As negotiations move forward in the fiscal debate, prominent religious leaders across the country are reminding members of Congress and the President about their moral responsibility to end tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and protect seniors, lower-income families, and the disabled by not cutting benefits to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Below are a few of their statements and click here to view FPL’s Fiscal Showdown Messaging Memo.
Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life, and Gordon Whitman, Director, PICO National Network:
Using deficits caused by irresponsible tax cuts, unfunded wars, the financial crisis and an inefficient healthcare system as an auspice to weaken programs that ensure basic economic security and access to health care for millions of Americans is wrong. Arguing that we must slash these programs now to avoid destroying them later is a failure of leadership.
Bend the Arc Jewish Network Statement on Ending Tax Cuts:
As rabbis, we are called upon to uphold the highest values of our faith, and to teach the laws of our tradition… Raising revenue in order to support important community institutions was established in the Torah’s commandments, extolled by the prophets, and has been a hallmark of Jewish communities ever since.
United State Conference of Catholic Bishops Letter to the House of Representatives:
Members of both parties have supported effective antipoverty programs that target assistance to people living in or near poverty, including but not limited to the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and Pell Grants. These and other programs that aid people in escaping poverty through education, training, and work should be protected from cuts. These initiatives reward work and allow families to live in dignity.
Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio:
The truth is that this deficit is the result of inadequate revenue, rising military spending, and a recession that has pushed more people into poverty. Families struggling at the economic margins should not pay the price for solving a deficit they did not create. They have suffered enough. We must act in the best tradition of religious values and American compassion by seeking a solution that does not push the poor and vulnerable over the fiscal cliff!
Sister Deborah Troillett, RSM, Institute Leadership Team, Sisters of Mercy, Little Rock, Arkansas:
We don’t have a budget crisis in this country. We have a values crisis, a priorities crisis. We as religious, call on our country’s leaders to not push the most marginalized peoples off the ‘fiscal cliff,’ but rather to uphold the values that are at the heart of our national strength: compassion, fairness, and treating every life on this precious earth of ours with dignity and reverence.
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
It is simply not acceptable that deficit reduction might increase the burden on those struggling the most in our communities. It is intolerable that debt reduction should come on the backs of the poorest among us, that it increases poverty or inequality.
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World:
President Obama’s proposal appears to protect poor people, while Speaker Boehner’s would cause a lot of hurt… But neither proposal explicitly commits to a circle of protection around programs focused on poor and hungry people.
Jesuit Conference Statement on Taxes and the Fiscal Cliff:
When faced with the choice of preserving essential services or preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, the moral choice is clear. The Jesuit Conference of the United States supports a tax system that seeks more from the economically prosperous because doing so is a fiscally sound and equitable means to balance the budget.
A Circle of Protection Holiday Letter to the President and Members of Congress:
We see effective programs that meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable and help keep others from slipping into poverty: those programs and tax credits – such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit – should be maintained. As our nation approaches a ‘fiscal showdown,’ there are difficult decisions to be made, but we believe this can be done without putting the burdens on those who can least afford it.
Kathryn Lohre, President, National Council of Churches:
In a time of difficult budget negotiations, we believe the first commitment is to those who live in poverty. Compromises should not be at the expense of the programs that support those who live with the reality of hunger and poverty. As churches, we will continue to serve those who live in poverty, but we need the leadership of elected officials.
Rev. Joiquim Barnes, Board Secretary, South Carolina Christian Action Council, and Pastor, New Hope CME Church in Lexington, South Carolina:
Our elected leaders have an awesome responsibility to put their political differences aside and make a decision as to whether or not they will remember those who are in dire need of help. This is not a time to play politics as usual with folks’ lives. We are guided by the spirit that we are to help the least of these and it is the government’s responsibility to live up to that expectation.
For more information and resources including the messaging guide, please visit: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/
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In a compelling op-ed featured in The Hill, Rev. Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life and Gordon Whitman of the PICO National Network demonstrate how the ongoing fiscal debate has caused religious leaders of all faiths to speak out in defense of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security on behalf of their congregations.
Progressive faith leaders are refusing to let elected officials neglect their moral responsibilities to working poor families by letting improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit expire and forcing seniors and the disabled to bear the burden. They write,
“Inspired by the clear mandates of Scripture, many of our nation’s prominent faith leaders have drawn a circle of protection around programs such as education funding, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. This stance reflects not only religious teachings about justice and compassion, but also popular opinion among people of faith.”
Rev. Butler and Whitman go on to say that excuses that the conservative movement uses to push for cuts in safety-net programs are unjustifiable:
“Using deficits caused by irresponsible tax cuts, unfunded wars, the financial crisis and an inefficient healthcare system as an auspice to weaken programs that ensure basic economic security and access to health care for millions of Americans is wrong. Arguing that we must slash these programs now to avoid destroying them later is a failure of leadership.”
There is a shared vision for the future of America among members of the faith community. It is clear that religious leaders are united in their commitment to protect the common good and economic well-being of millions of Americans.
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More than a few Catholic bishops spent this election feverishly warning their flock that voting for Barack Obama put their souls at risk and posed a grave threat to religious liberty. Now that the president has been re-elected with a majority of Catholic voters, leaders of our nation’s most influential church have some self-reflection to do at their national meeting in Baltimore this week…
Catholic bishops have every right to oppose birth control and same-sex civil marriage, even as research shows a majority of Catholics support both, and a recent study in St. Louis found greater access to contraception significantly lowered abortion rates. The real challenge for bishops today is a growing perception that they are simply cheerleaders for the Republican Party. In fact, Catholic social teaching has long put economic justice, respect for immigrants, universal health care, environmental stewardship and labor rights at the center of its tradition. The Vatican’s call for sensible regulations of global financial markets and stark warnings about climate change are to the left of many Democratic leaders. Catholicism is not a single-issue religion, and the church’s “consistent ethic of life” framework has long recognized that being “pro-life” must include defending the sanctity of life outside the womb.
In recent years, a vocal minority of conservative bishops have drifted from this proud tradition. Bishops launched a “religious freedom” campaign this summer, led by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, largely aimed at the Obama administration’s requirement that most employers must offer contraception coverage to women at no cost under the health care reform law. Catholic churches are exempt. Catholic hospitals and universities, which in some states already provided birth control coverage to their employees with little controversy, do not have to pay for coverage under an accommodation that requires the insurance company to pick up with tab. While reasonable people disagree over this policy, and details must still be worked out for some Catholic institutions that self-insure, the apocalyptic rhetoric of some church leaders suggests that President Obama is waging a war on the Catholic Church — a theme adopted in Mitt Romney’s campaign ads.
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Analysis of religious voters in last night’s elections presents a complex picture of the role of faith in politics in 2012. Below are key findings from national exit polls and exit polls in key states, followed by religious context affecting the election.
President Obama won the Catholic vote by a 2-point margin, 50%-48%. This victory lags behind his 54%-45% advantage among Catholics in 2008 but precisely mirrors the president’s overall 2012 margin of victory. Mitt Romney won white Catholics by a 19-point margin, 59%-40%, an improvement on John McCain’s 52%-47% advantage in 2008. Those who attend religious services weekly or more often favored Romney by a 15-point margin, 57%-42%. Those who attend less often favored President Obama 56%-42%, nearly identical to his 57%-42% advantage among these voters in 2008. Twenty-five percent of 2012 voters were Catholics, and 27% of voters in 2008 were Catholics. Catholics have sided with the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1972.
Nationwide, white evangelical voters favored Romney by a 57-point margin, 78%-21%, a 4-point improvement upon John McCain’s 74%-24% advantage in 2008. However, this change mirrors President Obama’s decreased support among white voters overall.
White evangelical voters comprised 26% of the electorate this year, an identical share to 2008 despite a massive, well-publicized effort by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition to turn out conservative evangelicals in record numbers.
OHIO — In the most heavily contested state, President Obama improved upon his 2008 performance among white evangelicals. In 2008, white evangelicals favored John McCain by a 71%-27% margin. Last night they favored Romney by a smaller margin, 70%-29%. These results are particularly noteworthy because Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition focused heavily on Ohio. Reed did not deliver the results he predicted in the most crucial state for Republicans. Thirty-one percent of Ohio voters this year were white evangelicals, as compared with 30% in 2008. In 2008, the President lost Ohio Catholics, 52%-47%. This year, he lost them by a 54%-44% margin.
COLORADO — Colorado white evangelicals’ candidate preferences (77% for Romney, 22% for President Obama) aligned closely with white evangelicals nationwide, a small change from McCain’s 76%-23% advantage and less of a swing than the white vote overall. White evangelicals made up 25 percent of the state’s electorate in 2012, compared to 21 percent in 2008.
VIRGINIA — White evangelicals favored Mitt Romney over President Obama by a margin of 82% to 18%, compared to John McCain’ 79%-20% advantage in 2008. White evangelicals comprised a declining share of the state’s electorate, decreasing from 28% in 2008 to 23% in 2012.
Last night three states passed ballot initiatives in favor of same-sex marriage, and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage was defeated in Minnesota. Religious crosstabs are not yet available. Support for same-sex marriage has increased among every religious demographic in recent years, but before last night opponents had won all 32 state-level ballot question on the issue. Supporters of marriage for same-sex couples conducted extensive outreach and messaging to the faith community, and religious opponents also invested heavily into these campaigns.
In Florida and California, faith-based community organizing groups mounted victorious campaigns against anti-tax ballot initiatives. PICO National network affiliates helped advance sound fiscal policies that reject austerity and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. In Florida, voters resoundingly rejected by a 58% to 42% margin Question 3, a constitutional amendment that would have decimated public education and social services in the state. And in California by a 54% to 46% margin, voters approved Prop 30, which will raise an estimated $6 billion in revenue for schools and social services in the state through a tax increase on people earning over $250,000 and a small temporary increase in the sales tax. The clergy and congregations of PICO organizations played key roles in these fights, contacting over 1.6 million voters.
With unemployment hovering near 8%, the political environment was much more challenging for President Obama than in 2008. While his share of key religious demographics declined, his overall margin of victory was also smaller. He also faced highly organized conservative religious opposition.
The battle for the Catholic vote was particularly fierce, and the slim margin of victory Obama achieved with Catholics reflect that sharp division. “A diverse coalition of social justice Catholics, especially Latinos, helped tip the scales this year,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “While bishops doubled down against same sex marriage and demonized President Obama as an enemy of religious liberty, they were clearly out of touch with many Catholics. If the GOP has some reflecting to do about its inability to reach an increasingly multicultural country, Catholic leaders could benefit from similar soul searching when it comes to their own diverse flock.”
U.S. Catholic bishops mounted a highly politicized confrontation with the Obama administration over contraception coverage and religious liberty. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a nationwide, two-week “religious freedom” campaign over the summer that made national headlines as part of their fight against the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. In Kansas, the state’s Catholic bishops sponsored a rally at the state capitol that featured Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Shortly before the election, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL, and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, issued statements implying that voting for Democrats put Catholics’ salvation at risk.
However, other Catholic leaders declined to take part in the bishops’ offensive and mobilized around economic issues. Catholic nuns responded strongly to Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s erroneous claim that his federal budget plan — which includes steep cuts to programs for the poor such as Medicaid and food stamps, as well as tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — was consistent with Catholic social teaching.
NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice group led by Sister Simone Campbell, organized “Nuns on the Bus”, a nine-state tour through Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states highlighting the work of Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve those on the economic margins and stand to be harmed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.
With tremendous grassroots support and media attention across America (and additional tours in the following months through Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, New York and Michigan), “Nuns on the Bus” successfully reaffirmed the unique contribution of women religious to America’s social fabric and refocused the public debate on the critical moral choices facing voters in November’s presidential election and beyond. These efforts highlighted the religious aspect of the economic and fiscal debates that dominated the Presidential campaigns.
On the Religious Right, Ralph Reed boasted that his Faith and Freedom Coalition would register and turn out record numbers of socially conservative Christians on election, turning the tide for Mitt Romney. While his efforts received copious media attention, evidence of results are lacking. White evangelicals’ share of the electorate was identical to 2008, and their movement toward Romney mirrored that of white voters as a whole.
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FPL provided media support for the Ohio “Nuns on the Bus” tour.
(RNS) The “Nuns on the Bus” have been a consistently popular and effective faith-based tool for religious progressives this campaign season, but on Monday a group of demonstrators apparently organized by a local Tea Party affiliate met the nuns at a stop in Marietta, Ohio, and provided a far different welcome than the sisters usually receive.
Holding placards with slogans like “Bums on the Bus” and “Romney-Ryan Yes, Fake Nuns No,” the protesters focused their fire on the abortion issue, accusing the sisters of not being sufficiently anti-abortion.
Someone claiming to be a member of the local “We the People” chapter — that is the name used by some Tea Party affiliates in the region — posted a YouTube video of the counter-demonstrators taken before the half dozen nuns and some 100 supporters arrived. It says there were more than 175 marchers opposing the nuns and it shows the demonstrators praying the rosary and singing hymns before challenging the sisters.
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