President Asked to Salvage Moral Legacy on War, Torture, Poverty and Climate
STATE OF THE UNION PRESS TELECONFERENCE AT 10 AM
Audio of the press teleconference available here (recording begins about 30 seconds in).
As the president prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address on Monday, Catholic and Evangelical Christian leaders are urging President Bush to salvage his moral legacy. On a press teleconference tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern, Catholic and Evangelical leaders will call on the president to change course on the most pressing moral issues of our time — war, torture, climate, and U.S. and international poverty.
WHO: Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, which is actively engaged in a campaign to reduce U.S poverty by 50% by 2020, will encourage President Bush in his last year in office to provide leadership in reducing poverty, rather that weakening protections for millions of our nationâ€™s poor.
Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, will evaluate of how President Bush has responded to the call issued three years ago by 76 evangelical leaders asking the President to invest in improving economic conditions for the poor worldwide.
Rev. Dr. David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights and author of the anti-torture statement recently endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, will explain how the presidentâ€™s failure to ban torture without exception is a blatant violation of the rule of law and biblical doctrines, and how reversing course can help restore Americaâ€™s standing in the world.
Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries, Board Member of the National Association of Evangelicals and original signer of the Evangelical Climate Initiative statement will discuss the damaging global implications of the Bush administrationâ€™s failure to act on climate change and how the president can salvage his moral legacy on climate by strengthening regulations and investing in sustainable energy sources.
Sister Anne Curtis, Leadership Team, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy, who just returned from visiting Iraqi refugees in the Middle East, where present during the bombing of a U. S. embassy car, which killed three people, will discuss the impact of war as seen through the eyes of those who live with it everyday.
WHEN: Thursday, January 24, 2008, at 10 a.m. Eastern
DIAL-IN NUMBER: 1-866-682-6100
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Catholic, Evangelical, and Mainline Leaders Identify Three Principles to Protect Religion on the Trail
Christian pastors, priests, theologians and leaders of faith-based organizations today warned that divisive religious rhetoric from presidential candidates and relentless scrutiny of candidatesâ€™ faith undermines the vital role of religion in public life.
â€œWe are troubled to see candidates pressed to pronounce the nature of their religious beliefs, asked if they believe every word of the Bible, forced to fend off warnings by a few religious authorities about reception of sacraments, compelled to confront derogatory and false allegations of radical Muslim childhood education, and faced with prejudicial analyses of their denominational doctrines,â€ leaders wrote in the statement, Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail.
More than two dozen Catholic, Evangelical, and mainline Protestant leaders signed the statement calling on candidates to affirm three principles to protect religion on the campaign trail: 1) avoid using religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage each other; 2) acknowledge that no single faith has an exclusive claim to moral values; and 3) recognize that policy positions should reflect the best interests of all citizens regardless of religious belief.
Democratic and Republican candidates have courted religious voters with extensive faith-based outreach efforts, and people of faith will be a critical factor in the South Carolina primaries held on Jan. 19 and Jan. 26.
The text of the statement and complete list of signatories, also available here (PDF), follows:
Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail
The role of religion in public life is a pivotal and contested question this election year. Republican and Democratic candidates alike have drawn on Biblical language and highlighted the importance of faith to articulate their personal and political values. As believers, we will always stand up for religious expression and the importance of religion for America, but we are troubled by some current trends in political campaigns.
Religion forms virtues vital to democratic citizenship. Religion calls citizens to transcend self-interest in service to othersâ€”to those in need, to neighbor, to community, to country and to the world. Religion promotes fundamental moral values necessary for civilized public lifeâ€”honor and honesty, charity and justice. Religion has brought hope and liberty to Americaâ€™s powerless and disenfranchised, and its teachings have inspired our country’s most admirable achievements.
Yet in this year’s presidential campaign, we are troubled to see candidates pressed to pronounce the nature of their religious beliefs, asked if they believe every word of the Bible, forced to fend off warnings by a few religious authorities about reception of sacraments, compelled to confront derogatory and false allegations of radical Muslim childhood education, and faced with prejudicial analyses of their denominational doctrines.
Exclusionary religious rhetoric by candidates and constant scrutiny of the minutiae of their faiths undermine religion’s valuable role in public life. It also runs contrary to the unique American commitment to both religious freedom and non-establishment of religion. History is replete with examples of religion compromised by its collusion with power, and the role of religion in the current campaign raises concern that it is once again being misused.
As citizens of faith united in efforts to reinvigorate religionâ€™s role in the public square, we are convinced that the greatest protection for that role is clear and unambiguous support for both religious expression and non-establishment of religion. Following Article VI of the U. S. Constitution and the First Amendment, we identify three basic principles.
* No person should be expected to leave their faith at the door when operating in the public square. But it is inappropriate to use religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage candidates, by either comparison or assertion. No religious test may be applied to candidates for public office – not by the law, not by candidates, not by campaigns.
*Candidates for public office should welcome the contributions that religion brings to society. But just as government may not endorse or favor a religious faith, candidates for public office are obliged, in their official capacity, to acknowledge that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.
*Just as government policies must be in service to the nation and not to any religious faith, the same holds true for candidates’ positions on policies. While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.
As the 2008 campaign charges forward, we call upon all candidates, regardless of whether or not or how often they choose to talk about religion, to protect it. We call upon all candidates to join us in affirming these principles.
Director, Life Cycle Institute
Catholic University of America
Lisa Sowell Cahill
J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology
Rev. Les Schmidt
U.S. Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Liaison
Catholic Committee of the South
Dr. Randall Balmer
Professor of American Religious History
Barnard College, Columbia University
Author and Founding Pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rev. Joseph Darby
Morris Brown AME Church
Rev. Don Flowers
Providence Baptist Church
Dr. Baxter M. Wynn
Minister of Pastoral Care
First Baptist Church
Rev. Jennifer Butler
Faith in Public Life
Professor of Catholic Studies
The University of Toledo
Rev. Jennifer Kottler
Let Justice Roll
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries
NY Divinity School
Board Member, National Association of Evangelicals
Rev. Fred L. Thelen
Christo Rey Church
Rev. Tim Ahrens
First Congregational Church
Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J.
Center for Human Rights and International Justice
J. Brent Walker
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Sr. Sharon Dillon, SSJ-TOSF
Franciscan Mission Service of North American
Rev. Derrick Harkins
Senior Pastor, Nineteenth St. Baptist Church
Board of Directors, World Relief
Dr. Glen Stassen
Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics
Fuller Theological Seminary
Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Chicago Theological Seminary
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev. Stephen Copley
First United Methodist Church
North Little Rock, Ark.
Sr. Mary Waskowiak, RSM
The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director, Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
Coordinator, Disciples Center for Public Witness
Diana Butler Bass
Author, speaker on American Religion
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The Republican and Democratic Nevada caucuses are being held on Saturday January 19 at 9 and 11:30 am â€“ during morning religious services for observant Jews.
The media-sponsored exit polls in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary only asked Republicans if they are evangelicals â€“ effectively rendering Democratic evangelical primary voters invisible. But at least they got to cast their votes.
Religious Jews in Nevada will have to choose between voting and practicing their faith on January 19, the day of the Republican and Democratic Nevada caucuses. January 19 is a Saturday and the caucuses will be held at 9 and 11:30 am â€“ during morning religious services for observant Jews.
As Melissa Boteach, Poverty Campaign Coordinator at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs writes:
January 19th is one of the most important contests in the Democratic and Republican quests for their partiesâ€™ nomination for the presidency. It is also Shabbat.
This year, the Nevada Democratic and Republican parties have decided to hold their primary caucuses on a Saturday, with citizens required to report by 11:30 and 9:00 AM respectively, right during morning religious services. When I called the political parties in Nevada to inquire as to whether or not there were measures being taken to help accommodate those observant Jews who wished to participate in the caucuses, I received mixed results. A young Jewish woman at the Nevada Democratic Party told me that they had tried to put caucus-sites near religious neighborhoods and synagogues so that people could walk; precinct captains would be educated about the need to write down information on behalf of observant Jews instead of asking them to sign-in and write themselves. A gentleman at the Nevada Republican Party told me that the party was not even aware of the problem, but promised to make an effort to educate precinct captains on the issue. Neither had an adequate answer as to why the caucuses had to take place on a Shabbat morning.
Nevada has one of the fastest growing Jewish populations in the country, and its 65,000-80,000 Jewish community members are expected to have a disproportionate impact on the results.
On January 19th, Nevada’s observant Jews will be asked to make a false choice between practicing their Judaism and participating in a defining American moment. To all Americans, not just American Jews, this should be seen as a disappointment.
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Networksâ€™ exit polls only ask Republicans if they are evangelicals
Prominent evangelical leaders have called on media outlets to correct flaws in their presidential primary exit polls that pigeonhole evangelicals as beholden to the Republican party. Following the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, exit polls asked Republican voters if they considered themselves â€œborn-again or evangelical,â€ but did not ask that question of participants in the Democratic contests. As a result, news reports have misrepresented evangelicals as a de facto category of the Republican party, which is a mischaracterization of the politically and ideologically diverse evangelical movement.
Revs. Joel Hunter, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren, Christianity Today editor David Neff, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities president Dr. Paul Corts, Redeem the Vote founder Randy Brinson, Drs. David Gushee, Randall Balmer, and Glen Stassen, signed the letter calling for the networks to correct the exit polling by asking both Democrats and Republicans the same set of religious questions. It was sent to the polling directors and political directors at ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the Associated Press.
The text of the letter, available online at http://blog.faithinpubliclife.org/upload/2008/01/Evangelical%20Letter%20to%20Networks.pdf, follows:
Letter from Evangelical Leaders to Polling and Political Directors of Media Outlets Represented in the National Election Pool
January 10, 2008
Dear Polling or Political Director:
Religion is playing an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential campaign; the need for accurate and thorough information about religious voters is difficult to overstate. Thus far, the National Election Poolâ€™s exit poll surveys have pigeonholed evangelicals, reinforcing the false stereotype that we are beholden to one political party.
Your entrance and exit polls at the Iowa caucuses asked Republican caucus-goers if they were â€œborn-again or evangelical Christian(s),â€ but did not ask the same question of Democrats. This omission left a substantive hole in subsequent news coverage of the caucuses. Based on your polling, the public helpfully learned that born-again or evangelical Christians played a central role in Mike Huckabeeâ€™s victory, but received no information about the impact of evangelical voters in the Democratic race.
As reported by numerous news organizations, candidates of both parties spoke explicitly of their religious faith while campaigning in Iowa and have robust faith outreach operations. By omitting the question of evangelical/born-again identification from the Democratic polls, you prevented the public from seeing the full picture of how the bipartisan courtship of evangelical voters affected the outcome of the first contest of the 2008 campaign and perpetuated the misperception that all evangelical Christians are Republicans.
No party can own any faith. Evangelicals have broadened their agenda to include care for the planet, the poor and the stranger, and as a result are increasingly diverse politically.
Your New Hampshire exit polls gathered much more detailed information about votersâ€™ religion but still asked only Republican voters if they were evangelical or born-again. The data revealed a significant difference between the voting patterns of Republican evangelicals in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, Mike Huckabee dominated, claiming 46 percent of evangelicalsâ€™ support, with no other candidate receiving even 20 percent. In New Hampshire McCain, Romney and Huckabee split the evangelical vote almost evenly. The disparity of these results suggests that evangelical votersâ€™ behavior may not conform to expectations, which further shows the need to measure it in both parties.
With voters entering polling sites in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina in the coming days and weeks and Super Tuesday following shortly thereafter, it is imperative for you to remedy the imbalance in your exit polling immediately. Evangelicalism is not a monolithic movement that fits neatly into one party. For the sake of accuracy and dispelling shopworn stereotypes, we urge you to allow all evangelicals an opportunity to be represented in your surveys and polling data.
Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland A Church Distributed
David Neff, Editor, Christianity Today
Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder, Sojourners
Randy Brinson, Founder, Redeem the Vote
Paul Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University
Brian McLaren, Author, Founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church
Randall Balmer, Professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University
Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary
*Institutional affiliations are given for identification purposes only.
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With shocking and new revelations about torture coming out of Washington daily, National Religious Campaign Against Torture calls torture â€œthe most important issue we have to face as a nationâ€
WASHINGTON â€“ Forty-eight prominent Americans, including President Jimmy Carter, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell), Rev. Jim Wallis, and Dr. Rick Warren, will appear in a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register on Sunday, December 16 sponsored by the National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) Action Fund. Headlined, â€œTorture is a Moral Issue,â€ the ad comes out at a time when torture is at the forefront of the national debate.
This ad was produced in partnership with Evangelicals for Human Rights. Evangelical signatories on the ad include Dr. David P. Gushee, President, Evangelicals for Human Rights; Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals; and Dr. Rick Warren.
The ad declares, in part, â€œ[Torture] degrades everyone involved â€“ policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nationâ€™s most cherished values. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.â€
â€œWith reports about the CIA destroying evidence of torture breaking out of Washington, it is a critical time to address this pressing moral issue,â€ said Linda Gustitus, president of the NRCAT board and Iowa resident. â€œTorture is, without a doubt, the most important issue we have to face as a nation. It must be abolished immediately and should never be a part of our nationâ€™s policies or practices in the future.â€
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a growing membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, over 130 religious groups have joined NRCAT, including representatives from the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and congregations.
Iowa spokespeople available for discuss the ad:
Linda Gustitus, President of the Board, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, currently living in Princeton, IA
Pastor Kirsten Klepfer, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Grinnell, IA
To schedule an interview with Ms. Gustitus or Rev. Klepfer, please contact Steve Fox at 202-822-5200.
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