Must-reads on Georgia’s Religious Discrimination Bill

February 12, 2015, 1:55 pm | Posted by

The ongoing debate in the Georgia state capitol about bills labeled “religious freedom” legislation has been moving fast and marred by misleading arguments. Contrary to claims made by supporters, the bills in question — H.B. 218 and H.B. 29 — are unnecessary, divisive and dangerous. Here’s some coverage of the debate and analysis of the legislation that cuts to the heart of the matter.

Legal scholars against the Teasley bill
A letter from 18 distinguished legal scholars to Governor Deal and the Leadership of the Georgia Legislature detailing objections and concerns regarding the “Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act.”

Religious liberty law needed? Unintened consequences skew freedom
By Peter Berg and David Key Sr., Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An op-ed by faith leaders explaining that their commitment to religious freedom informs their opposition to this legislation.

Religious Freedom Proposal in Georgia Draws Baptists into Debate
By Don Byrd, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
The BJC, the church’s foremost authority on religious freedom, raises questions about the legislation and notes that the organization officially opposed a similar bill in Georgia last year.

Religious freedom bill misnamed and unnecessary
By K. David Cooke, Jr., The Macon Telegraph
Cooke, the district attorney for the Macon judicial circuit and a member of the Baptist Committee for Religious Liberty’s board of directors, explains some incredibly dangerous potential consequences of passing this legislation.

Atlanta fire chief fired after calling gays ‘vile’ claims religious bias
By Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times
Supporters point to the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran as proof that the legislation is necessary. This story shows that Cochran was fired for violating workplace policy, defying orders from the mayor, exposing the city to lawsuits, and creating a hostile work environment — not because of his religion.

 

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Immigration is a pro-life issue

January 20, 2015, 8:32 pm | Posted by

As Catholics committed to building a culture of life, we write to urge our fellow Catholics in Congress to support the U.S. bishops’ effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Our nation’s inhumane and flawed immigration policies leave migrant women, children and families abandoned by the side of the road. As Cardinal Séan O’Malley put it in a homily at the US-Mexico border last year: “We know that the border is lined with unmarked graves of thousands who die alone and nameless.” Immigration is “another pro-life issue,” the cardinal reminds us, echoing our Holy Father Pope Francis, who views abortion, extreme economic inequality and the death of migrants as part of a “globalization of indifference” and a “throwaway culture” that treats human beings as disposable.

There are more than two dozen pro-life Catholics in the House of Representatives. Many of them will join thousands of people of faith, including some of us, at the March for Life in Washington later this week. As brothers and sisters in faith, we urge these elected officials and all Catholics to defend the sanctity of human lives at all stages. We recognize the image of God in the migrant at the border, in the prisoner on death row, in the pregnant woman and in the hungry child.

The immigration crisis will not be solved by threats to shut down government agencies, enforcement-only strategies or piecemeal approaches. Breaking up immigrant families and denying protection to those fleeing gang or cartel violence, as just one example, is neither a humane or effective strategy. Comprehensive immigration reform that would create an earned path to citizenship for those in the shadows, expedite family reunification, strengthen refugee protection, and address why desperate people reluctantly uproot and cross borders, deserves a vote now.

Delay and partisan bickering will only lead to more hardship, suffering and death.

Rev. Larry Snyder
President, Catholic Charities USA

Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza (retired)
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

John J. DeGioia
President, Georgetown University

Bishop William S. Skylstad (retired)
Diocese of Spokane
Former President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Donald M. Kerwin, Jr.
Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies

Michael Galligan-Stierle
President, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

Rev. Michael Sheeran, S.J.
President, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Rev. Michael J. Graham, S.J.
President, Xavier University (Ohio)

Rev. Robert L. Niehoff, S.J.
President, John Carroll University

Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J.
President, Loyola University Chicago

Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J.
President, Loyola University New Orleans

Thomas W. Keefe
President, University of Dallas

Rev. James Greenfield
President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM,
President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J.
President, Jesuit Conference USA

Armando Borja
National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Stephen Schneck
Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America

Frank Monahan
Former Director, Office of Government Liaison
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Francis X. Doyle
Associate General Secretary (retired)
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA​

Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
President, Fordham University

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
President, College of the Holy Cross

Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J.
President, Regis University

Patricia McGuire
President, Trinity Washington University

Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D.
President, University of Detroit Mercy

Rev. Thomas B. Curran
President, Rockhurst University

John J. Hurley
President, Canisius College

Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D.
President, Le Moyne College

Sr. Candace Introcaso
President, La Roche College

Rev. Bernard O’Connor
President, DeSales University

Dr. Francesco C. Cesareo
President, Assumption College

Donna M. Carroll
President, Dominican University

Thomas W. Keefe
President, University of Dallas

Thomas Kunkel
President, St. Norbert College

Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J.
President, Fairfield University

Moya Dittmeier
Executive Director, Conference for Mercy Higher Education

Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J.
Rector of the Jesuit Community
Loyola Marymount University

A. Gabriel Esteban
President, Seton Hall University

Nancy H. Blattner
President, Caldwell University

Br. Norman Hipps
President, Saint Vincent College

John Smarrelli Jr.
President, Christian Brothers University

Mary A. Meehan
President, Alverno College

Donald P. Taylor
President, Cabrini College

Rev. Timothy Lenchak
President, Divine Word College

Anne Munley
President, Marywood University

Sharon Latchaw Hirsch
President, Rosemont College

Jim Collins
President, Loras College

Br. John R. Paige
President, Holy Cross College

Kathleen Maas Weigert
Professor of Women and Leadership
Loyola University Chicago

Timothy Matovina
Executive Director, Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame

Rev. Daniel G. Groody
Director of Immigration Initiatives
Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame

Rev. T. Michael McNulty, S.J.
MacLean Professor of Philosophy
St. Joseph’s University

Helen Alvare
Professor of Law
George Mason University School of Law

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Professor of Theology
Fordham University

John Sniegocki
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Xavier University

Suzanne C. Toton, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Villanova University

Tobias Winright
Maeder Endowed Chair of Health Care Ethics
Saint Louis University

Paul Lakeland
Director, Center for Catholic Studies
Fairfield University

Terrence W. Tilley
Professor of Catholic Theology
Fordham University

Vincent Miller
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
University of Dayton

Kathryn Getek Soltis
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Villanova University

Hosffman Ospino
Assistant Professor of Theology and Education
Boston College

Kelly S. Johnson
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
University of Dayton

Una M. Cadegan
Associate Professor, Department of History
University of Dayton

Charles T. Strauss
Assistant Professor of History
Mount St. Mary’s University

Ron Pagnucco, Associate Professor
Department of Peace Studies
College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University

Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J.
Director, Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University New Orleans

Alex Mikulich
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University New Orleans

Leadership Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sr. Pat McDermott, RSM President
Sr. Eileen Campbell, RSM
Sr. Anne Curtis, RSM
Sr. Deborah Troillett, RSM
Sr. Mary Pat Garvin, RSM

Rev. Raymond Finch, MM
Superior General, Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers

Thomas Allio, Jr.
Diocesan Social Action Director (retired)
Diocese of Cleveland

Rev. Sean Carroll, S.J.
Executive Director, Kino Border Initiative
Nogales, AZ

Charles C. Camosy
Associate Prof. of Theological and Social Ethics
Fordham University

Peter H. Beisheim
Director, Catholic Studies Department
Stonehill College, MA

Christopher G. Kerr
Executive Director, Ignatian Solidarity Network

Gerry Lee
Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Karen Clifton
Executive Director, Catholic Mobilizing Network

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Kerry A. Robinson
Executive Director, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management

John Gehring
Catholic Program Director, Faith in Public Life

Walter Grazer
Former Policy Advisor for International Religious Freedom and Human Rights, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Christopher Hale
Senior Fellow, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Richard R. Gaillardetz
Joseph Professor of Catholic Theology
Boston College

Mark J. Allman
Chair of Religious and Theological Studies
Merrimack College

Dolores Christie
Executive Director (retired)
Catholic Theological Society of America

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology
Xavier University

Kevin Ahern
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Manhattan College

Daniel Finn
Professor of Economics and Theology
St. John’s University (MN)

M. Shawn Copeland
Professor of Theology
Boston College

Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J.
Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Church (San Francisco)

Rev. Joseph Nangle, OFM
Washington, DC

Eugene McCarraher
Associate Professor of Humanities
Villanova University

Sr. Paulette Skiba, BVM
Professor of Religious Studies
Clarke University

Thomas Ryan
Director, Loyola Institute for Ministry
Loyola University New Orleans

Billy Kangas
Writer, Patheos Catholic

Peter H. Beisheim
Director, Catholic Studies Department

Lisa Sowell Cahill
Monan Professor of Theology
Boston College

 

 

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What if Pope Francis gave the State of the Union address?

January 20, 2015, 12:58 pm | Posted by

Pope Francis is arguably the most compelling leader in the world today. Unless you’re one of those hyperventilating Fox News pundits or a certain American cardinal pining for the good old days of pray-pay-and-obey Catholicism, chances are you stand in awe of how quickly Francis has resuscitated an ancient institution nearly on life support after decades of clergy abuse scandals and the first resignation of a pope in six centuries.

The pope isn’t a traditional politician, but he is a savvy global leader who understands optics and the art of diplomacy. Simply put, this is a man with political and moral capital to burn. His decisive role in helping President Barack Obama strike a historic rapprochement with Cuba was the latest signal that the Vatican is back as a formidable geopolitical player. The Catholic church, of course, began navigating political currents, both secular and ecclesiastical, centuries before our American republic was a glimmer in the eye of Thomas Jefferson and Co. In traditional Catholic teaching, “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains. Or, as Pope Francis phrased it a bit more colorfully in one morning homily: “A good Catholic meddles in politics.”

As Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address tonight, I can’t help wondering what Pope Francis would say to Congress and the American people if handed the microphone. The idea is not as crazy as it might sound. House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, both Catholics, invited the pope to address a joint session of Congress during his visit to the United States in September. If Francis accepts the offer, which news reports this week suggest he will, it would be a first for a pope. Aware of the obvious chutzpah needed to try and channel this enigmatic and eloquent pope, here’s my take on what Francis might say to a polarized Congress and a nation in desperate need of moral vision.

Good evening!

I ask that you forgive my English. I know some of you speak Spanish, so if I have trouble, perhaps I even mix up my fútbol with your football, I will revert to my mother tongue, no? I am filled with joy to be in this beautiful country, a nation born of hope and ideals. All men are created equal! Through the fire of a civil war, your country held to that promise first given in faith by God and shed blood to overcome the sin of slavery. I think of the hands worn down by chains that built this magnificent Capitol building. Could those slaves have imagined someone with their skin color as president? The American story is about striving and struggle, of being lost and then finding a way through darkness. This is our human story. We are all on a journey. God gives us a destination and affirms our sacred dignity — even when we doubt it.

My brothers and sisters, our world is broken. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen knows this. We sometimes prefer to be blind and deaf to this reality. So many people discarded, thrown away into vast oceans of indifference. We no longer weep! On my drive here tonight, I saw men and women — also children — bundled in the cold. The sidewalk is their bed. The same is true in Rome. In Buenos Aires. In Bombay. A homeless woman dies in the gutter. Do we stop? The stock market moves an inch, and that is front-page news. These upside-down priorities tell us our culture is sick. How do we heal the wounds of loneliness, alienation and injustice? All of us in this chamber tonight are privileged. Let us use whatever power we have not to glorify ourselves or weave cocoons of comfort around our lives, but risk going out to the margins, to the peripheries where there is pain, anger, disillusion. It is good to be made uncomfortable.

“Woe to those who make unjust laws,” the prophet reminds us. Please do not forget the migrant who crosses the desert. She has a family and holds tight to dreams. Do not abandon the unborn in the womb. Justice and human rights are not served by defacing the image of God. Do not discard the elderly or think the dying are served by the false mercy of euthanasia. I beg you to use the great influence and wealth found in this mighty nation to serve the common good. Say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. Building a culture of life is impossible if workers can’t earn a living wage, pregnant women are denied the support they need, and families lack good health care. Some expect that wealth in the hands of the few will trickle down. This is a fantasy. The poor are still waiting! The market must serve human beings, not the other way around. The moral measure of your nation, any nation, is not judged by the stock value of corporations or the billions spent on weapons of war. Wealth is a gift, and that can be a good, but not when profit is made a god. 

I ask you with special urgency: Do all that you can to protect the gift of creation! Human beings are destroying our environment. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his 2010 World Day of Peace message, said: “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers …” The growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees,” he said, must awaken our conscience and lead us to take action. We often speak today of rights. What about our responsibilities to each other? So many worship at the altar of individualism that we forget that human beings only flourish in community. Solidarity is a good word to remember. Listen again to one of your American prophets, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” 

As I leave you, I give my sincere appreciation for your commitment to public service. This is a true vocation. I pray that you will live up to its noble calling.

This essay originally appeared in the National Catholic Reporter on Jan. 20, 2015

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Relief from fear for 5 million

November 21, 2014, 1:01 pm | Posted by

“Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

For years, faith leaders across the country have invoked words such as these in the effort to reform our broken immigration system. Last night, President Obama spoke them in the East Wing of the White House as he announced his executive action plan that will provide as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants with relief from the threat of deportation.

Our movement is succeeding. While comprehensive, common-sense federal legislation is still needed, this is a moment to rejoice. The yoke of constant fear has been lifted from millions of families, workers and students.

Church World Service, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, PICO National Network, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Bend the Arc, key evangelical clergy and many other faith leaders who have led the fight for immigration reform commended President Obama’s action and renewed the call for Congress to pass bipartisan reform.

That will be difficult. This morning, Speaker Boehner (who has personally blocked the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill for a year and a half) condemned the president’s move in the strongest terms, and in recent days conservatives have called for responses ranging from a government shutdown to impeachment.

Absent from their political rhetoric is acknowledgement of the dignity of immigrants who are trapped in the shadows and the sanctity of immigrant families. We must remind anti-immigrant leaders of the human impact of this debate.

If your congregation is helping mixed-status families find out if they qualify for the new protections and safely navigate the application process, please check out  iAmerica.org — a streamlined online resource sponsored by FPL, allied faith groups, labor leaders and immigrant-rights organizations.

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Looking forward

November 7, 2014, 10:40 am | Posted by

The election results are in, and underlying the tales of victory and defeat is a darker story about the mood of our nation. Many Americans feel neither political party speaks to their increasing struggle to make ends meet.

The exit polls paint a bleak picture. Almost half of voters reported that they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse. This pessimistic view is at the highest point since pollsters began asking this question in 1996. And 63% said our economic system favors of the wealthy. More than 70% fear a major terrorist attack. 

While voters might have little faith in their elected leaders’ ability to improve our nation’s future, I wouldn’t interpret their disaffection as indifference toward the common good. Voters approved numerous ballot measures on Tuesday that will immediately help struggling workers and families –minimum wage increases in four states and two major cities, as well as four paid sick leave ballot initiatives.

The faith community is uniquely positioned to connect with people’s positive values and shape a new moral vision for our economy and politics. I saw many examples with my own eyes during this election cycle and heard inspiring stories from FPL staff working in numerous states10626533_1511662842414595_4492866591945938984_n.

In Georgia, which was saturated with negative ads, FPL lifted the civil discourse by enabling politically, religiously and racially diverse religious leaders to challenge the gubernatorial candidates to implement a common good agenda — and broadcast that vision statewide. In a state marred by a massive voter suppression effort, our organizers mounted a “Faithful Voter” mobilization program that equipped 150 clergy in African-American communities with best practices to encourage their church members to vote. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 30% of Georgia voters on Tuesday were African-American.

FPL’s communications team spent much of the campaign season on the road providing strategic media support for the Nuns on the Bus tour. Over their journey across dozens of communities in 11 states, thousands of Americans — clergy, lay leaders and concerned citizens — came out to hear the Sisters’ message about tBiden Des Moines Rallyhe importance and power of voting in an era when megadonors seek to buy elections. I was especially proud to see Sr. Simone Campbell and fellow Sisters delivering this call on local television, newspaper and radio in city after city. Even jaded reporters were moved by Nuns on the Bus’s hopeful message.

There’s no denying that fear and anger are coursing through the American electorate right now, but it’s not the whole story. Addressing this problem will take time, effort, resources and organizing. But faith leaders are already taking steps in the right direction, and it gives me hope.

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