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Faith Leaders Call for ‘No’ Vote on Issue 2, Reject Collective Bargaining Restrictions

August 31, 2011, 3:44 pm | Posted by Kristin Ford

Diverse Clergy Affirm Religious Support for Workers’ Rights, Urge Civility in Labor Debate

Diverse religious leaders, including Lutheran, Muslim, Jewish, Methodist, AME, and Presbyterian clergy and leaders, spoke out at a press conference today to reject efforts by state political leaders to curtail collective bargaining rights for public employees. The faith leaders urged a ‘no’ vote on Issue 2 to strike down Senate Bill 5, affirming their religious traditions’ support for workers’ rights. They also pressed Governor Kasich and Statehouse leaders to treat all workers with respect and engage these issues in a civil, bipartisan manner.

“We are gathered here today, as religious leaders and people of faith to speak out about the dignity of the American worker on the edge of Labor Day weekend,” said Rev. Tim Ahrens, Senior Minister at First Congregational Church in Columbus. “We believe there is an unjust and growing gap between rich and poor and a daily disintegration of the middle class.”

The faith leaders, part of a coalition called We Believe Ohio, called for bipartisanship and fairness in developing legislation that protects the rights of workers. They are circulating a Labor Pledge (available here: http://webelieveohio.wordpress.com/sign-the-pledge) and will speak about worker justice from a faith perspective in their houses of worship on Sunday, September 4, in commemoration of Labor Day.

“Scripture teaches that an economic system should be ordered so that employees receive justice at their place of work,” said Rev. Ervin Smith, Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. “This requires respect for the right to organize and bargain collectively without fear of reprisal, to receive a living wage, to be free from discrimination or any form of forced or bonded labor, and the right to a safe and healthy workplace.”

Faith leaders at the press conference also led a confessional prayer, saying in part, “We continue to find ways to segregate ourselves by the color of the collars we wear, the way we labor, and the way we are paid. We have forgotten that we are one people with many gifts who long to be a part of the land of the free and home of the brave.”

We Believe Ohio was initially organized in March 2006 to present an alternative religious perspective to the state’s vocal Christian conservatives, specifically the “Patriot Pastors.” They’ve taken stands on civility, economic justice and the minimum wage, among other issues.

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