Faith leaders join call for a higher minimum wage

April 29, 2014, 12:05 pm | Posted by

Faith in Public Life organized the conference call featuring faith leaders.

One day before the Senate is scheduled to vote on a proposed minimum wage hike, a broad coalition of religious leaders urged Congress to approve the measure in an open letter. Over 350 members of the clergy signed the letter, including members of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

“We respect the dignity of our neighbors who toil under the yoke of today’s unjust minimum wage, and we call on our elected leaders to ease their burden by making the minimum wage a family wage,” according to the letter.

Interfaith Worker Justice national policy director Rev. Michael Livingston announced the publication of the letter on a Tuesday conference call hosted by his organization and the group Faith in Public Life. Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., and United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez were also on the call to thank the proposed wage hike’s supporters in the religious community.

Religious institutions have played a central role in the minimum wage campaign since the first fast food strike in November 2012, when New York faith leaders joined protesting fast food workers on the picket line as they demanded a $15 base wage and the right to unionize. Since then, many of the larger fast food strikes and state or local minimum wage campaigns have benefited from faith-based support. Tuesday’s letter is an attempt to exert clerical pressure on a national scale, in favor of a $10.10 federal wage hike that would lift standards across most of the country.

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Joint canonization encourages politicized Catholics to bridge divides

April 24, 2014, 11:54 am | Posted by

John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.

When Pope Francis canonizes Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will do more than honor the lives of towering figures that brought unique gifts to the Catholic church and the world. He will also send a powerful message of unity. By simultaneously declaring as saints these two men so often deployed as symbols for competing Catholic camps, Pope Francis is reminding us that the Gospel leaves no room for ideology.

As two Catholics sometimes pigeonholed as liberal and conservative but who love our church in equal measure, we’re grateful for this moment. The Catholic church is diminished by the nasty rhetoric, tribalism and litmus tests that often define the dysfunctional culture of secular politics. We risk becoming a church of MSNBC Catholics and Fox News Catholics who reinforce our own narratives and tune out discomforting ideas.

Catholic Democrats and Catholic Republicans share a common faith that includes clear teachings about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death as well as a preferential option for the poor. As the world watches the Catholic church with new eyes, we must strive for something better than internecine battles and gotcha rhetoric. Pope Francis is challenging us to build “a church of encounter” that goes to the margins where people are hurting and broken. A divided church will not meet that transcendent mission.

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Tampa Faith Leaders Condemn Rep. Ross’s Minimum Wage Comments

April 17, 2014, 5:03 pm | Posted by

Today, local Tampa faith leaders responded to Rep. Dennis Ross’s (R-FL) comments during a town hall about his support for increasing the minimum wage. Rep. Ross said he opposed making the minimum wage a living wage, saying “economically, it’s not right.”

One in 10 of Rep. Ross’s constituents live at or below the poverty line – including more than 1 in 5 of families with children under the age of 5. Local faith leaders are urging him to support an increase in the minimum wage that honors the dignity of work and strengthens families.

The following quotes from diverse Tampa-area clergy are in response to Rep. Ross’s statement:

Rev. Russell Meyer, Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches and a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

“As a Christian and a pastor, I’m alarmed to hear Congressman Ross’s response to a full-time worker trying to get by on less than $300 a week. In a country as wealthy as ours, it’s simply un-Christian how low the minimum wage is today.”

Rev. Richard Huggins, pastor at McLeod Memorial Presbyterian Church and constituent of Rep. Ross:

“It is morally bankrupt for Congressman Ross to fight against making the minimum wage a family wage. Someone who makes a six-figure salary paid for by tax dollars has no business making the lives of his working poor constituents even harder. It is a failure of both judgment and conscience.”

Rev. Larry Rankin, a retired member of The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and constituent of Rep. Ross:

“Rep. Ross, stated that the minimum wage is ‘not right.’ What’s not right is that today’s minimum wage doesn’t sustain a family. Scripture tells us: ‘You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers…You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them.’”

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Pope Francis, Economic Justice and the Catholic Challenge to Libertarianism

April 11, 2014, 10:19 am | Posted by

New guide helps university students bring the Catholic social tradition to political debates over minimum wages, inequality and role of government

As Pope Francis denounces “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” Faith in Public Life is releasing a new guidebook and website that will help Catholic university students make the connection between the Church’s social tradition and current political debates over minimum wages, taxes, inequality, unions and the role of government.

In this Together: Catholic Teaching and a Moral Economy, a guide that references Church  teaching on labor, workers’ rights and a broad array of economic justice issues, will be distributed to more than 100 Catholic university campuses over the next year. It challenges the recent surge of libertarian, anti-government ideology as incompatible with a Catholic vision of the common good.

The guide includes facts about poverty and inequality with quotes and resources from Pope Francis, Catholic bishops, prominent Catholic theologians and the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. An accompanying web site,, provides more in-depth analysis and videos of prominent Catholics talking about the Church’s economic justice teachings on popular programs such as The Colbert Report.

The effort is endorsed by NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; The Conference of Mercy Higher Education; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice; the Franciscan Action Network; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach.

“Catholics have a centuries-old tradition that offers a powerful antidote to the anti-government ideology and free-market fundamentalism that distort our political debates,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “Catholics should know that efforts to oppose living wages, attack unions and slash food aid to struggling families are an affront to Catholic values. This guide can help provoke reflection and encourage students to put their faith into action.”

In This Together has already been distributed to administrators, campus ministers, theologians and social justice directors at the University of San Diego, Creighton University, John Carroll University, the University of Dayton, Santa Clara University and Villanova University. Catholic students at Yale University, Stanford University and Michigan State University have also received the guide.

“I’m grateful for this important effort to stimulate more awareness of the Church’s economic justice teachings at a time when young Catholics are struggling to find their way through a culture that puts individualism and materialism before the common good,” said Moya K. Dittmeier, Executive Director of The Conference for Mercy Higher Education. “I hope this project will encourage Catholic students and others to become citizen-advocates who put our Catholic social tradition into practice by standing in solidarity with those on the margins, especially women and children.”

“Catholics can’t remain passive spectators when workers’ rights are under attack and inequality is soaring,” said Joseph J. Fahey, Chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice and a Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. “Catholics have always been at the forefront of struggles for economic justice. A new generation of Catholics must now take the lead in fighting for a moral economy.”

“This timely resource will help our university’s ongoing efforts to encourage students to engage with current moral and political debates by using the wisdom of Catholic social teaching as a foundation,” said Carmen M. Vazquez, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of San Diego. “As Catholics, we have a responsibility to be faithful citizens who bring our commitment to human dignity and a preferential option for the poor to the public square.”


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Immigration advocates plot a resurrection

April 10, 2014, 11:55 am | Posted by

Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach for the bus tour.

The political staffer looked perturbed as 20 immigration activists, all clad in brown sweatshirts with the words “Act. Fast,” filed out of their charter bus one by one and crammed into Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s district office.

Some had been on the road for a full six weeks, collectively logging 14,000 miles, crossing 31 states and stopping in more than 80 congressional districts on a cross-country bus tour that had commenced in Los Angeles. They had politely and persistently made the case for immigration reform to any lawmaker (but mostly staff members) who would listen, and on a wet spring day this week, their journey had led them to the foggy hills of the Shenandoah Valley.

So goes the grueling, often glacially slow struggle for those who have dedicated not just six weeks but months, years and decades of their lives to immigration reform — a mission like a mirage, one that has been as elusive as it seems tantalizingly close.

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