Religious Leaders to Congress: Vote for Real Farm Bill Reform

July 25, 2007, 11:17 am | Posted by

Roll Call Ad Bolsters Values Message to Congress on Eve of House Floor Vote

(Washington, D.C.) – As the 2007 Farm Bill heads to the House floor tomorrow, Christian leaders are calling upon Members of Congress to reform the bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee to redirect resources to those who need them most. In last-minute lobby efforts and an ad that will run in Roll Call tomorrow, they are urging members to support reform amendments like the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment, sponsored by Congressmen Kind (D-WI) and Flake (R- AZ).

“The Fairness Amendment is the only farm bill proposal that approaches justice,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “It will make our nation’s farm policy work for farmers in the 21st century and help people who struggle to feed their families.”

“The Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee fails to reflect our most deeply held biblical and moral values of fairness, equity, and justice,” said Rev. Jim Wallis, Editor and Executive Director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, “Congress is faced with a real test of moral leadership in changing currently unjust policy that props up the wealthiest farmers and landowners at the expense of struggling family farms and people living in poverty at home and abroad. The Fairness Amendment provides desperately needed reform to improve conservation, nutrition, rural development.”

Leaders agree that the Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee harms poor farmers around the world.

“It undermines the livelihoods of American farmers and violates the global consensus on fair trade and fighting the extreme poverty that kills 30,000 of God’s people each day,” said The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

“If we fail to provide real reform to trade distorting commodity programs, then our subsidized export is not food, but poverty for the developing world,” Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr., of the Progressive National Baptist Convention said.

“We can and must do more to address the plight of struggling family farmers,” said the Most Rev. Ronald Gilmore, Bishop of Dodge City, Kansas and president of National Catholic Rural Life Conference. “Have we honestly done enough to target farm supports to those who need it most?”

Specifically, the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill:

* cuts $1.8 billion from the nutrition title improvements approved by the Nutrition subcommittee

* increases payments to the largest farms

* fails to meet the needs of struggling farms and rural families in the US

* fails to reform trade distorting commodity programs that paralyze the efforts of farmers in poor countries to feed their families and earn their way out of poverty

* restores a controversial cotton subsidy ruled in violation of our existing international treaty obligations

* fails to provide increased funding and access to programs that protect God’s creation.

“The House Agriculture Committee’s bill is unjust: it maintains the status quo on a commodity system that does not support the majority of farmers in the US, while harming farmers in poor countries,” said Rev. Philip Hougen, bishop of the Southeast Iowa Synod Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “Members of Congress are now faced with a moral choice, and we urge them to support real reform of US agriculture policy, as encompassed in the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment.”

Intensive lobbying efforts of organizations participating in the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill have included nearly 1,000 lobby visits, and more than 85,000 letters and 8,000 phone calls to Members of Congress.

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Religious Leaders Press for Farm Bill Reform

July 17, 2007, 12:13 pm | Posted by

Christian Leaders Keep Pressure on Congressional Leaders as Ag Committee Heads into Mark up

(Washington, D.C.) Just hours before the House Agriculture Committee begins debating the 2007 Farm Bill today, prominent religious leaders of numerous denominations gathered on Capitol Hill to call for reform that reflects American values of fairness and equal opportunity.

“Our nation’s farm policy needs to be guided by a strong moral compass,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “An equitable system would not pour federal dollars into the largest farms in America without addressing the needs of those who need help the most.”

Leaders of Christian denominations and major religious advocacy organizations called not only on members of the Agriculture Committee, but also Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in Congress, to ensure that a reform-minded bill reaches the House floor.

“The House leadership must begin to address this bill from a moral perspective, which transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy,” said Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Church of Washington, DC.

This morning, the group sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and other leaders in Congress, stating that the Farm Bill should:

• Reform the commodity program to significantly reduce payments that distort prices and supply in ways that violate U.S. commitments and harm farmers in poor countries.

• Make U.S. farm policy more equitable by strengthening help to poor farmers.

• Strengthen the food stamp program by increasing the benefits to reflect current costs of living and removing administrative barriers to access.

• Increase investment in rural communities with the greatest need, create new programs that assist rural entrepreneurs and promote small business development.

• Expand funding and access to conservation programs.

• Increase international food aid and ensure that the first Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by one half is achieved by 2015.

“The moral measure of U.S. farm policy is its ability to lift up those living in poverty, those struggling to make ends meet and earn a decent living,” said Father Andrew Small of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Small also discussed the intensive lobbying efforts of organizations participating in the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which have included:

• Orchestrating more than 700 lobby visits to legislators’ D.C. and home state offices.

• Generating more than 85,000 letters sent to Congress and more than 8,000 phone calls.

• Mobilizing Faith Farm teams in 38 states to write letters to editors and to contact their members of Congress by telephone and postcard.

• Placing an ad calling for reform in Roll Call (when the bill comes to the House floor).

“We urge the Agriculture Committee and the leadership to work for a bill that helps farmers both here and in other parts of the world, that supports rural economies, that protects the land from harm, and that ensures that all people have enough to eat,” said Rev. Dr. Theodore F. Schneider, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The leaders also discussed the centrality of Christian faith and values in their position on the farm bill.

“A prominent story in the Christian scriptures tells of Jesus feeding those who were hungry,” says Sister Simone Campbell, Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. “We urge Congress to follow the dictates of Jesus and all other spiritual leaders – give healthy food to those who are hungry.”

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center dedicated to strength and increasing the visibility of faith leaders dedicated to justice and the common good.

Faith in Public Life is a not-for-profit nonpartisan 501(c) (3) organization.

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Capitol Hill Press Conference: Religious Leaders Press for Farm Bill Reform

July 13, 2007, 12:57 pm | Posted by

(Washington, D.C.) As the House Agriculture Committee prepares to mark up the 2007 Farm Bill, prominent religious leaders will gather on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to call for reform that reflects American values of fairness and equal opportunity.

Leaders of Christian denominations and major religious advocacy organizations will call not only on members of the Agriculture Committee, but also Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in Congress, to ensure that a reform-minded bill reaches the House floor.

Speakers at the Capitol Hill press conference will emphasize the need for reform that reduces commodity payments for the wealthiest beneficiaries that hurt small farmers here and abroad and increases investment in nutrition programs, rural development, and conservation.

WHO: David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

Bishop John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC

Bishop Theodore F. Schneider, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop of Metropolitan of Washington, DC

Rev. Dr. Earl Trent Jr., Progressive National Baptist Convention

Sister Simone Campbell, Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

WHERE: Longworth House Office Building, Room 1334

WHEN: Tuesday, July 17, 2007, at 9:15 AM

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center for faith leaders sharing a call to pursue justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c) (3) organization.

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Religious Leaders’ Message to Congress: Restore Habeas Corpus

June 26, 2007, 10:54 am | Posted by

Religious Leaders Speak Out on “Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice”

(Washington, DC , June 26, 2007) – As Congress prepares to consider restoring habeas corpus for individuals held in U.S. custody, Evangelical, Jewish, Catholic and Muslim leaders today called for an end to the suspension of habeas corpus and due process, CIA kidnappings, secret prisons, and all acts of torture – without exceptions.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill prior to the “Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice” rally and lobby day, organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberty Union and the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights, the leaders specifically called for Congress to reform the abuses of the Military Commissions Act by enacting the Restoring the Constitution Act.

“Torture aims to break not just the body, but the very spirit of a human being,” said Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, “Torture is a major transgression of God’s limits. The impact of such a transgression is not just on the victim, but on the souls of all those engaged in and complicit in the evil act.”

Dr. Charles Gutenson, an Evangelical leader and professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, “Jesus not only commanded, but also modeled a way of life that refused to repay evil with evil. When his enemies came for him, he embodied the call to love our enemies. How, then, can we who seek to imitate this Jesus ever see torture as a legitimate tool wielded to serve our own purposes?”

“I am representing hundreds of Rabbis across our land,” stated Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Chair of the Board for Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, “who have declared that torture shatters and defiles God’s image. We mean that torture violates the tortured human being, who was created in the likeness of God, as well as the torturer’s human soul, which is inevitably defiled and compromised in dishonoring the image of God in his victim.”

Bishop Walter Sullivan, retired Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Richmond, Virgnia added, “It is unacceptable that our country which professes a belief in freedom and human rights would resort to acts of torture. Supposedly our nation upholds truth and justice, yet we perform inhuman acts emulating rogue nations where people’s lives are expendable.”

Today’s “Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice” activities for people of faith were organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture – a growing membership organization of more than 115 religious groups committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its inception in January 2006, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has:

• Gathered almost 16,000 individual endorsements for NRCAT’s Statement of Conscience, “Torture is a Moral Issue” and placed the statement, signed by 28 national leaders – including Elie Weisel, Pastor Rick Warren, Sayyid Syeed, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, and Jimmy Carter – on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

• Initiated a project to screen the HBO documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib in 1,000 congregations during the week of October 21-28, 2007.

• Supported Evangelicals for Human Rights, which authored “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture,” which was adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals in March 2007.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture empowers members of America’s faith community to join one another in religious witness to ensure torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment never play a role in U.S. policy. “For a nation that tortures, compassion and mercy are shoved to the corner of our hearts or buried in self-justification,” said Dr. Mattson in her closing remarks. “We must repent of our actions, restore the ethical basis of our collective authority and repair the damage to the body politic.”

www.tortureisamoralissue.org

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New Online Database Documents Resurgence of Faith Organizing for the Common Good

June 21, 2007, 3:03 pm | Posted by

Google Maps-Powered Database ID’s 3,000 Groups Nationwide

Mapping Faith Database:

http://faithinpubliclife.org/map/index.html

Mapping Faith Report:

http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/content/feature/upload/2007/06/MappingFaithRp.pdf

(Washington, DC) – Amidst a political season riddled with religious references, Faith in Public Life, joined by religious leaders from across the country, today launched Mapping Faith — a new online database documenting a nationwide resurgence in faith-based organizing around causes for justice and the common good.

Searchable by issue focus, state, and zip code, this Google Maps-powered database identifies and locates 3,000 groups organizing around more than a dozen causes, including poverty, the environment, human rights and peace, race, and immigration.

“After a year of research and interviews with faith leaders in all 50 states, Mapping Faith documents the vibrancy of faith-based organizing for justice and the common good nationwide, allows groups across the country to find new allies, and provides reporters with an unprecedented resource for finding local sources,” said Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life.

In a teleconference with reporters today, Rev. Mark Diemer, Co-Convener of We Believe Ohio, noted how Mapping Faith helped his organization grow. “We Believe Ohio began in central Ohio in November of 2005. With Mapping Faith, we have been able to expand statewide, with a sister group in Cleveland and individuals in other parts of the state seeking to start We Believe Ohio chapters in Akron/Canton, Cincinnati, and Dayton.”

A analytical report accompanying the Mapping Faith database finds:

1. A diverse faith community: 631 Interfaith, 554 Catholic, 499 Mainline Protestant, 263 Jewish and 100 Evangelical groups organizing around causes for justice and the common good.

Across the country, American Jews are joining hands with their Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters, and partners across lines of race and class, to build power for justice,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Founding Director of Just Congregations. “Called by our ancient tradition’s demand to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God’, synagogue leaders are leading their congregations into effective coalitions fighting for issues that reflect our deep faith.”

2. No red state-blue state divide: 1573 groups in red states; 1331 in blue.

Ms. Boo Tyson, Executive Director of the MAINStream Coalition of Kansas noted, “In so many ways, those color-descriptions of “red” and “blue” misunderstand the reality of voters here on the ground,” she said. “People in Kansas are more interested in protecting our democracy and our religious vitality than in promoting one political party to the exclusion of the others.”

3. A broad values agenda: 46% of groups nationwide prioritize poverty; 40% peace and human rights; 20% health care/AIDS; and 10% environment.

The rapid growth in grassroots religious advocacy on behalf of the environment was notable in the Mapping Faith research process. Mr. Allan Johnson, Founder of Christians for the Mountains in Dunmore, West Virginia, elaborated on this trend: “We ourselves are Christians from various denominations, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant. In certain areas we differ from each other, yet we are united together in our advocacy for God’s creation. What is especially touching is that a number of battle-worn environmental activists have told us that our bringing in our religious faith stance has given them fresh hope and new energy that the cause will be won.”

Faith in Public Life looks forward to building on the launch of Mapping Faith with continued organizing and communications support for faith groups organizing nationwide.

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Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center dedicated to increasing the strength and visibility of faith leaders dedicated to justice and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a not-for-profit nonpartisan 501(c) (3) organization.

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