This weekend, as leaders of the Religious Right rally with Republican politicians in Washington, DC at the â€œValues Voter Summit 2006,â€? Faith in Public Life and Sojourners offer religious leaders from the Voicing Faith Media Bureau and the Red Letter Christians to debunk the divisive myth that â€˜values votersâ€™ share monolithic views about moral priorities.
Clearly, there is a ‘Values Gap’ between many on the Religious Right and the rest of faithful America. In fact, data points to faithful American voters prioritizing poverty, the war on terrorism, global warming, genocide, civil rights, and access to health care as the great moral issues of our time. Rather than focusing on only the wedge issues that divide us, religious leaders are speaking out for the full spectrum of values that represent the faithful majority in our nation.
Media may call to arrange interviews with religious leaders from the Voicing Faith Media Bureau and the Red Letter Christians, including:
â€¢ Dr. Tony Campolo. Founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, Dr. Campolo is a much-sought after speaker, the author of 30 books, and a media commentator on religious, social and political matters.
â€¢ Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes. Senior minister of The Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. Forbes is a pastor, educator, administrator, community activist and interfaith leader, recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of the 12 â€œmost effective preachersâ€? in the English-speaking world.
â€¢ Rabbi David Saperstein. The Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for the past 30 years, Saperstein represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the administration.
â€¢ Amy Sullivan. An editor of The Washington Monthly, Sullivan has emerged as one of the leading experts on politics and religion.
â€¢ Jim Wallis. President of Sojourners and Call to Renewal and author of Godâ€™s Politics: Why the Rights Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesnâ€™t Get It, Wallis is a speaker, author, activist and international Christian evangelical commentator on ethics and public life.
The perspectives from members of the Voicing Faith Media Bureau and the Red Letter Christians provide a stark contrast to the â€˜valuesâ€™ professed by several â€œValues Voter Summitâ€? speakers.
On crime prevention: â€œBut I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.â€? (Bill Bennettâ€™s Morning on America, 09/28/05)
On protecting the environment: “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.â€™â€? (Hannity & Colmes, 6/20/01)
On government surveillance: â€œI think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.â€? (Universal Press Syndicate, 12/21/05)
On Illegal Immigrants: “I’d build a wall. In fact, I’d hire illegal immigrants to build the wall. And throw out the illegals who are here. [...] It’s cheap labor.” (O’Reilly Factor, 04/14/06)
On the Holocaust: â€œIn World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind.â€? (Focus on the Family radio, 08/03/05)
Likening Supreme Court justices to the Ku Klux Klan: â€œI heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that’s what you’re talking about.â€? (Focus on the Family radio, 04/11/05)
On women: â€œI listen to feminists and all these radical gals … These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it, and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men; that’s their problem.â€? (Working For Change, 11/15/04)
On the environment: â€œThe media, Hollywood and liberal academia are also polluting minds with the message that we must curtail our use of energy and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources like solar panels and windmills to stave off so-called global warming and its alleged disastrous consequences . . . Global warming, in my opinion, is a myth designed by Americaâ€™s enemies with the evil intent to bankrupt this nation.â€? (Sermon, 03/05/06)
On comparing those who oppose the war in Iraq to those who enabled Hitler: â€œItâ€™s not an insulting comment.â€? (Hannity & Colmes, 09/01/06)
On the 9/11 widows: â€œ[T]he point here is, is that they [the 9-11 widows] have taken a strong, a harsh line politically against the president, that they name-call on their side, and that now it’s time to challenge them, based on what these issues are, because they’ve gotten a pass because of their positions.” (Hannity & Colmes, 06/07/06)
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(Cleveland, Ohio) — We Believe Northern Ohio sent the following open letter to Pastor Rod Parsley in response to an invitation to meet to discuss how Reformation Ohio, Center for Moral Clarity and World Harvest Church could support their efforts “to win this state for Jesus Christ.”
September 18, 2006
Pastor Rod Parsley
World Harvest Church
4595 Gender Road
Canal Winchester, Ohio 43110
Dear Pastor Parsley,
Several Christian Clergy who are members of We Believe Ohio received your invitation to meet at Mt. Sinai Ministries in Cleveland on September 19. Your letter outlined your hope to explore how the resources of World Harvest Church, the Center for Moral Clarity, the World Harvest Church Ministerial Fellowship, and Reformation Ohio might be used to help area churches â€œwin Ohio for Christ.â€?
As members of We Believe Ohio, an interfaith group of religious leaders from across the state, we are concerned about your tactics of manipulating religion for political gain.
Faith should inform public policy, but our Constitution does not permit the establishment of any one religion over another. Your wish to â€œwin the state for Jesus Christâ€? may be shared by many. However, your repeated use of this kind of language in the political arena is exclusionary and crosses the line separating religious and governmental institutions, which has allowed religion to flourish in our state and nation.
We Believe the most effective way to promote and protect all Ohioans is to lift our stateâ€™s diverse faith voices in support of the common good. Our faith calls us to build a state that includes and celebrates all Ohioans, affirms their dignity and protects their rights. Our faith calls us to build an Ohio in which children and adults no longer fall into poverty and lose their health care and housing. Our faith calls us to build an Ohio in which people earn a living wage to support their families. Our faith calls us to ensure that all children receive a quality education. Our faith calls us to invest in our neglected inner cities and rural areas. Our faith calls us to bring these moral issues into the public arena.
Religion should not be used to divide and exclude, it should unite and include.
In your book Silent No More, you wrote of one of our faith traditions, â€œAmerica was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.â€? Therefore, we can only assume that when you implore us to â€œwin the state for Christâ€? you mean that the faiths and traditions of those who are not Christian in Ohio must lose, or even be destroyed. The implications of your perspective are frightening for Ohio.
As brothers and sisters in faith, we call upon you to end your divisive tactics that violate the American tradition of religious tolerance. End your campaign of manipulating religion for political gain, and end your rhetoric that separates Ohioans from one another.
Some of the We Believe clergy who you invited to Tuesdayâ€™s meeting at Mt. Sinai Ministries plan to attend. We invite you, in the reconciling spirit of the God who loves us all, to join with us in building a united Ohioâ€”an Ohio in which all of Godâ€™s people are accorded the dignity, well being and freedom that our faiths and our Constitution demand.
We Believe Ohio â€“
Northern Ohio Clergy Leadership
Imam Abbas Ahmad, First Cleveland Mosque
Rabbi Richard A. Block, The Temple-Tifereth Israel
Rev. Daniel Budd, The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Chautauqua Institution
Rev. Felix Carrion, Euclid Avenue United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Chalker, First United Methodist Church
Rev. George T. Hrbeck, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
Rev. Dr. John Lentz, Jr., Forest Hills Presbyterian Church
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, Antioch Baptist Church
Rabbi Howard H. Ruben, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple
Kuldeep Singh, Sikh Youth Federation
Rev. Georgiana Thornton, St. Paul AME Church
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Washington, D.C. â€“ As both Houses of Congress consider legislation this week on the treatment on military detainees, religious leaders are calling for the elimination of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as part of U.S. policy in a statement to be published in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. Originally published in the New York Times on June 13, 2006, the statement will run as a full page ad in Roll Call on Tuesday, September 19.
The statement, â€œTorture is a Moral Issue,â€? proclaims that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. Shepherded by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the statement is signed by 27 national religious leaders, including Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Nobel laureates President Jimmy Carter and Elie Wiesel.
Other signatories include Dr. Rick Warren pastor and author of the runaway bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life; Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Dr. Frank Thomas, pastor and editor of The African-American Pulpit; and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America.
NRCAT bridges theological and political divides by uniting mainstream Protestants and evangelical Christians; Muslims with Reform and Conservative Jews; Orthodox and Roman Catholics; Sikhs and members of peace churches.
Fifty-four national, regional and local religious organizations and congregations have already joined NRCAT. NRCAT will continue the â€œTorture is a Moral Issueâ€? campaign by encouraging people of faith across the country to endorse the statement by visiting www.nrcat.org.
Jeanne E. Herrick Stare, the chair of the Coordinating Committee of NRCAT and a member of the staff of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, stated that NRCAT is publishing this ad in Roll Call because â€œCongress is now considering legislation that would no longer make it a war crime to inflict brutal, inhuman and degrading treatment on a prisoner. The legislation would allow coerced testimony to be used in trials of detainees. It would strip detainees of the right to challenge their detention before independent courts, meaning individuals could languish in prison without trial indefinitely.â€?
Ms. Herrick-Stare added, â€œIt would enable detainees to be convicted of capital crimes without seeing the evidence used against them. And, the legislation would exonerate, retroactively, any U.S. official who participated in torture since our invasion of Afghanistan.â€?
Dr. George Hunsinger, the founder of NRCAT and a professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary said, â€œNRCAT urges Congress to stand by the Geneva Conventions and the moral grounding with which our country has governed itself for well over 200 years.â€?
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(Columbus, Ohio) â€“ Gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell has failed to respond to repeated open invitations to meet with We Believe clergy â€“ despite publicly stating three weeks ago through a spokesperson that he would.
On Thursday, August 17, We Believe met with gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland. As reported in the Columbus Dispatch on Friday, August 18, We Believe had sought to meet also with candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell. That request had been turned down by Blackwell prior to the August 17 meeting. In the Dispatch article, Carlo LoParo, a spokesperson for Blackwell, said â€œBlackwell still would be interested in meeting with the group as his schedule permits, even after the group issued the press release criticizing him.â€?
We Believe contacted the Blackwell campaign again the following week. But despite LoParoâ€™s statement, our invitation â€“ delivered via fax, certified mail, and voicemail â€“ has been ignored.
We Believe is an organization representing more than 150 clergy in central Ohio who serve a diverse constituency of moderate, liberal and conservative Ohioans across a broad religious spectrum.
We Believe that the governor and the state must be responsive to all its citizens.
We Believe that it is deeply troubling that a candidate who has expressed the importance of religious life so often and so persuasively as Mr. Blackwell is not interested in hearing from and speaking to those who represent streams of faith outside his own.
We Believe continues to be ready to meet with Mr. Blackwell.
Here is the invitation that was issued to Mr. Blackwell on August 22:
The over 150 clergy of We Believe Ohio again cordially invite you to a private meeting. After you declined our open invitation to meet at any time, we read with interest in the Columbus Dispatch last week that, according to your spokesperson, Carlo LoParo, you are interested in meeting with us.
This is an open request for a meeting and we sincerely hope to work with you to find a time that works for all of us.
This meeting would have the same format as the one we held with Representative Strickland: The pastors of We Believe Ohio would share with you issues and ideas we consider important for Ohioâ€™s future. In turn, we would welcome your responses to those issues and ideas based on your vision for Ohio if elected Governor.
This meeting would not be publicized or open to the public. We are hopeful that this will be a time for you to share with and listen to the pastors of â€œWe Believe Ohioâ€? and the thousands of citizens in the congregations they represent.
The Pastors of We Believe Ohio
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(Columbus, Ohio) — We Believe Ohio applauds the Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage successful campaign to place an initiative on the November ballot to increase the state minimum wage to $6.85. The statewide signature petition garnered over 363,000 valid signatures, reflecting a groundswell of support to raise Ohio workers’ wages above the immoral federal level at which it has languished for almost a decade.
As newspapers across the state reported last week, poverty levels in Ohio have increased dramatically in the last year. These reports are a stark reminder of the economic injustice of Ohio’s miserable minimum wage. But this Fair Wage initiative is one step on the long road toward positively affecting the working poor by lifting many low-wage workers out of poverty.
Clearly, there is tremendous energy in Ohio behind establishing a minimum wage to help restore its purchasing power, not just for goods and services, but for the self-esteem and self worth it affords the worker. The true testament to honoring the social and economic achievements of Ohio workers and the contributions each has to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our state, will be the passage of the initiative on November 7.
We Believe, and other members of the faith community, are lifting up our voices to seek justice for all of God’s precious children, especially those who have to struggle daily to meet their basic needs in this, the wealthiest nation on Earth. From the outset, We Believe has committed to supporting this important ballot initiative. We Believe contributed to the signature gathering campaign and participated in a number of events promoting the Fair Wage campaign. We Believe will continue to spur public engagement and voter outreach around the initiative, including holding a Get-Out-The-Vote rally in early October and a voter turnout rally on October 22.
We believe our faith compels us to work for justice, and the fact that the current minimum wage worker makes about $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three is a grave injustice.
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