coalition of nearly 300 clergy gathered at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Tennessee to consider the moral impact of pending anti-immigrant legislation in Nashville. The breakfast, hosted by Clergy for Tolerance, was part of that group’s mission of the promotion of interfaith dialogue toward comprehensive immigration reform on a federal level.

Keynoting the event, Willimon beseeched the crowd to take action. “Please don’t leave these moral and ethical matters to your politicians,” Willimon urged, “Speak up as people of faith from your faith perspective and show the world that you have something to say on this issue.”

This breakfast provided an outlet for faith leaders to put their beliefs into action and to become moral leaders in our society. Gatherings like this exhibit the potential of faith to elevate our social debate, promote the common good in the public square, and ultimately to lead to real social and policy improvement.

Listen to Bishop Willimon’s speech:

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Muslim Reality Show Premieres this Month

November 4, 2011, 10:28 am | By Jess Brown

In July, we told you about neuroscientists’ discovery that stereotypes are a reflex controlled by our brains, and that humans can train their minds to neutralize that reflex by viewing positive media images of a group against which they hold biases.

As part of that story, Daniel Tutt, backed by science and a strong political conviction toward positive change, made a bold call to action: “More nuanced Muslim characters that go beyond the stereotypical frames are a good start, yet neuroscience shows that we need significantly more positive and multidimensional content to effectively reduce prejudice.”

That same month, we were excited to learn about one such example of positive Muslim imagery in the planned TLC show, “All-American Muslim”, that would follow a diverse group of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Michigan.

The planned show has now become reality, and trailers are up for the November 13th premiere on TLC.

While other reality shows often come under fire for playing to the worst stereotypes of different groups of people, here’s hoping that “All-American Muslim” succeeds in breaking down barriers and helps to change the negative perceptions of Muslim Americans.

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