People of Faith Stand Up for Health Care

January 19, 2011, 5:23 pm | Posted by

In anticipation of the House’s vote to repeal health care reform today, a coalition of over 150 groups America held a rally and press conference announcing their opposition to Congressional Republican leaders’ efforts to repeal health care reform.

People of faith were well-represented in the coalition, with members of Catholics United, Faithful Reform in Health Care, PICO National Network, and Faithful America joining.

The Catholic Health Association, whose tireless work for healthcare reform earned their president, Sr. Carol Keehan recognition as “Person of the Year” by National Catholic Reporter, was featured prominently. CHA Senior Vice President Mike Rogers spoke at the event and outlined the case against repeal.

Lamenting that “rather than working on implementing the valuable provisions of the law, we find ourselves defending it,” he went on to remind those in attendance of the moral imperative for keeping health care reform in place:

“For CHA and our over 2000 members, health care coverage for everyone, especially for the poor and the vulnerable in our society is a moral priority. It builds on the foundation of the common good. When individuals and families go without health care coverage it’s an affront to their human dignity.”

The message is clear: those who have worked hard for decades to ensure that all Americans have quality, affordable health care are not going to sit on the sidelines while opponents try to play political games with this issue and repeal the important benefits now being enjoyed by millions of Americans.

Today’s repeal vote in the House was largely symbolic, but the activism and commitment of the faith community was very real and will persist until the long-term effort to dismantle or de-fund reform is defeated.

Watch Mike Rogers’s full statement below:

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What’s in a Name?

January 18, 2011, 10:26 pm | Posted by

Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives will vote on the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” which would undo the Affordable Care Act, the historic health care reform legislation signed into law last March. The repeal legislation’s name is a misnomer though – the Associated Press and McClatchy News Service both ran important stories today demonstrating that the Affordable Care Act is not “job-killing.” From McClatchy’s analysis:

Saying that the law is a job killer doesn’t necessarily make it one, however, and independent experts say that such a conclusion is at least premature, if not unfounded.

House Republicans defend their job-killer claim in a 19-page Jan. 6 report, “ObamaCare: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law.” But some of its points are out of date or omit offsetting information that would weaken the argument.

And the AP’s report fleshes out the roots of the deceptive “job-killing” rhetoric:

It cites the 650,000 lost jobs as Exhibit A, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as the source of the original analysis behind that estimate. But the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced the number.

What follows is a story of how statistics get used and abused in Washington.

What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.

Fortunately it’s unlikely that the Democratic leadership in the Senate will take up health care repeal, and even if this legislation were to pass, President Obama has pledged to veto it. However, the House vote isn’t just political theater. It’s an early move in a long-term political strategy to defund and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and future flashpoints such as the federal budget are fast approaching. Many opponents of reform have resorted to dubious claims over the course of the long-running healthcare debate, from “death panels” to misleading abortion rhetoric to a “government takeover of healthcare” to misinformation about the deficit and now “job-killing health care.” Our country and our political process deserve better than this. We desperately need more civil debate, and we cannot have civility without honesty.

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Remembering King

January 17, 2011, 1:37 pm | Posted by


As we pause to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of pushing our nation to live up to its highest ideals, it’s easy to sanitize his radical call for economic justice and ignore his prophetic words about war. We prefer King as a safe icon behind history’s glass case. When his words are quoted these days, we rarely hear the righteous anger of a preacher who denounced the Vietnam War and described America as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” We ignore his warnings about the arrogance of American foreign policy. We avoid an honest grappling with his stinging critique of capitalism as a system that permits “necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

At 35, King had already met with presidents, traveled the globe as a hero of nonviolent resistance and become the youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But in his final hours King traveled to Memphis for a sanitation workers strike, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with forgotten workers who struggled to earn a living picking up trash.

Our nation has made substantial progress since then, but the racism, poverty and militarism that King shined a moral spotlight on in his time persist. The gap between the rich and poor has reached Depression-era standards. African Americans earn less, die earlier and are far more likely to be imprisoned than whites. A memo from the Center for American Progress, The State of Minorities in the New Economy, shows that African Americans and Latinos are falling even further behind during the economic downturn. King recognized that the next frontier of the civil rights movement required addressing the scourge of poverty plaguing the richest nation in the world. His vision for a “Poor People’s Campaign” bringing together a multiracial coalition united in the belief that the moral measure of any society is found in how we treat the least among us was groundbreaking, but it fizzled after his assassination in 1968.

Religious leaders and faith communities have a particular responsibility to take up his call anew. One of King’s most important contributions was his sweeping vision of what it would take to build a just society. Racism, poverty, and militarism were not isolated social ills, he understood, but interrelated evils that required a deeper social transformation to overcome. King knew that building the beloved community required us to make connections and confront the American infatuation with individualism because our fates are tied together in a “single garment of destiny.”

King’s challenge is often hard to hear. But an honest reckoning with his words and actions can inspire us to build a new common-good movement for racial and economic justice today.

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In wake of tragedy, faith leaders reach out to Congress with open letter

January 13, 2011, 10:36 am | Posted by

Tucson Response Letter.jpgAs Americans continue to cope and debate in the aftermath of last weekend’s tragic shooting in Arizona, faith leaders are reaching out not only to the people of Tucson, but also to Members of Congress who are shaken by the attack on Rep. Giffords and her staff. Today’s edition of Roll Call features a full-page ad consisting of an open letter to Members of Congress from over 50 prominent faith leaders. The religiously and racially diverse group expresses spiritual support for Members, calls for “national soul searching” in the wake of this senseless violence, and urges Congress to engage political adversaries in a spirit of shared American values of civility and cooperation.

Faith leaders have led the way in calling for civil debate in recent months, and on the heels of President Obama’s moving remarks about civil debate last night, this message is especially poignant today. You can view the ad here. Text of the letter and the full list of signers are below the fold.

Dear Members of Congress,

As Americans and members of the human family, we are grieved by the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. As Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, we pray together for all those wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as she fights for her life. Our hearts break for those lives lost and for the loved ones left behind. We also stand with you, our elected officials, as you continue to serve our nation while coping with the trauma of this senseless attack.

This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed time of soul searching and national public dialogue about violent and vitriolic political rhetoric. We strongly support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in our public debates.

We appreciate the sacrifices you make and risks you incur by accepting a call to public service, and we urge you to continue to serve as stewards of our democracy by engaging ideological adversaries not as enemies, but as fellow Americans.

In our communities and congregations, we pledge to foster an environment conducive to the important and difficult debates so crucial to American democracy. In our churches, mosques and synagogues, we come together not as members of a certain political ideology or party, but as children of God and citizens called to build a more perfect union. We pray that you do the same.

Naeem M. Baig

Executive Director

Islamic Circle of North America

Council for Social Justice

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.


Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

The Rev. Geoffrey Black

General Minister and President

United Church of Christ

Bishop John R. Bryant

Senior Bishop

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Dr. Zahid H. Bukhari


Islamic Circle of North America

Rev. Jennifer Butler

Executive Director

Faith in Public Life

Simone Campbell, SSS

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Bishop Minerva Carcaño

Desert Southwest Conference

United Methodist Church

The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin


National Council of Churches

Rev. Richard Cizik


New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Nathan J. Diament

Director of Public Policy

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Faithful America

Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten

Executive Director

Arizona Ecumenical Council

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson

General Secretary

Reformed Church in America

Simon Greer

President and CEO

Jewish Funds for Justice

Dr. David P. Gushee

Board Chair

New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rabbi Steve Gutow

President and CEO

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins

Senior Pastor

Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

Washington, DC

The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson


Auburn Seminary

The Rev. Anne S. Howard

Executive Director

The Beatitudes Society

James E. Hug, SJ


Center of Concern

Dr. Joel C. Hunter

Senior Pastor

Northland – A Church Distributed

Bishop T. D. Jakes

The Potter’s House

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon

General Secretary

National Council of Churches

Chris Korzen

Executive Director

Catholics United

Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Eileen Campbell, RSM

Anne Curtis, RSM

Pat McDermott, RSM

Mary Waskowiak, RSM

Linda Werthman, RSM

Rabbi John A. Linder

Temple Solel

Paradise Valley, AZ

Marie Lucey, OSF

Associate Director for Social Mission

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Rev. Steven D. Martin

Executive Director

New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Brian McClaren


T. Michael McNulty, SJ

Justice and Peace Director

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Peter Morales


Unitarian Universalist Association

Bishop Paul Morton

International Presiding Bishop

Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship

Muslim Public Affairs Council

Stanley J. Noffsinger

General Secretary

Church of the Brethren

Dr. Walter L. Parrish III

General Secretary

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Rev. Gradye Parsons

Stated Clerk

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Nancy Ratzan


National Council of Jewish Women

Rev. Meg Riley

Board Chair

Faith in Public Life

Dave Robinson

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez


National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Gabriel Salguero


National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Rabbi David Saperstein


Religious Action Center

Dr. William J. Shaw

Immediate Past President

National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.

Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr.

Immediate Past President

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith

Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed

National Director, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances

Islamic Society of North America

Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Thurston


National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., Intl.

Rev. Jim Wallis

President and CEO


Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Heyward Wiggins, III

PICO National Network

Camden Bible Tabernacle Church

Camden, NJ

Jim Winkler

General Secretary

United Methodist General Board of Church & Society

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“Rain puddles in heaven”

January 12, 2011, 10:14 pm | Posted by

Tonight President Obama spoke at a service in Tucson, Arizona, to honor the memory of the victims of last weekend’s tragic shootings, to commend the heroism displayed by those who saved the wounded and stopped the killer, and to appeal to our better angels as individuals and a nation. Full video is below:

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