As the immigration reform debate reaches a critical moment, 30 prominent Catholic leaders have released a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner and other members of Congress to pass comprehensive reform that protects immigrant families and includes a path to citizenship. Signers include heads of religious orders, presidents of Catholic universities, priests, women religious and lay people from across the country.
The letter, organized by Faith in Public Life, references the teachings of Boehner’s Catholic faith about justice for immigrants, and is running as a full-page ad in Thursday’s edition of Politico. Also on Thursday, bishops who serve on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration are gathering on Capitol Hill to hold a mass urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for all aspiring Americans.
Bishops participating include Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami; Bishop Elizondo; Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona.
It’s outrageous that Boehner and other House leaders have procrastinated and obstructed for so long while immigrant families are broken apart, but faith leaders are not going to give up until reform becomes a reality.
The text of the letter and list of signers is below:
Dear Speaker Boehner,
We write to you as fellow Catholics with heavy hearts and a profound sense of urgency. As the House of Representatives still delays passing comprehensive immigration reform, mothers are torn apart from children, migrants are dying in the desert and our nation is weakened.
Mr. Speaker, how can we fail to act?
Legislative obstruction in the face of preventable suffering and death is not only a failure of leadership. It is immoral and shameful. The eyes of our God — who hungers for justice and commands us to welcome the stranger and bind the wounds of those left by the side of the road — are on us.
Are we deaf to the cries of families and aspiring Americans separated by a broken system?
We stand with U.S. Catholic bishops who will celebrate Mass on Capitol Hill this week, and who come once again to advocate for humane and practical immigration reform.
Will you pray with us that the House of Representatives puts aside partisanship and passes comprehensive reform?
Pope Francis reminds us that a “globalization of indifference” prevents us from seeing that every migrant, regardless of status, has inherent human dignity. As Catholics who share your commitment to the sanctity of life in the womb, we must not be complicit in the suffering of migrants dying in the shadows. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has called justice for immigrants a “pro-life” issue, spoke during a Mass on the U.S.-Mexico border last month of the “unmarked graves of thousands who die alone and nameless.”
Is our nation so callous that we fail to weep for those nameless lost? We pray that you and your colleagues in the House have the moral courage to show real leadership and act.
Rev. Larry Snyder
Catholic Charities USA
Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J.
Trinity Washington University
Rev. Daniel Groody, CSC
Director of Immigration Initiatives, Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame
Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J.
University of San Francisco
Donna M. Carroll
Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J.
Loyola University New Orleans
Rev. Clete Kiley
Director for Immigration Policy
Rev. Charles Currie, S.J.
Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J.
Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Global Development
Rev. Michael U. Pucke
St. Julie Billiart Parish
Hamilton County, Ohio
Rev. Anthony Kutcher
National Federation of Priests’ Councils
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Stephen F. Schneck
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America
Since 1996, low-income Missourians with a past drug-related felony conviction have been barred for life from eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a crucial lifeline that helps struggling families put food on the table.
While most states have modified or removed their lifetime SNAP bans in recent years, Missouri has kept theirs in place—until now.
After faith groups like Metropolitan Congregations United and Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (affiliate organizations of Gamaliel) engaged the faith community to end this cruel policy, the Missouri legislature recently passed a bill by overwhelming margins that would make people who have served their time eligible for nutrition assistance again if they have completed a substance abuse program or been ruled to not need such treatment.
Rolling back wrongheaded “tough on crime” policies that grew out of the war on drugs isn’t just smart criminal-justice policy, it’s critical to ensuring that former offenders have a chance to rebuild their lives and support their families.
The bill is now on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk, and he is expected to sign it in the coming weeks, giving at-risk individuals and their families the food they deserve.
Last year, the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina boldly confronted the extremist agenda set forth by the state’s governor and legislature and completely transformed the political conversation in the Tar Heel state and across the country.
This week, they got back to work.
On Monday morning, clergy and laypeople led by Rev. William Barber II returned to the state capitol in Raleigh to resume the campaign to defeat policies that restrict voting rights and devastate struggling families. Hundreds marched quietly with their mouths taped shut to protest the legislature’s use of obscure rules to clamp down on protesters’ ability assemble at the statehouse. This kind of political maneuvering shows just how scared these politicians are – for good reason.
As the 2014 elections approach, the force of the Moral Mondays movement only promises to grow. At the Moral March that brought 80,000 to Raleigh earlier this year, Rev. Barber brought the crowd to a peak when he said “we will pray, we will get off of our knees and work, we will speak truth to power…and we will voter like never before!”
This fall, the eyes of the nation will be on a handful of US Senate and gubernatorial races where issues like Medicaid expansion will weigh heavily on voters’ consciences. No political ad or stump speech can shape the debate and speak truth to our better angels like a faith-led mass movement.
Many faith leaders have stronglycondemned the Religious Right’s recent efforts to give businesses the right to deny services and accommodations to LGBT people.
But this week in Houston, where the City Council is debating an ordinance that would ban such discrimination in housing and employment, a pastor made a deeply troubling case in favor of discrimination.
At a Houston City Council meeting on Tuesday, Pastor Becky Riggle of Grace Community Church was asked by Councilwoman Ellen Cohen if a business could deny service based not only on a customers’ sexual identity, but also on their religion.
Here’s how it played out:
“But what if someone doesn’t believe in my faith?” Cohen, who is Jewish, asked Riggle.
“I’m saying they have the right, if they want to, to be able to refuse service if it goes against their religious beliefs,” Riggle responded.
“If I’m asking for service and my faith is something that troubles them, they have a right to refuse me service? So you’re saying yes, they do have a right to refuse me service as someone of the Jewish faith?” Cohen asked.
Riggle said, “Yes, I am saying that. But that is not the issue that we’re talking about today.”
While this admission might sound shocking, it’s a clear logical extension of the thrust of the Religious Right’s pro-discrimination arguments.
According to the Houston Chronicle, faith leaders across the city support the nondiscrimination ordinance:
The Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange, co-pastor of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church Edmiston-Lange said her church “historically has thought of God as a God of love, and that all human beings are God’s children. God doesn’t discriminate, and neither should the law.”
The Rev. Lisa Hunt, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the first Episcopal congregation in Texas to bless same-sex covenants, said passage of the ordinance is “very important for the life of the city.”
“Moral fabric is shaped not only by personal religious belief, but by the public values that get articulated into law,” she said. “So, I think a fundamental religious value to me is to respect the dignity of every human being. One of the ways we do that is to ensure that every individual is treated fairly, equally and with respect.”
The Rev. Harvey Clemons, of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, said the proposed ordinance “reflects our faith traditions as ambassadors of Christ.
Missouri is in the midst of a legislative fight to expand Medicaid in the state. On Tuesday, hundreds of activists, including clergy, packed the Missouri State Senate, demanding health care for all Missourians.
Now, Missouri’s faith leaders are calling on one specific member of that assembly in a new radio ad. State Senator Kurt Schaefer has been vocal in his opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would bring health coverage to more than 300,000 Missourians. People of faith believe that Medicaid expansion is a moral issue, and know that thousands are living without access to life-saving treatment for preventable, chronic conditions. 700 people will die in the state this year without Medicaid expansion.
The radio ad, which began airing Monday, features Rev. Jim Bryan of Missouri Faith Voices. Rev. Bryan is a retired pastor with the Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia. You can listen to the ad here.
Faith in Public Life is proud to partner with PICO National Network and Communities Creating Opportunities on this life and death issue.
In Missouri, a hardworking single mother of three is diagnosed with breast cancer.
She can’t afford health insurance, but because of the size of her family and her income, she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid. Each day she prays to God that she won’t get sick.
I’m Reverend Jim Bryan, retired pastor of the Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia. Heartbreaking stories like this are sadly all too common – because Missouri makes it harder than almost any other state to qualify for Medicaid.
Have the politicians forgotten Jesus’s admonition that: “Whatever you did to the least of your sisters and brothers, you did to me”?
Call State Senator Kurt Schaefer at (573) 751-3931 and tell him to stop blocking Medicaid Expansion which could save 700 lives per year.
Tell him all God’s children should get the health care they so desperately need.
A message from the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance.