Christian Leaders Call for Ceasefire in Christmas Culture Wars

December 3, 2007, 2:48 pm | Posted by

Open Letter Urges Bill O’Reilly, Bill Donohue and John Gibson to Join a Campaign that focuses on the Common Good

Washington, DC – Catholic social justice leaders, priests, religious sisters and evangelical Christians want a “ceasefire in the Christmas culture wars.” These leaders are challenging Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and others who have lashed out against a so-called secular “War on Christmas” to join them in a new campaign that restores a focus on the common good during this holy season.

In an “Open Letter to Christmas Culture Warriors” (link to pdf: http://www.christmascampaign.org/ad-wt.pdf) to be published as an advertisement in the New York Post, Washington Times and National Catholic Reporter, the group says that outrage over some department stores using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” fails to address the profound moral challenges we face in confronting the threats to human dignity in our world.

“We believe the real assault on Christmas is how a season of peace, forgiveness and goodwill has been sidelined by a focus on excessive consumerism,” the letter states. “The powerful message Christ brings to the world is ‘good news for the poor.’ Instead, Christmas is being reduced to a corporate-sponsored holiday that idolizes commerce and materialism.”

The letter asks all readers to join the group’s new campaign at www.ChristmasCampaign.org, a website that not only promotes the letter, but also alternative Christmas giving programs. The open letter will be published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Washington Times and New York Post and in the Dec. 14 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.

Fox News commentator John Gibson’s 2005 book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought, denounced what he and other pundits describe as a secular agenda intent on destroying Christmas and driving religion from the public square. William Donohue, executive director of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has warned of “cultural fascists” taking over Christmas. Bill O’Reilly has made the “War on Christmas” a prominent seasonal feature of his popular Fox broadcast.

“Christmas marks a season of hope, peace and the light of justice illuminating the dark corners of our world,” said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “At a time when soldiers and innocent civilians are dying in a real war in Iraq and 37 million Americans live still in poverty we should be focusing on those moral scandals not having petty shouting matches on television about a supposed ‘secular conspiracy’ to subvert Christmas.”

“When we consider the true meaning of Christmas, its sacredness is not validated by prescribed greetings or slogans in department stores,” said Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and a Board member of the evangelical humanitarian relief agency World Relief, “If we are truly serious about the importance of Christmas, we will remember that its message of love and hope was shared with disenfranchised shepherds first, which should prompt us to be far more concerned with how the season is shared in word and deed with the poor and hurting among us.”

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Congressional, Religious Leaders Discuss Groundbreaking Abortion Initiative

November 8, 2007, 11:33 am | Posted by

**TELECONFERENCE TODAY AT 1:30 PM**

Washington – On Thursday, November 8, Third Way, along with Common Good Strategies and Faith in Public Life, will host a conference call for reporters on the topic of a new abortion initiative approved yesterday by House and Senate negotiators. The call will be headlined by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), along with Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland Church and one-time President-Elect of the Christian Coalition, Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and CEO of Sojourners, and Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK.

The speakers on the call will discuss the inclusion of a “reducing the need for abortions” initiative in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill Conference Report, which was made public yesterday. This abortion reduction package contains many of the core provisions of the Reducing the Need for Abortions and Supporting Parents Act (H.R. 1074), sponsored by Representatives Ryan and DeLauro.

The congressional speakers, both of whom were conferees, will note that this signals a major change in direction for the Democratic Congress on abortion, in three principle ways:

– It explicitly highlights “the need for reducing abortions in America.”

– It emphasizes both prevention of unintended pregnancies and support for pregnant women and new families.

– It talks about new money to “encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term, and provide support for new parents who have economic difficulties.”

The Evangelical leaders will offer their support for this groundbreaking new direction.

WHAT: Press conference call on new congressional abortion initiative

WHO:

Rachel Laser, Third Way

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Congressman Tim Ryan

Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland Church

Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life

WHEN: Thursday, November 8, 2007

1:30 p.m.

CALL-IN #: 888-245-4141

Pin: #948978

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Cleveland Clergy Declare Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone”

November 8, 2007, 11:30 am | Posted by

(Cleveland, Ohio) – As the 2008 campaign season gears up, We Believe Ohio, a statewide interfaith coalition of religious leaders, announced a campaign declaring Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone.” The group is circulating a petition calling on all candidates for public office to run clean, positive campaigns that focus on common good issues. Even before the campaign has kicked-off, the petition has gathered almost 1,000 signatures.

Press conferences were held with clergy in both Columbus and Cleveland. A statement of support from Gov. Ted Strickland thanking We Believe for “elevating political discourse in Ohio” was read at both.

“The momentum behind our petition shows that the people of Ohio hunger for political campaigns that reflect their values of honesty and fair play. We’re rising up to demonstrate that the people of Ohio want positive, informative campaigns that address issues that matter most to Ohioans,” said Rabbi Richard Block of The Temple-Tifereth Israel.

As people of faith, We Believe Ohio believes political campaign tactics and priorities are a moral and spiritual issue. This belief draws on the common values of the leaders’ diverse faiths.

“Making Ohio a Sleaze-Free Zone celebrates the diversity of opinion in the state and welcomes honest debate and civil disagreement. It marginalizes no one. It affirms an essential commandment of all faith traditions: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’” said Rev. Dr. John Lentz of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church.

“Like all faiths, Islam teaches that instead of contesting against each other in mean spiritedness, man should strive to compete in doing righteousness. In that light, we call on those who aspire to political office to inspire the public’s trust and restore civility to our political discourse,” said Imam Abbas Ahmad of the First Cleveland Mosque.

We Believe Ohio’s petition calls on campaigns to promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans such as poverty, jobs, education and health care, and to reject the politics of character assassination and polarization.

“For too long we’ve had to sort through smear tactics and polarizing rhetoric to choose between the better of bad choices. We gather in a spirit of hope that campaigns will present us with a vision and values to vote for, rather than an enemy to vote against,” said Rev. Ken Chalker, First United Methodist Church.

We Believe Ohio is currently presenting the “Political Sleaze-Free Zone” petition to candidates and political parties. We Believe Ohio asks all citizens of Ohio to sign its petition calling for a “Political Sleaze-Free’’ state by going on-line to http://www.webelieveohio.org/noguttersignup.html.

Following is the text of the petition:

Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone

We, the undersigned, call on candidates for public office and all political parties to make the following commitment:

• We will positively promote what we stand for.

• We will refrain from negative and inflammatory attack ads.

• We will describe truthfully what we will do for the people of Ohio.

• We will not distort our opponents’ records and positions.

• We will exemplify transparency and responsibility in all campaign activities.

• We will denounce attacks by outside groups, and do everything possible to bring them to a halt.

• We will promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans, including poverty, jobs, education and health care.

• We will reject the politics of polarization, which focuses on deeply divisive issues and exploits them for partisan advantage.

www.webelieveohio.org

We are called as people of faith and loyal Americans to be united in dialogue and action to say:

YES to justice for all; NO to prosperity for only a few; YES to diverse religious expression; NO to self-righteous certainty; YES to the common good; NO to discrimination against any of God’s people; YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy; NO to crossing the lines that separate the institutions of Religion and Government.

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Columbus Clergy Declare Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone”

November 8, 2007, 11:25 am | Posted by

(Columbus, Ohio) – As the 2008 campaign season gears up, We Believe Ohio, a statewide interfaith coalition of religious leaders, today announced a campaign declaring Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone.” The group is circulating a online petition calling on all candidates for public office to run clean, positive campaigns that focus on common good issues. Even before the campaign has kicked-off, the petition has gathered almost 1,000 signatures.

Press conferences were held with clergy in both Columbus and Cleveland. A statement of support from Gov. Ted Strickland thanking We Believe for “elevating political discourse in Ohio” was read at both.

“The momentum behind our petition shows that the people of Ohio hunger for political campaigns that reflect their values of honesty and fair play,” said Cantor Jack Chomsky of the Congregation Tifereth Israel. “Some will say that we are looking for a miracle. Who would work for miracles if not us? We embrace the idea that miracles happen every day.”

As people of faith, We Believe Ohio believes political campaign tactics and priorities are a moral and spiritual issue. This belief draws on the common values of the leaders’ diverse faiths.

“All of our faith traditions tell us that we shall not bear false witness. What more fundamental belief should guide our actions in the public square? If candidates bear false witness in their campaigns, it speaks volumes about the actions they will take in office. If they run campaigns with integrity, they will be able to serve people immediately, work with others, and be better public servants,” said Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church.

Rev. Stephen Smith of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Rabbi Misha Zinkow of Temple Israel and Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin each spoke of how the campaign specifically reflects the values of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

We Believe Ohio’s petition calls on campaigns to promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans such as poverty, jobs, education and health care, and to reject the politics of character assassination and polarization.

“Rather than voting for a candidate based upon half truths or attack ads, as people of faith we should be compelled to vote for those candidates and issues that are concerned about the poor, the hungry, those who are mourning and the despised,” said Rev. Mark Diemer of Grace of God Lutheran Church.

We Believe Ohio is currently presenting the “Political Sleaze-Free Zone” petition to candidates and political parties. We Believe Ohio asks all citizens of Ohio to sign its petition calling for a “Political Sleaze-Free’’ state by going on-line to http://www.webelieveohio.org/noguttersignup.html.

Following is the text of the petition:

Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone

We, the undersigned, call on candidates for public office and all political parties to make the following commitment:

• We will positively promote what we stand for.

• We will refrain from negative and inflammatory attack ads.

• We will describe truthfully what we will do for the people of Ohio.

• We will not distort our opponents’ records and positions.

• We will exemplify transparency and responsibility in all campaign activities.

• We will denounce attacks by outside groups, and do everything possible to bring them to a halt.

• We will promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans, including poverty, jobs, education and health care.

• We will reject the politics of polarization, which focuses on deeply divisive issues and exploits them for partisan advantage.

# # #

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Religious Leaders Appeal to Senate’s Conscience on Farm Bill

November 6, 2007, 11:30 am | Posted by

Full Page Ad Runs in Roll Call Calling on Senators to Support Reform

(Washington, DC) As the 2007 Farm Bill reaches the Senate floor, religious leaders appealed to the consciences of U.S. Senators. Clergy speaking at the Capitol today made clear that Senators have a choice: continue to prop up the wealthiest farmers and landowners with subsidies that undermine the livelihoods of American farmers and the world’s poor, or put our great nation on the path to fighting hunger in America and extreme poverty that kills thousands of God’s children each day.

Many of the religious organizations participating in the press conference also signed their name to a full page ad that ran in Roll Call today calling on the Senate to support reform.

“The Senate has some tough choices to make, but choosing between help for hungry people trying to feed their families and payments to millionaire farmers shouldn’t be one of them,” said Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World. “The Lugar-Lautenberg amendment would both strengthen assistance to hungry people and create a safety net for all farmers.”

“Congress created the first farm bill to be an expression of the character of America and a covenant with farmers rooted in fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, but today’s farm bill has strayed far from this vision, benefiting primarily large, rich farms while adding to the struggles of hard-working family farmers and exacerbating deadly poverty around the world,” said the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington (Episcopal). “2007 is the year for Congress to reclaim the time-honored values of the past in creating a farm bill for the 21st Century.”

“If our African farmers didn’t have to compete with heavily subsidized crops from the US, they would be able to send more of our children to school, provide better diets for their families, and reinvest in the farming sector,” said Bishop Thomas Kabore of Kaya, Burkina Faso, who is in Washington along with other West African religious leaders to press for change. “We ask Senators to hear these voices – far from this place – that want nothing more than a fair chance to grow their crops, to sell what they produce and to make a living for themselves and their children.”

“We have a historic opportunity with this legislation to reduce hunger and poverty both here in the United States and in some of the world’s most impoverished countries,” said Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners. “It’s time for our Senators to show courageous leadership to enact reforms that serve the common good.”

“Don’t ignore the needs of the poor in the next Farm Bill,” said John Carr, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The next Farm Bill should target limited resources to those who need the most help rather than those who need it least. This is why we support a meaningful payments limits amendment. We call on Senators to do the right thing for those that need help, for struggling farmers and hungry people at home and for some of our poorest brothers and sisters around the world. ”

“Seldom do legislative issues become as clear cut a choice as greed vs. need, the privileged few vs. the modest majority; but real reform of the Farm bill is just such an issue,” said Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent, Jr. Director of Missions, Progressive National Baptist Convention. “The Progressive National Baptist Convention urges the Senate to take the bold moral steps to insure that the Farm Bill of 2007 is a reflection of true American values of fairness, hope and opportunity for all.”

Religious leaders representing other participating denominations added their support for reform:

“The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has expressed concern that payments are going to the largest, wealthiest farms while leaving behind the majority of farm families,” said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “We urge the Senate to pass meaningful commodity program payment limits such as those proposed by Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Grassley (R-IA).”

“People of faith throughout the country are calling on their Senators to do what is right for the common good,” said Reverend Jon Anderson, Bishop of Southwestern Minnesota Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “I pray Senators will vote yes for amendments that target government support to farmers that need it most and increase investment in rural development, conservation and nutrition programs.”

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