Christian Leaders Cite Pope Francis in Lead-up to GOP Debate

August 4, 2015, 11:34 am | Posted by


August 4, 2015

Contact: John Gehring, 410-302-3792,


Ahead of Presidential Debate, Christian Leaders Urge Candidates to address Economic Inequality & Climate Change

Cite Pope Francis’s recent statements and encyclical on the urgency to act


Washington, DC - As presidential candidates take the stage for the first debate in Cleveland on Thursday, Christian leaders are challenging all contenders for the White House to tackle inequality and climate change.

“The 2016 election is an opportunity for a national examination of conscience,” more than 70 prominent Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders write in a public statement released today that will be sent to representatives of all the campaigns. “Candidates for the most powerful office in the world have a responsibility to clearly articulate plans for addressing two of the most urgent moral challenges of our time: economic inequality and climate change.”

The leaders cite Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, which highlights the links between poverty, inequality and ecological devastation.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” the pope writes in his encyclical. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Pope Francis affirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is exacerbated by human activity. In blunt language, the pope also challenged what he called “obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers,” as obstacles to progress.

Signatories on the statement include Sister Donna Markham, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant; several Catholic university presidents; Rev. William Kelley, S.J., Secretary for Social and International Ministries at the Jesuit Conference; Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President of the National Council of Churches; Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, Director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness; Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Rev. Richard Cizik, President of New Evangelicals for the Common Good; Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary and the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Poverty, climate change and inequality are “life and death issues,” the leaders write, noting that in Cleveland, where the GOP debate is taking place, more than half of the children in the city grow up in poverty. Northeast Ohio also has some of the worst air pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association. African-American and Latino children suffer from disproportionate levels of asthma and lead poisoning. A five-year study from the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths per year by the end of the century.

A record number of Catholics are campaigning for president, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Candidates from both parties are seeking Catholic and evangelical voters in key swing states like Ohio and Florida, where religious voters are critical to the election.

The priorities emphasized by Pope Francis are impacting U.S. political discourse.

“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for this from my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Jeb Bush said in reaction to reporters’ questions about the encyclical released last month. Religion, he added, “ought to be about making us better as people, less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

When asked by CNN about the candidate’s comments, Cardinal Peter Turkson – prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key advisory to Pope Francis on the encyclical – called them “unfortunate” and asked “what is morality about, if not our conduct, our decisions, our conscience, and the choices we make?”

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich has described economic inequality “a powder keg that is as dangerous as the environmental crisis the world is facing today.” He recently joined President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to make a moral case for action on climate change.

The complete statement and full list of signatories can be found here.


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Pope Francis Poll

July 29, 2015, 1:46 pm | Posted by

Several polls were released this week examining American public attitudes toward the Pope in advance of his visit to the US in September. The polls showed that the Pope continues to enjoy remarkably strong approval ratings with American voters of all stripes, who agree with his message of equality and inclusion and his call to do more to address climate change.

Lake Research Partners poll of religious or faith-affiliated likely 2016 voters showed that the Pope is more popular than Oprah, and that his messages of togetherness, community, inclusion, and equality have broad reach and acceptance with these voters.

Quinnipiac University’s survey of registered voters in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia found that voters agreed by a more than 2-1 margin with the Pope’s call for the world to do more to address climate change.

That’s on the heels of a Gallup survey of US adults (not just voters) that found some polarization in attitudes and a drop in favorability among political conservatives.

Faith in Public Life’s Catholic program director, John Gehring, is the author of the upcoming book The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church. John looked at all three polls, and said:

“Pope Francis brings a powerful message that is both inspiring and challenging. He is making new again what is ancient wisdom about the common good at a time when our politics and culture are too often shaped by individualism on both the right and left. The pope is connecting with people because he taps into a deeper hunger for community that goes beyond self-interest. This has implications for the values that must frame our political and policy debates. Voters are paying attention to the pope’s insistence that addressing climate change, honoring the dignity of work and building an economy of inclusion are at root moral issues.”

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Ohio Clergy Coalition to Launch Campaign to End Pregnancy Discrimination

July 28, 2015, 6:13 pm | Posted by

Faith leaders will outline legislative goals, release compact signed by over 100 clergy from across Ohio

Columbus, OH – Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8th at 1:00PM, a diverse group of Ohio clergy will gather at the statehouse to kick off a campaign to end workplace discrimination against pregnant women.

No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her pregnancy. But in Ohio it is perfectly legal to deny pregnant women reasonable accommodations that let them work safely as they carry their child. It’s time for the state legislature to stand up for workers and family values by outlawing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

A background memo on the issue will be circulated to press today.

Ohio Family Values is made up of Republicans and Democrats, pro-choice and pro-life advocates, and clergy from across the theological perspective, including Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Muslims, Mainline Protestants and Unitarian Universalists.

At the press conference, the clergy will release the Compact for Ohio Families, signed by over 100 clergy from across the state that are committed to passing pregnancy discrimination legislation.

More information about the coalition can be found at:



Ohio Family Values clergy coalition press conference announcing campaign to pass legislation to end pregnancy discrimination


Rev. June Wilkins, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Columbus

Rev. Joshua Stoxen, Vineyard Central Church, Cincinnati

Rabbi Eric Woodward, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Columbus

Amanda Hoyt, Faith in Public Life


George Washington Williams Room, Ohio Statehouse


Wednesday, July 8th at 1:00PM

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Inspired by Pope’s Encyclical, Catholic & Evangelical Leaders Urge Political Action on Climate Change

June 23, 2015, 12:59 pm | Posted by

Impact of climate change is a “pro-life issue” and “costs of delay are unacceptable,” leaders write in full-page message in Politico newspaper

Washington, DC  – Just Just days after Pope Francis released a powerful encyclical on environmental justice and ecology that has reverberated around the world, Catholic and evangelical leaders are asking members of Congress and presidential candidates to recognize climate change is a moral issue that requires an urgent response.

“Pope Francis has issued a bold call to action, and the clock is ticking on a challenge that requires a collective effort in service of the global common good,” Catholic university presidents, clergy, nuns, faith-based advocates and prominent evangelicals write.  “As citizens of the most powerful nation in human history, we have a unique responsibility to promote sustainable development, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and build a thriving culture of life that protects human dignity.”

The open letter, which will be sent to leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate as well as candidates running for president, is published as a full-page advertisement in Politico newspaper today.

Signatories include 20 Catholic university presidents; two past presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dan Misleh, the executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Rev. Mitchell Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action; noted Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann and Richard Mouw, the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

The leaders specifically encourage “presidential candidates, Members of Congress and Governors who have raised doubts about the seriousness of climate change to consider the moral dimensions of this issue and the urgent need for action.” Prominent political leaders who are Catholic, including House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have denied or downplayed the scientific consensus that human behavior is driving climate change, and frequently criticize the Obama administration for policies intended to reduce carbon emissions.

In recent days, several Catholics running for president, including Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush, have questioned the pope weighing in on timely moral issues. Pope Francis and the church should leave “science to the scientists,” Santorum said, and focus on “what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.” Asked about the pope’s message during a recent event in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush said “religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

When asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about Bush’s comments, Cardinal Peter Turkson — prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key advisor to Pope Francis on the encyclical – called them “unfortunate” and asked “what is morality about, if not about our conduct, our decisions, our conscience, and the choices we make?”

The statement from Catholic and evangelical leaders also puts pressure on politicians who have failed to take action when it comes to the poor and most vulnerable disproportionately impacted by climate change.  “At their core, climate change and air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels are pro-life issues,” the leaders write. “The toxic pollution released from coal-fired plants and chemicals spewing into rivers and oceans present especially grave risks for life in the womb, young children and the elderly. The costs of delay are unacceptable.” 

In his 184-page document, Laudato Si (Praised Be to You) released June 18, Pope Francis describes climate change as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” He affirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that human behavior is exacerbating global warning, links growing economic inequality and poverty with ecological devastation, and has pointed words for “obstructionist” climate change skeptics who the pope writes, “seem mostly concerned with masking the problems or concealing the symptoms.”

The full statement with signatories can be found here.

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Atlanta Clergy React to Charleston Shootings

June 18, 2015, 11:13 am | Posted by

Atlanta, GA - Today, the Outcry Interfaith Coalition issued the following statement responding to last night’s tragic events in Charleston, South Carolina.

Only a few hours ago, members of Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina entered the sacred space of their church for the spiritual uplift they receive each week on Wednesday evenings as they pray and study the Bible. But last night, the terror of violence shattered through the sanctity of life gathered in the presence of God and in the hope of prayer.

Today is a time to mourn the deaths of those who perished in gunfire last night in Emanuel AME Church. “Sanctuary” is a place to which one goes for safety and to be with a sacred community.

We, the Outcry Interfaith Clergy Coalition, pray together for the nine people whose light was extinguished, the nine families whose hearts are broken, and the community whose holy sanctuary has been emptied with violence. Life is sacred. On this we agree.

Outcry is an interfaith clergy coalition focused on ending gun violence in Georgia. Outcry has been played a key role in the campaign for common sense gun laws, including protections for houses of worship in last year’s “guns everywhere” law, and with this year’s HB 492. You can learn more about Outcry here: 

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