Posts by Nick Sementelli

Home > Nick Sementelli

Washington Catholic Bishop Urges Civil Debate, No Tolerance for Hate or Hostility

August 7, 2012, 11:33 am | By Nick Sementelli

U.S. BISHOP BLASE J. CUPICHThis weekend, all Catholic parishes in the diocese of Spokane, Washington read a letter from Bishop Blase Cupich about the state’s current debate on Referendum 74, a ballot initiative that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.

While Bishop Cupich notes that the Catholic Church’s official position urges voters to reject the initiative, he urges parishioners to view the debate in the broader context of the experiences of their LGBT neighbors.

First, Cupich acknowledges the history of discrimination and oppression that motivates many supporters of the law:

Proponents of the redefinition of marriage are often motivated by compassion for those who have shown courage in refusing to live in the fear of being rejected for their sexual orientation. It is a compassion that is very personal, for those who have suffered and continue to suffer are close and beloved friends and family members. It is also a compassion forged in reaction to tragic national stories of violence against homosexuals, of verbal attacks that demean their human dignity, and of suicides by teens who have struggled with their sexual identity or have been bullied because of it.

Then, urging that the debate be conducted with respect and civility, he issues a stern warning to those who would do otherwise:

I also want to be very clear that in stating our position the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity.

Bishop Cupich demonstrated a similar sensibility earlier this year when he ignored a right-wing campaign to block Archbishop Desmond Tutu from speaking at the commencement ceremonies of Spokane’s Gonzaga University in part because of Tutu’s views on LGBT issues.

It’s a shame that comments such as these  are so rare from Catholic bishops. While same-sex marriage is still a hotly contested issue among people of faith, there should be no controversy about Bishop Cupich’s basic acknowledgment that all people deserve respect and dignity and that this issue should not be used to incite bigotry and intolerance.

H/T Michael Sean Winters

add a comment »

Missouri Supreme Court Paves Way for Payday Lending Ballot Initiative

August 6, 2012, 2:10 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Payday lendingMissouri citizens won an important victory last week as the state Supreme Court ruled to allow a ballot initiative to cap payday lending rates to go forward this year. Currently, Missouri allows some of the worst predatory lending abuses in the country, with interest rates as high as 400% being perfectly legal. The proposed initiative would cap rates at 36% to break the cycle of inescapable debt and financial difficulty the current rates cause.

The ruling comes as positive news to the Missourians for Responsible Lending campaign, the state coalition that collected over 350,000 signatures to put this petition on the ballot. The coalition includes faith groups like Communities Creating Opportunity, a Kansas City affiliate of the PICO National Network. Their impressive effort came despite a concerted effort by corporate interests to keep voters from weighing in on this issue. As a new report from Public Campaign reveals, special interests have funneled over $2.1 million into a shadowy astro-turf group called Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity to block the initiative.

As campaign organizers have attested, corporate interests will stoop to truly thuggish tactics to protect their profits. Signature gatherers were followed, physically obstructed, and harassed by “blockers” who  tried to thwart their efforts. Molly Fleming-Pierre, an organizer with Communities Creating Opportunities, described the intimidation tactics in May:

“Our people were taunted, mocked, bullied, and verbally assaulted down there. Sometimes it was nine big burly guys to one young female canvasser — trying to kick her off a site. She stayed. One of our pastors had the opposition blockers screaming in her face for nearly 30 minutes that she was a liar. Tails would follow our people, texting their blockers when our people would set up to canvass so that the intimidation was always mobile.”

Read more here:
Read more here:

Someone even broke into an organizer’s car and stole 5,500 signatures shortly before a crucial deadline.

With the ruling, the initiative now only awaits the Secretary of State’s final certification of the signatures collected by Tuesday.

add a comment »

Anti-Muslim Rep. Bachmann Joins Catholic Law Center Board

August 3, 2012, 1:52 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Thomas-More-Law-CenterThe Catholic Thomas More Law Center has already revealed itself to be more committed to promoting right-wing politics than protecting real religious rights, but they took an even more extreme step yesterday appointing anti-Muslim conspiracy theory champion Michele Bachmann to their board.

The appointment comes just as Rep. Bachmann is finding herself chastised from all sides for her sloppy, offensive attack on Muslim Americans in government. Relying on unsubstantiated conspiratorial ramblings from anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, Bachmann publicly alleged that State Department employee Huma Abedin and fellow Minnesota Congressperson Keith Ellison have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and have “infiltrated” the government.

Despite condemnation even from conservatives such as John Boehner, John McCain, and her own former campaign advisor Ed Rollins, Bachmann has doubled down, painting herself as a valiant gladiator against political correctness.

Ultimately, Bachmann’s appointment to the TMLC board isn’t a surprise. The group’s anti-Islam bigotry is well-documented and has earned condemnation from the Becket Fund, a similar conservative religious liberty legal organization.

People of faith, and particularly Catholic leaders, should stay away from working with TMLC and any other group whose defense of religious rights stops short of our Islamic neighbors.

add a comment »

Family Research Council Silent as GOP AttacksTheir Priorities

August 2, 2012, 12:26 pm | By Nick Sementelli

FRC Child Tax CreditAs yesterday’s statement from religious leaders showed, the House Republican vote to drastically roll back refundable tax credits that benefit working families (which 19 misguided Democrats joined) has put them on the opposite side of the faith community. And not just the progressive and moderate faith community — the GOP plan is so radically anti-family, it’s more extreme than even far-right religious groups.

In particular, by attacking the Child Tax Credit, House Republicans took aim at a key policy priority of the Family Research Council, usually one of their closest allies. Not only does FRC boast of “conceiving” the original idea for the credit, they’ve consistently campaigned for Congress to make it permanent and quintuple its maximum amount from the current $1,000 per child to $5,000. In contrast, the House GOP plan passed yesterday cuts the average family’s tax credit by $854.

When this issue came up last April, FRC was part of a diverse coalition of faith and family groups lobbying to protect this crucial policy. They even launched a petition to Congress that garnered over 37,000 signatures.

But in this latest round, as Republican extremism and obstruction threatens working families with this painful tax hike, FRC appears to have gone quiet. If FRC were truly committed to pro-family policy over partisan politics, they would have leaned on their Republican allies to vote against these dangerous cuts.

add a comment »

60 Christian Leaders to Congress: Don’t Dismantle Pro-Family Tax Credits

August 1, 2012, 7:00 am | By Nick Sementelli

A diverse coalition of 60 faith leaders are releasing a statement today expressing their strong opposition to any legislative proposal that fails to extend the 2009 improvements made to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit:

These tax credits help families meet basic needs, reduce poverty, and remove barriers to work. It is hypocritical for lawmakers who talk about family values to abandon improvements in these effective, family-supporting programs. Failing to extend the improved tax credits would jeopardize the economic security and well-being of more than 15 million families and more than 36 million children within those families. This is simply unconscionable.

The statement comes as the House prepares to vote on competing tax plans as early as today. The Democratic plan already passed by the Senate would preserve tax breaks for 98% of Americans, only allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for income over $250,000 earned by the top 2%. The House GOP proposal, on the other hand, would raise taxes on 25 million working Americans by undoing improvements to the aforementioned refundable tax credits in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthiest few.

In addition to the statement, six of the letter-signers will hold a press conference on the Hill this morning sending the same message. Today’s speakers include FPL Executive Director Rev. Jennifer ButlerRev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners; Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Michael Livingston, Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative; and Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association

UPDATE: Video from the event below.

Other letter signers include:

Mark J. Allman, Religious Theological Studies Department, Merrimack College
Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Theology, Saint Joseph’s University
Joanna Brooks, Progressive Mormon author
Bishop John R. Bryant, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Nicholas P. Cafardi, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law
Tony Campolo, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., Editor in Chief, America Magazine
Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J., Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish, San Francisco
M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College
Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, Portland, Oregon
Nancy Dallavalle, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University
Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International
Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School
Rev. Michael Harrison, President, Ohio Baptist State Convention
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary
Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College
Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed
John Inglis, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelly, S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University
Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, National Coordinator, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Kathleen Maas Weigert, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives, Loyola University, Chicago
Rev. Steven D. Martin, Executive Director, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University
Gene McCarraher, Associate Professor of Humanities, Villanova University
Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rev. Brian McLaren, Evangelical writer and speaker
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA
Alex Mikulich, Assistant Professor, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University, New Orleans
Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Washington, DC
David O’Brien, University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton
William L. Portier, Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton
Christopher Pramuk, Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati
Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Stephen F. Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Anthony B. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
John Sniegocki, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and former President, Chicago Theological Seminary
Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology and Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University, Bronx
Bishop Edgar L. Vann, Second Ebeneezer Church, Detroit
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada
Todd Whitmore, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame
Barbara Williams-Skinner, Founder, Skinner Leadership Institute
Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church
Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University
Aidsand Wright-Riggins, III, Executive Director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies


add a comment »