John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington, responds to the official release today of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on environmental justice. Gehring is the author of the forthcoming, The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church (Rowman & Littlefield, August 2015) Gehring is available for interviews on this topic, has broadcast experience and can appear live from Washington.
“Pope Francis has given us all a profound spiritual meditation on humanity’s broken relationship with the earth and a bold call to action that challenges political leaders to wake up,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington. “This should elevate the moral dimensions of climate change to the top of our political agenda.”
“A pope who insists that economic inequality and our ecological crisis are central moral issues also explodes the Catholic political narrative in this country,” Gehring added. “Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and other GOP Catholics are being reminded that our church recognizes threats to human life and dignity are found in unjust and sinful structures that must change.”
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Commentators will speak about the Pope’s recently released encyclical on the environment, climate and the poor
Washington, DC – On Thursday, June 18th at 1:00 p.m. (EST), prominent Catholic analysts, researchers, scholars and commentators will participate in a telephonic press conference to discuss the implications of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.” The encyclical will be released earlier that day.
The release of the encyclical will draw global attention to the profound moral dimensions of an issue that has sparked sharp debate in the United States, where leading conservative politicians, Republican candidates for president and well-funded groups have questioned the reality of climate change even as Catholic bishops and diverse religious leaders have long advocated for a robust policy response to environmental degradation. Speakers will address these and other topics followed by a Q&A session with media
WHAT: Telephonic press conference with prominent Catholic and Evangelical commentators on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment
Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK: A National Catholic SocialJustice Lobby, Nuns on the Bus
Dr. Daniel J. Curran, President, University of Dayton
Rev. Drew Christiansen, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Development, Georgetown University
Rev. Mitchell Hescox, President/CEO, Evangelical Environmental Network
Austen Ivereigh, Author, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of A Radical Pope
Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton
Christiana Peppard, Professor of Theology, Fordham University, Author, Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
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Harrisburg, PA – Today, more 100 Pennsylvania religious leaders released a letter announcing their strong support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to temporarily halt all executions. The coalition of faith leaders agrees that the death penalty is immoral and incompatible with their faith.
“While we come to the issue of the death penalty from a variety of perspectives, we deeply value the sanctity of all human life and believe that pausing executions in order to evaluate the death penalty’s human and financial toll on our state is warranted and necessary,” the letter reads, in part.
The clergy call upon lawmakers to reexamine Pennsylvania’s use of the death penalty and support the moratorium.
The signers join a growing chorus of religious leaders across the United States that are leading the fight to end the death penalty. They plan to continue to organize and advocate to ensure that that, “our state’s leaders conclude that the death penalty, as it has been carried out in Pennsylvania, is inconsistent with the values our state wishes to uphold.”
“The Pennsylvania Council of Churches see the message of a Messiah that was unjustly executed as sufficient reason to oppose the death penalty,” said Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, the Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach with the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. “The death penalty disproportionately affects people of color and the poor, and leaves no room for redemption and restoration.”
Representatives from the clergy coalition will gather with other anti-death penalty advocates tomorrow at the State Capitol to speak in support of the moratorium.
The text of the letter is below. The text and full list of signers can be found here.
We, the undersigned faith leaders, have joined together in support of the moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania. While we come to the issue of the death penalty from a variety of perspectives, we deeply value the sanctity of all human life and believe that pausing executions in order to evaluate the death penalty’s human and financial toll on our state is warranted and necessary.
We believe that those who commit violent crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and the public should be protected from those who seek to harm others, but there is strong evidence that we can achieve justice and protect our communities without resorting to more killing in the name of vengeance.
There is little evidence to suggest that the death penalty increases public safety any more than long prison sentences, and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, even for similar crimes. Some people are sentenced to die because they couldn’t afford a better lawyer, or because they stand trial in a county that happens to seek the death penalty frequently. Approximately 65% of men and women on death row in our state are people of color. A system that is applied so unevenly should not be allowed to choose who lives and who dies.
We are also troubled by the possibility of executing an innocent person. Nationally, more than 150 men and women have been released from death row after evidence of their wrongful convictions emerged, including six from Pennsylvania. The execution of an innocent person would be an intolerable injustice.
Further, there is evidence that the death penalty prolongs the suffering of many victims’ family members as these cases involve years of legal uncertainty, scores of meaningless death warrants, additional court hearings, and frequent media headlines that can re-traumatize victims and reopen wounds again and again.
Study after study also show that death penalty cases are far more expensive than cases where a sentence of life without parole or other long prison sentences are sought due to the Constitutionally mandated safeguards that are required in all capital cases. The expenditure of the state’s limited financial resources should reflect our values, and we must ask ourselves if the resources currently being spent on the pursuit of executions could be redirected to programs that will better serve victims’ families and address the root causes of crime.
We’ve heard repeatedly that asking state workers to carry out executions in our name places an incredible burden on them, one that we may never truly understand. We must also ask ourselves whether it is ever fair to inflict this burden on another human being.
Finally, as people of faith, we believe in believe in and affirm every person’s capacity for redemption. Government should not resort to policies that cut off the opportunity to repent.
For all of these reasons, we support a moratorium on executions and encourage our state’s leaders to conclude that the death penalty, as it has been carried out in Pennsylvania, is inconsistent with the values our state wishes to uphold.
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Atlanta, GA – A broad coalition of clergy and people of faith from across Georgia gathered at The Temple on Tuesday to kick off a campaign to curb gun violence and prevent more harmful gun legislation from passing in the state legislature.
The group was a fraction of the more than 300 clergy who are a part of Outcry: Faith Voices Against Gun Violence.
“It’s not easy for all of us with this much theological diversity to agree on anything. But on gun violence, we all agree. We know gun violence in Georgia stems from many places, and won’t be solved by just one action, “ said Rabbi Peter Berg, Senior Rabbi, The Temple. “This journey will be filled with obstacles and unexpected turns, but we’re ready to begin a plan of action that will make a difference in our communities.”
Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, said “I’m not a politician, just a preacher. But we believe that what you say on Sunday, you must live on Monday. We have metal detectors at our Statehouse. We ask our politicians who advocate for these gun laws, if they make sense in schools, why not in the legislature? It’s time to have an honest debate about this issue. It’s time to get serious. Our message is plain. The gun lobby and gun manufacturers should not own our state. So will be advocating throughout the summer and into next session for common sense gun laws.”
“This kind of violence and bloodshed we’re seeing is a revolt against love. As a father, I struggle to explain what I see on the news to my children. If you want to see if it passes a logic test, try explaining the logic of gun violence to a child,” said Bishop Robert Wright, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
“We believe that the opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is fear, and we strongly oppose the ways in which those who profit most from the sale of weapons prey most on the fears of our citizens,” said Rev. Dr. David Bartlett, Theologian in Residence, Trinity Presbyterian Church.
“God is on everyone’s side. As we go about our work, whatever we do, we do knowing that God’s will is that none should be lost to violence,” said Rev. Dr. Joanna Adams, retired minister, Presbyterian Church (USA).
Rabbi Loren Lapidus, Associate Rabbi at The Temple said, “Through our understanding of God and Scripture, we know that gun violence is a moral issue. And our faith compels us to take action.”
Over the next year, Outcry is planning to grow their coalition, meet with lawmakers to advocate for responsible firearm legislation, and engage congregations through a banner campaign, educational events, and prayer.
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. The coalition seesTuesday’s launch as the first step in a long, faith-centered journey toward safer communities.
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Atlanta, GA – Today, Georgia Clergy United Against Discrimination issued the following statement on behalf of the more than 250 Georgia faith leaders who voiced their opposition to divisive “religious freedom” legislation:
We are relieved and heartened that Georgia state legislators have heard our call to back away from legislation that would have legalized discrimination in the name of religion. Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but religious freedom does not give us the right to harm or exclude others. This is a victory for all Georgians. Today we have chosen to embrace a spirit of love and self-discipline over and against a spirit of division and exclusion. We’ve chosen to work for the common good, rather than sow seeds of intolerance.
A diverse coalition of Georgia clergy played an integral role in helping to defeat the RFRA bills. In addition to issuing a letter signed by more than 250 religious leaders, the clergy convened press conferences, wrote op-eds, ran newspaper ads and lobbied lawmakers. They made it clear that this dangerous legislation was not representative of Georgia’s faith community, and was fundamentally at odds with their values.
Media coverage of their actions included:
Clergy Speak Out On ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Proposed In Ga, Associated Press
Faith leaders denounce religious liberty bill ahead of hearing, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Supporters tout “religious liberty” bill, as clergy criticize it, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Baptist clergy oppose ‘religious liberty’ bill, Baptist News Global
‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Debate Heats Up At Georgia Capitol, WABE
Georgia Baptist leaders call ‘religious freedom’ bill a ‘religious manipulation’ bill, Georgia Voice
Clergy come out against ‘religious freedom’ bill, Project Q Atlanta
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