Diverse religious groups unveil plans to engage voters on common-good policies, rather than divisive culture war issues
Washington, DC – Today, leaders from prominent progressive faith organizations announced plans to mobilize voters and hold politicians accountable in this year’s midterm elections. Around the country, clergy and faith-based organizations will launch campaigns, ranging from massive voter registration drives to cross country bus tours.
Ten years ago, so-called “values voters” re-elected George W. Bush by playing to peoples’ fears and highlighting divisive social issues. Since then, progressive faith leaders have been forging new coalitions to disarm these ideological divides, and are using new strategies to amplify their voices and their agenda—an agenda that centers on addressing growing economic inequality, racial discrimination, immigrant rights, voting rights and healthcare.
“We believe that for too long, the so-called ‘Religious Right’ has established themselves as the point of view of people of faith in America,” said Gov. Ted Strickland, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Methodist minister. “The community of faith is particularly positioned to bring to light what is right in wrong in the politics of our country.”
A recent study from the Brookings Institution found that religious progressives are gaining on religious conservatives and constitute a powerful political force. That force is moving justice for the marginalized and the poor back to the heart of the political debate.
“We need to reexamine our moral compass,” said Rev. Dr. William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement. “The extreme ideology we see is a sign that we need to reexamine our moral compass. We believe this is a resurgence of social concerns in the public square.”
Several speakers announced plans to specifically target drop-off voters in the Rising American Electorate.
“Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to 1 million persons of faith, engaging them people to people, neighbor to neighbor,” said Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director with PICO National Network, the largest faith-based community-organizing group in the country. “We understand that moving people from disengaged to engaged requires a new understanding of the moral components of voting.”
“Immigration reform was remained stagnant in the House, there still has not been reform to mass incarceration, and it makes no sense that in the richest country in the world, people can’t make a living wage,” said Rev. Gabe Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “We raise these concerns not just as political issues, but as values issues. In the next few weeks, we are rallying in key states for Latino voters to raise these issues as priorities at the polls.”
For the first time, progressive religious organizations will be using state-of-the-art-technology to engage voters around social justice issues.
“Why faith matters in this election is that we can do all of the innovative, tech things, but in the end it’s all about people connecting with people and building relationships,” said Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. Sister Simone, the organizer of Nuns on the Bus, detailed plans of a new bus tour covering 10 states and 35 cities this fall aimed at combatting big money in politics.
As these campaigns grow in the coming weeks, Faith in Public Life will continue to share the work of these voices and organizations that are engaging and mobilizing people of faith across the country.
A full recording of today’s call can be heard here.
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DAYTON, OH – Today, Dayton religious leaders responded to Rep. Mike Turner’s shameful criticism of plans to potentially shelter refugee children. As tens of thousands of children flee violence in their home countries, communities like Dayton – which pride themselves on being welcoming – must not turn away these children with callous indifference.
At his press conference this afternoon Rep. Turner claimed that Mayor Whaley does not speak for the community. These and many other Dayton faith leaders disagree:
Rev. Rodney Wallace Kennedy, Lead Pastor, First Baptist Church Dayton:
“Representative Mike Turner and six other elected officials, most from outside Dayton, have declared that Mayor Nan Whaley doesn’t speak for Dayton on the subject of caring for immigrant children. When Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come unto me,’ what did he mean? Care for the children and pass meaningful immigration reform.”
Sister Maria Stacy, SND, Director, Dayton Hispanic Catholic Ministries:
“This is an issue about defenseless children. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, calls us to welcome and protect these children. The violence in these countries calls for a humanitarian response to this crisis, not a closed door.”
Rev. Dr. Perry Henderson, Pastor, Corinthian Baptist Church:
“If sending desperate, vulnerable children back into the arms of murderous gangs and human traffickers isn’t a sin, I don’t know what is. Our faith tells us that we must not turn our back on these children of God.”
Rev. Sherry Gale, Senior Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church:
“We must be welcoming to all of God’s children and do everything in our power to combat this humanitarian crisis on the border. I am proud to stand with Mayor Whaley in supporting the principles laid out in the Welcome Dayton Plan to make Dayton an immigrant-friendly city.”
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Today, faith leaders from across Virginia condemned the unethical deal struck between State Sen. Phillip Puckett and Republican leaders to attempt to block Medicaid expansion. By choosing to resign his seat in the Virginia Senate, Sen. Puckett is putting his own self-interest ahead of 400,000 uninsured Virginians, including more than 20,000 of his own constituents who lack health insurance.
Clergy and people of faith are helping to lead the fight to close the Medicaid coverage gap in Virginia. From weekly Moral Mondays prayers for elected officials to upcoming vigils across the state, religious leaders are pushing lawmakers to ensure that every Virginian has access to the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve.
The following quotes from diverse Virginia clergy are in response to Sen. Puckett’s resignation:
Rev. Marco Grimaldo, CEO and President of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; Richmond: “Sen. Puckett has disappointed a lot of people with his announcement that he will resign from the Senate, not the least of which are his own constituents. Virginians deserve Senators who stand up for what their constituents need and for the well-being of the Commonwealth. Sen. Puckett seems to have put his own wants ahead of the needs of the people he represents, and that is truly sad.”
Rev. Jenee’ Gilchrist, Vice President of the Virginia Council of Churches; Richmond: “The 400,000 Virginians stuck in the Medicaid gap aren’t pawns in a political game. They are children of God who can’t get the healthcare they need because politicians like Sen. Puckett and Republican leaders are failing to meet their moral responsibilities as public servants. The veterans, families and working poor Virginians suffering from lack of insurance deserve better.”
Rev. Charles Swadley, United Methodist Church (retired); Williamsburg: “Sen. Puckett has forgotten that he is his brother and sister’s keeper. By resigning the high office to which he was honored to serve, Sen. Puckett forsook his moral responsibility to Virginians who need and deserve medical care.”
“I’ve seen up close what’s at stake here. I met a husband who lost his insurance when he lost his job and can’t afford coverage because his wife is still gainfully employed. He had a heart attack and a stroke while uninsured, and the family has no idea how they’re going to afford the care he needs. There are 400,000 Virginians like this hardworking couple who are deprived of the security and the dignity of health care because Sen. Puckett and the Republican House are playing dangerous politics with poor and vulnerable people in our state.”
Debra Linick, Director for Northern Virginia and D.C., Jewish Community Relations Council; Annandale: “The Jewish Community Relations Council has long believed that health coverage for all Americans is a moral imperative and human right. The 400,000 Virginians stuck in the Medicaid gap are waiting for legislators to act in good faith and pass a budget that provides them with access to quality health coverage. We need substantive, civil political leadership that serves the needs of all Virginians.”
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Washington, D.C. – Faith leaders from across the country joined together today to urge legislators and governors from the 24 states that have refused to expand Medicaid to pass legislation that would bring health care to 5 million Americans. During a teleconference this afternoon, clergy members and health care experts outlined the moral case for Medicaid expansion, and discussed their ongoing campaigns to pressure state lawmakers and educate voters. Audio of the call can be found here.
Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, called the impasse by some state legislators “a situation that defies understanding.” Keehan, who was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, said of the lack of expansion, “It’s so irresponsible and so uncaring for the people that live side by side with us in our communities. To say that we’re not going to do it because of a political agenda, or to prove that a program is a failure is absolutely frustrating, and a failure in the worst way.”
“This is a moral issue. This isn’t a political issue. This is about helping people,” said Rev. Norman Wilson, Senior Pastor of Freedom Hall Church of the Living God in Orlando, and leader with PICO United Florida. “One thing that is clear in the Bible is that Jesus was in the health care business.”
“Expanding Medicaid would reach 300,000 people in Missouri who not only need, but deserve Medicaid,” said Rev. Susan McCann, the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty, Mo. and a leader with Communities Creating Opportunity. “People forget, and this is painfully ironic, that the Missouri state motto is, ‘The welfare of the people should be the supreme law.’”
People in the Medicaid gap “are not numbers, these are our church members and family members. So for us, this is a matter of life and death,” said Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and a leader with the Moral Mondays GA movement. “History has not been kind to governors who stand in front of schoolhouse doors because the children are not the right kind of children, and history will not be kind to governors who stand in front of hospital doors and clinics because people who are trying to get in are deemed politically dispensable.”
The failure to expand Medicaid is “truly an immoral act by the nation’s governors,” said Jonathan Gruber, Professor of Economics at MIT and one of the architects of the ACA and healthcare reform in Massachusetts. “Economics is all about tradeoffs. And with Medicaid there are no tradeoffs. Medicaid makes it possible for citizens to get better, and states are better off.”
Until Medicaid is expanded in all 50 states, faith-based organizations like Moral Mondays and PICO National Network and its affiliates will continue to organize to pressure lawmakers. With the 2014 midterm elections only months away, these groups will continue to work to educate voters on this critical issue and make them aware of politicians who are standing in the way of health care of for millions of Americans.
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Faith in Public Life organized faith leaders to speak out against SB 310. Leaders from several religious faiths say lawmakers should scrap pending legislation that would enact a two-year freeze on requirements for energy efficiency and renewable energy laws. Their target, Senate Bill 310, now pending in the General Assembly, would be harmful to the environment, harmful to the economy and harmful to human life and well-being, they say. A multi-denominational group on Wednesday appealed to Gov. John Kasich, who often talks about his faith, to sit down with religious leaders from around the state to discuss their concerns. And they intend to make sure the governor knows many of their congregants — Ohio citizens — support their efforts.
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