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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John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.
Pope Francis has made economic justice, specifically the stark gap between rich and poor, a defining theme of his papacy. In his Apostolic Exhortation the Joy of the Gospel, Francis writes that “trickle down” economic theories — a sacred ideology for many conservatives — express a “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” Framing economic dignity as a “pro-life” issue, the pope insists that we must reject an “economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.” In a recent tweet to his more than 10 million Twitter followers, the pope called inequality “the root of social evil.” When Francis dared to utter the “R” word (redistribution) last week, he crossed into highly charged terrain in this country that brought to mind candidate Obama’s infamous 2008 run-in with “Joe the Plumber.”
But Pope Francis’ understanding of “redistribution” doesn’t come from liberal think tanks or display a knee-jerk aversion to capitalism. It grows from orthodox Catholic teaching that is rooted in biblical values about the shared gift of creation.
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Washington, DC – In the lead up to Mother’s Day, prominent women religious leaders are challenging Congress to catch up with other developed nations and pass legislation that will help strengthen families.
“The ‘pro-family’ rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families,” more than 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim women write in a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.”
Signatories on the letter include Bishop Mariann E. Budde, Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church; Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners; Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women and Ani Zonneveld, President, Muslims for Progressive Values.
The faith leaders note that nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day, and urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 employees or more to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. “Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families,” they write.
Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family medical leave through their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The Family Act, legislation that would create a national family leave and medical program, would, among other things, allow employees to care for a new child, address a serious health issue of not only themselves, but that of a parent or spouse.
“Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit,” the faith leaders write. “Even in 2012, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion.” They urge Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.
Noting that women are only paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man and that women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage-workers, the leaders urge elected officials to raise the minimum wage and “support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities.”
The complete letter with signatories can be found below and here.
Dear Speaker Boehner and Sen. Reid,
As families prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, we are mindful of the love and sacrifices that mothers make to strengthen our families and our country. However, we know that expressing our gratitude with flowers and kind words is not enough. The “pro-family” rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families.
As Christian, Jewish and Muslim women, we are inspired by diverse faith traditions that share a conviction that public policies must serve the dignity of the human person, support the family and promote the common good. It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid leave and sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.
Families and workplaces suffer when a mother or other family members can’t take time off to care for themselves, a sick child or an ailing parent. Nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day. Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families. We urge you to support the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to recover from illness, get preventative care or care for a sick family member.
Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit. Even in 2014, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions, pregnant workers still face unjust treatment in the workplace. This is especially true for pregnant women in low-wage jobs that are disproportionately made up of women of color and immigrants. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and make sure employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.
Women now make up almost half the workforce, but a gender pay gap means they are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition, women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers. A woman working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500 – more than $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Women also make up 72 percent of tipped workers who have not seen an increase in the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour in more than two decades. We urge you to support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities and enable women to provide for their families.
It’s time to move from lofty rhetoric about family values to responsible policies that help women and families.
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