Catholic Leaders Challenge “Pro-Life” Lawmakers on Gun Violence, NRA Ties

January 23, 2013, 11:47 am | Posted by

Catholic leaders – including retired U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See from the Obama administration and the George H. W. Bush administration – are challenging pro-life Catholic lawmakers to “show greater moral leadership and political courage when it comes to confronting threats to the sanctity of life posed by easy access to military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”

“Members of Congress who take pride in their pro-life stance and appeal to family values have no excuse for inaction, and neither do any of us who share a firm commitment to these values,” the leaders write in a statement released today signed by more than 60 Catholic theologians, priests, Catholic sisters, justice advocates and retired officials from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We especially encourage our fellow Catholics in Congress, including prominent leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner, to stand up to the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists who choose to obstruct sensible reforms. Catholics who earn an “A” rating from the NRA – including Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Joe Donnelly and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp – should not put powerful special interests before the common good.”

Noting that thousands of Catholics will gather on Friday for the annual March for Life in Washington, DC to speak out against abortion, the Catholic leaders write that “our faith and our Church call us to remember, as we reflect on our most recent massacres, that the defense of human dignity extends beyond protecting life in the womb. Gun violence demeans human life and tears communities apart.”

Last week, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, complimented U.S religious leaders and the Obama administration for proposals “to limit firearms that are making society pay an unacceptable price in terms of massacres and senseless deaths.” “The initiatives announced by the American administration for limiting and controlling the spread and use of weapons are certainly a step in the right direction,” Lombardi said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently renewed their call for measures to address gun violence by echoing a 2000 statement that advocates for “measures that control the sale and use of firearms” and “sensible regulations of handguns.”  In a Jan. 18 statement reacting to President Obama’s proposals to strengthen restrictions on assault weapons and ammunition, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who chairs the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, said the bishops “hope that the steps taken by the administration will help to build a culture of life. The frequent mass shootings over the course of 2012 reflected a tragic devaluing of human life, but also pointed to the moral duty of all people to take steps to defend it.”

The full statement with signatories is below and here:

All Americans share responsibility for public safety. This requires reasonable measures to regulate the sale and use of lethal weapons. As faithful citizens  – Catholic theologians, priests, sisters and social justice advocates – we join our bishops, the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA in calling for common-sense reforms to address the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. Pro-life citizens and elected officials have a responsibility to show greater moral leadership and political courage when it comes to confronting threats to the sanctity of life posed by easy access to military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Members of Congress who take pride in their pro-life stance and appeal to family values have no excuse for inaction, and neither do any of us who share a firm commitment to these values.

We especially encourage our fellow Catholics in Congress, including prominent leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner, to stand up to the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists who choose to obstruct sensible reforms. Catholics who earn an “A” rating from the NRA – including Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Joe Donnelly and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp – should not put powerful special interests before the common good. We urge you to reflect on the wisdom in our church’s call for a “consistent ethic of life” as you consider legislation in the coming months that can provide greater protection for our families and communities.

Thousands of Catholics will gather this week for the annual “March for Life” in Washington to speak out against the tragedy of abortion. Our faith and our Church call us to remember, as we reflect on our most recent massacres, that the defense of human dignity extends beyond protecting life in the womb. Gun violence demeans human life and tears communities apart. There have been more than 70 mass shootings since the January 8, 2011, massacre in Tucson, Arizona. More than 900 people have been killed with guns since the Newtown tragedy.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently renewed their call for measures to address gun violence by echoing their 2000 statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. Bishops have called for “measures that control the sale and use of firearms” and “sensible regulations of handguns.” The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in a 1994 document, “The International Arms Trade,” urges political leaders “to impose a strict control on the sale of handguns and small arms” and states that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”

All of us need to work against the glorification of violence, remedy our inadequate mental health services and address the breakdown of family support structures. No single law or set of regulations will prevent all tragedies, but the complexity of this urgent challenge must not be an excuse for protecting the status quo when it comes to regulating the sale and use of lethal weapons.

President Obama and Members of Congress can honor the memories of those killed in Newtown, Conn., and work to prevent future tragedies by acting now.

Signed,

Miguel H. Diaz, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)

Thomas P. Melady, U.S Ambassador to the Holy See, Uganda and Burundi (retired), President Emeritus, Sacred Heart University

Francis X. Doyle, Associate General Secretary, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Retired)

Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J., Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish, San Francisco

Rev. John Langan, SJ, Professor of Philosophy and Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Rev. T. Michael McNulty, SJ, Marquette University, Jesuit Residence

Rev. Gerry Creedon, Holy Family Parish, Dale City, VA

Rev. Joseph Nangle, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, VA

Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Timothy Collins, Executive Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development (Retired)

Tom Allio, Diocesan Social Action Director, Diocese of Cleveland (Retired)

Sister Florence Deacon, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Sister Ann Scholz, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Eli S. McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM. Chair of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Directorate of the Franciscan Province of Holy Name

Rev. James E. Hug, S.J. President, Center of Concern, Washington, DC

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Sister Maria Riley, OP. Center of Concern

Nancy Dallavalle, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

John Inglis, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

David O’Brien, University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology and Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University, Bronx

Sandra Yocum, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Kristin E. Heyer, Bernard J. Hanley Professor, Religious Studies Department
Santa Clara University

Daniel Finn, Professor of Economics and Theology, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN

Todd Whitmore, Associate Professor, Theology. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

Mark J. Allman, Religious Theological Studies Department, Merrimack College

Susan Ross, Professor of Theology, University of Loyola (Chicago)

Nancy Sylvester, IHM, President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue
Detroit, MI

Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D. Assoc. Prof. of Theology, Boston College

Kevin Ahern, Vice President for North America, Pax Romana-ICMICA

Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Theology, Saint Joseph’s University

Alex Mikulich, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University New Orleans

Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Theology, Boston College

James Salt, Executive Director, Catholics United

John Sniegocki, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati

Rev. James Keenan SJ, Professor of Theology, Boston College

Rev. Drew Christiansen, SJ Editor, America Magazine (retired)

Christopher Pramuck, Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University

Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Rev. David Hollenbach, University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice, Boston College

M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Eugene McCarraher, Associate Professor of Humanities and History, Villanova University

Stephen J. Pope, Professor of Theology, Boston College

Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelly, S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Richard Gaillardetz, Professor of Theology, Boston College

Daniel Speed Thompson, Chair of Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

A.J. Godzieba, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University

Una Cadegan, Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Dayton

Joseph A. McCartin, Director, Kamanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Sister Paulette Skiba, Professor of Religious Studies, Clarke University

Stephen F. Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Kathleen Maas Weigert, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives, Loyola University, Chicago

Anthony B. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Bradford Hinze, Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, Theology Department, Fordham University (Bronx, NY)

Marian K. Diaz, University of Dayton

Joseph P. Fahey, Manhattan College, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice

Dolores Christie, Ursuline College (retired)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What They Are Saying: Faith Leaders On The Fiscal Showdown

December 12, 2012, 12:23 pm | Posted by

As negotiations move forward in the fiscal debate, prominent religious leaders across the country are reminding members of Congress and the President about their moral responsibility to end tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and protect seniors, lower-income families, and the disabled by not cutting benefits to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Below are a few of their statements and click here to view FPL’s Fiscal Showdown Messaging Memo. 

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life, and Gordon Whitman, Director, PICO National Network:

Using deficits caused by irresponsible tax cuts, unfunded wars, the financial crisis and an inefficient healthcare system as an auspice to weaken programs that ensure basic economic security and access to health care for millions of Americans is wrong. Arguing that we must slash these programs now to avoid destroying them later is a failure of leadership.

Bend the Arc Jewish Network Statement on Ending Tax Cuts:

As rabbis, we are called upon to uphold the highest values of our faith, and to teach the laws of our tradition… Raising revenue in order to support important community institutions was established in the Torah’s commandments, extolled by the prophets, and has been a hallmark of Jewish communities ever since.

United State Conference of Catholic Bishops Letter to the House of Representatives:

Members of both parties have supported effective antipoverty programs that target assistance to people living in or near poverty, including but not limited to the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and Pell Grants. These and other programs that aid people in escaping poverty through education, training, and work should be protected from cuts. These initiatives reward work and allow families to live in dignity.

Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio:

The truth is that this deficit is the result of inadequate revenue, rising military spending, and a recession that has pushed more people into poverty. Families struggling at the economic margins should not pay the price for solving a deficit they did not create. They have suffered enough. We must act in the best tradition of religious values and American compassion by seeking a solution that does not push the poor and vulnerable over the fiscal cliff!

Sister Deborah Troillett, RSM, Institute Leadership Team, Sisters of Mercy, Little Rock, Arkansas:

We don’t have a budget crisis in this country. We have a values crisis, a priorities crisis. We as religious, call on our country’s leaders to not push the most marginalized peoples off the ‘fiscal cliff,’ but rather to uphold the values that are at the heart of our national strength: compassion, fairness, and treating every life on this precious earth of ours with dignity and reverence.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:

It is simply not acceptable that deficit reduction might increase the burden on those struggling the most in our communities. It is intolerable that debt reduction should come on the backs of the poorest among us, that it increases poverty or inequality.

Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World:

President Obama’s proposal appears to protect poor people, while Speaker Boehner’s would cause a lot of hurt… But neither proposal explicitly commits to a circle of protection around programs focused on poor and hungry people.

Jesuit Conference Statement on Taxes and the Fiscal Cliff:

When faced with the choice of preserving essential services or preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, the moral choice is clear. The Jesuit Conference of the United States supports a tax system that seeks more from the economically prosperous because doing so is a fiscally sound and equitable means to balance the budget.

A Circle of Protection Holiday Letter to the President and Members of Congress:

We see effective programs that meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable and help keep others from slipping into poverty: those programs and tax credits – such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit – should be maintained. As our nation approaches a ‘fiscal showdown,’ there are difficult decisions to be made, but we believe this can be done without putting the burdens on those who can least afford it.

Kathryn Lohre, President, National Council of Churches:

In a time of difficult budget negotiations, we believe the first commitment is to those who live in poverty. Compromises should not be at the expense of the programs that support those who live with the reality of hunger and poverty. As churches, we will continue to serve those who live in poverty, but we need the leadership of elected officials.

Rev. Joiquim Barnes, Board Secretary, South Carolina Christian Action Council, and Pastor, New Hope CME Church in Lexington, South Carolina:

Our elected leaders have an awesome responsibility to put their political differences aside and make a decision as to whether or not they will remember those who are in dire need of help. This is not a time to play politics as usual with folks’ lives. We are guided by the spirit that we are to help the least of these and it is the government’s responsibility to live up to that expectation.

For more information and resources including the messaging guide, please visit: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/

 

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2012 Election Analysis

November 7, 2012, 12:04 pm | Posted by

Analysis of religious voters in last night’s elections presents a complex picture of the role of faith in politics in 2012. Below are key findings from national exit polls and exit polls in key states, followed by religious context affecting the election.

Catholic voters

President Obama won the Catholic vote by a 2-point margin,  50%-48%. This victory lags behind his 54%-45% advantage among Catholics in 2008 but precisely mirrors the president’s overall 2012 margin of victory. Mitt Romney won white Catholics by a 19-point margin, 59%-40%, an improvement on John McCain’s 52%-47% advantage in 2008. Those who attend religious services weekly or more often favored Romney by a 15-point margin, 57%-42%. Those who attend less often favored President Obama 56%-42%, nearly identical to his 57%-42% advantage among these voters in 2008. Twenty-five percent of 2012 voters were Catholics, and 27% of voters in 2008 were Catholics. Catholics have sided with the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1972.

White evangelicals

Nationwide, white evangelical voters favored Romney by a 57-point margin, 78%-21%, a 4-point improvement upon John McCain’s 74%-24% advantage in 2008. However, this change mirrors President Obama’s decreased support among white voters overall.

White evangelical voters comprised 26% of the electorate this year, an identical share to 2008 despite a massive, well-publicized effort by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition to turn out conservative evangelicals in record numbers.

Swing states

OHIO — In the most heavily contested state, President Obama improved upon his 2008 performance among white evangelicals. In 2008, white evangelicals favored John McCain by a 71%-27% margin. Last night they favored Romney by a smaller margin, 70%-29%. These results are particularly noteworthy because Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition focused heavily on Ohio. Reed did not deliver the results he predicted in the most crucial state for Republicans. Thirty-one percent of Ohio voters this year were white evangelicals, as compared with 30% in 2008. In 2008, the President lost Ohio Catholics, 52%-47%. This year, he lost them by a 54%-44% margin.

COLORADO — Colorado white evangelicals’ candidate preferences (77% for Romney, 22% for President Obama) aligned closely with white evangelicals nationwide, a small change from McCain’s 76%-23% advantage and less of a swing than the white vote overall. White evangelicals made up 25 percent of the state’s electorate in 2012, compared to 21 percent in 2008.

VIRGINIA — White evangelicals favored Mitt Romney over President Obama by a margin of 82% to 18%, compared to John McCain’ 79%-20% advantage in 2008. White evangelicals comprised a declining share of the state’s electorate, decreasing from 28% in 2008 to 23% in 2012.

Social issues

Last night three states passed ballot initiatives in favor of same-sex marriage, and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage was defeated in Minnesota. Religious crosstabs are not yet available. Support for same-sex marriage has increased among every religious demographic in recent years, but before last night opponents had won all 32 state-level ballot question on the issue. Supporters of marriage for same-sex couples conducted extensive outreach and messaging to the faith community, and religious opponents also invested heavily into these campaigns.

Ballot initiatives

In Florida and California, faith-based community organizing groups mounted victorious campaigns against anti-tax ballot initiatives. PICO National network affiliates helped advance sound fiscal policies that reject austerity and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. In Florida, voters resoundingly rejected by a 58% to 42% margin Question 3, a constitutional amendment that would have decimated public education and social services in the state. And in California by a 54% to 46% margin, voters approved Prop 30, which will raise an estimated $6 billion in revenue for schools and social services in the state through a tax increase on people earning over $250,000 and a small temporary increase in the sales tax. The clergy and congregations of PICO organizations played key roles in these fights, contacting over 1.6 million voters.

Context

With unemployment hovering near 8%, the political environment was much more challenging for President Obama than in 2008. While his share of key religious demographics declined, his overall margin of victory was also smaller. He also faced highly organized conservative religious opposition.

The battle for the Catholic vote was particularly fierce, and the slim margin of victory Obama achieved with Catholics reflect that sharp division. “A diverse coalition of social justice Catholics, especially Latinos, helped tip the scales this year,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “While bishops doubled down against same sex marriage and demonized President Obama as an enemy of religious liberty, they were clearly out of touch with many Catholics. If the GOP has some reflecting to do about its inability to reach an increasingly multicultural country, Catholic leaders could benefit from similar soul searching when it comes to their own diverse flock.”

U.S. Catholic bishops mounted a highly politicized confrontation with the Obama administration over contraception coverage and religious liberty. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a nationwide, two-week “religious freedom” campaign over the summer that made national headlines as part of their fight against the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. In Kansas, the state’s Catholic bishops sponsored a rally at the state capitol that featured Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Shortly before the election, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL, and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, issued statements implying that voting for Democrats put Catholics’ salvation at risk.

However, other Catholic leaders declined to take part in the bishops’ offensive and mobilized around economic issues. Catholic nuns responded strongly to Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s erroneous claim that his federal budget plan — which includes steep cuts to programs for the poor such as Medicaid and food stamps, as well as tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — was consistent with Catholic social teaching.

NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice group led by Sister Simone Campbell, organized “Nuns on the Bus”, a nine-state tour through Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states highlighting the work of Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve those on the economic margins and stand to be harmed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.

With tremendous grassroots support and media attention across America (and additional tours in the following months through Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, New York and Michigan), “Nuns on the Bus” successfully reaffirmed the unique contribution of women religious to America’s social fabric and refocused the public debate on the critical moral choices facing voters in November’s presidential election and beyond. These efforts highlighted the religious aspect of the economic and fiscal debates that dominated the Presidential campaigns.

On the Religious Right, Ralph Reed boasted that his Faith and Freedom Coalition would register and turn out record numbers of socially conservative Christians on election, turning the tide for Mitt Romney. While his efforts received copious media attention, evidence of results are lacking. White evangelicals’ share of the electorate was identical to 2008, and their movement toward Romney mirrored that of white voters as a whole.

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Faith Leaders Urge Governors to Stop Obstructing Medicaid Expansion

September 10, 2012, 5:36 pm | Posted by

Over 100 Faith Leaders Call on Governors to Fulfill Moral Responsibility to Protect Poor and Vulnerable

Today a diverse coalition of national and state faith leaders held a press teleconference and released a statement from over 100 faith leaders calling on governors to put the well-being of their constituents ahead of political ideology and ensure millions of Americans receive the coverage they deserve through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion plan. The full audio recording of the call is available here.

Governors across the country have announced their intentions to obstruct the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion plan, potentially leaving millions of vulnerable Americans without vital, life-saving healthcare coverage. While the expansion is designed to provide insurance to millions of hardworking Americans who are caught in a coverage gap, governors’ refusal to accept the expansion plan will leave these low-income individuals and families with nowhere to turn for their most basic healthcare needs.

“The faith community is calling on these governors to put the health of their constituents before their immoral political ideology, said Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life. “Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid will save lives and alleviate suffering for poor families without straining state budgets. It’s unconscionable that politicians would even consider refusing to accept it.”

“I call on all governors to expand Medicaid coverage in order to save thousands of lives,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby and organizer of the recent “Nuns on the Bus” tour.  “My strong support of Medicaid expansion comes out of my pro-life stance because it is the right and moral thing to do.”

“For decades our faith communities have been at the heart of promoting meaning health care reform, including the Medicaid program which gives access to those who are poor and most vulnerable in our nation,” said Linda Hanna Walling, Executive Director of Faithful Reform in Healthcare. “The Affordable Care Act is the first time our country successfully made a national legislative commitment in support of quality affordable health care for all.  By expanding Medicaid in this historic legislation, we are more completely addressing the original intent of Medicaid and fulfilling our moral imperative to assist those who are poor and sick.

“My faith tells me to be a blessing, ‘Blesseth are those that consider the poor’.  Our society, yes even our nation, will be judged on how we care for the least of them among us.” said Rev. Rayfield Burns of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist in Kansas City, Missouri, and member of PICO affiliate Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO).

“More than 400,000 Virginians stand to gain health insurance through Medicaid expansion,” said Elder Marco A. Grimaldo, CEO & President of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. “In the near term, this expansion will be almost completely paid for by the federal government, and in 2017 Virginia will chip in $1 for every $9 the federal government contributes. We spend very little on Medicaid benefits in Virginia, so if we refuse to accept the expansion thousands of Virginians will be unable to access affordable care. Ignoring their unmet needs is immoral.”

“Nine Republican Governors have indicated their intention to reject the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, placing coverage for over 5 million vulnerable people at risk. These people are our neighbors and colleagues,” said Melissa Boteach, Director of Half-in-Ten. “They are often the workers who are cleaning our offices, preparing our food, or caring for our aging parents. States have a responsibility to ensure that all of their citizens are able to access the promise of affordable health coverage. It’s time to put people above politics.”

Co-sponsored by PICO National Network, Half-in-Ten, the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress and Faith in Public Life, leaders on the call unequivocally urged governors to not put political posturing ahead of the needs of America’s most vulnerable people.

Statement and signatories available here. A full recording of today’s press call is also available here.

XXX

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Christian Leaders Denounce House GOP Effort to Slash Crucial Tax Credits for Working Poor Families

August 1, 2012, 1:18 pm | Posted by

Statement from over 60 Leaders Calls for Tax Fairness in Advance of Vote to Extend Bush-Era Tax Breaks for Wealthiest Americans

More than 60 Christian leaders and prominent theologians released a letter today calling on Congress to extend the improved Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which keep food on the table for millions of families and are among our nation’s most effective anti-poverty policies. The letter, released by faith leaders on Capitol Hill this morning, calls on Congress to put the needs of working families before ideological agendas that favor the wealthiest Americans.

In advance of the U.S. House of Representatives vote to extend the  Bush-era tax cuts, faith leaders call on Congress to recognize that the choices they make reflect the values of our nation and have serious consequences for struggling families. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have also previously denounced efforts to dismantle tax credits that keep working families out of poverty.

“The food budget is usually the first thing families cut when times get tough, but tax credits like the EITC and CTC help struggling families put food on the table and make ends meet,” said David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World and World Food Prize laureate. “It is morally unjust that lawmakers consider drastic cuts to tax credits that are vital to hungry families while wealthy people retain reduced rates for their income over $250,000 and estates as large as $10 million are exempt from taxation. We urge Congress to protect programs that help people lift themselves out of poverty, and not balance the budget on the backs of people who were not responsible for our deficit to begin with.”

“A budget is a moral document. That phrase was coined by the faith community and has become a refrain in the ongoing debates over deficits and budgets. But in this week’s House vote on extending the Bush era tax cuts, we see one more example of the priorities and principles of the broader GOP budget and how they apply to the rich and to the poor,’” said Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners. “Because of this, we must conclude that the Republican budget is an immoral document. I certainly don’t believe that all our Republican lawmakers came to Washington to hurt poor people, but it’s time for some of them to challenge the dominant forces in their party and face the consequences of such indefensible choices.”

“Congress has the ability to enact common-sense legislation that would keep an additional 1.6 million people out of poverty, and it is immoral that they would choose not to do so,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK. “We need Congress to stand up for what’s right, not protect the interests of the wealthiest two percent. As a Catholic sister, I stand with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in calling on Congress to work together and extend the improved tax credits instead of dismantling basic protections for poor and vulnerable people.”

“Everyday, I am amazed by the single mothers and hardworking couples in neighborhoods like North Lawndale in Chicago, or Oak Cliff in Dallas where I was this past week, that are struggling in these tough economic times. Let’s not make their load even heavier by eliminating the important tax credits they receive to help them to keep moving forward.” said Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association.

“As people of faith, we believe that our government should serve its entire people and not just the wealthiest few,” said Rev. Michael Harrison, president of the Ohio Baptist State Convention and chairman of the board of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, a federation of the PICO National Network. “The bottom line is that failure to extend refundable tax credits will hurt millions of families who rely on credits such as Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to meet basic needs.”

The full statement from 60 faith leaders is below and online here.

As Christian leaders, we believe that our nation’s tax policies are fundamentally about values and priorities. Our religious tradition provides a vision for responsible government that serves the common good, not simply the privileged few. This requires those who have succeeded the most to pay their fair share of taxes. It also requires our commitment to public education, quality health care, vital infrastructure investments and programs that protect poor and vulnerable people. Congress will soon vote on tax measures that will have a profound impact on working families and the poor.

 We are deeply opposed to any proposal that fails to extend the crucial improvements made in 2009 to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. These tax credits help families meet basic needs, reduce poverty, and remove barriers to work. It is hypocritical for lawmakers who talk about family values to abandon improvements in these effective, family-supporting programs. Failing to extend the improved tax credits would jeopardize the economic security and well-being of more than 15 million families and more than 36 million children within those families. This is simply unconscionable.

 We are also deeply concerned that some leaders in Washington who oppose extending these improved tax credits are at the same time calling for an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest few. Favoring the wealthiest 2% over working families is irresponsible public policy that fails a basic moral test. We are not economists or tax experts. But this debate is about more than dry statistics or competing fiscal theories. Ultimately, these choices reflect our values and reveal our priorities as a nation. We urge Members of Congress to put families and workers before ideological agendas that favor the powerful.

Mark J. Allman, Religious Theological Studies Department, Merrimack College

David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Theology, Saint Joseph’s University

Joanna Brooks, Progressive Mormon author

Bishop John R. Bryant, African Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life

Nicholas P. Cafardi, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law

Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Tony Campolo, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Noel Castellanos, Chief Executive Officer, Christian Community Development Association

Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., Editor in Chief, America Magazine

Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J., Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish, San Francisco

M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, Portland, Oregon

Nancy Dallavalle, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance for Baptists

Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International

Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Rev. Michael Harrison, President, Ohio Baptist State Convention

Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary

Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed

John Inglis, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelly, S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. Michael Livingston, Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative

Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, National Coordinator, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

Kathleen Maas Weigert, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives, Loyola University, Chicago

Rev. Steven D. Martin, Executive Director, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, PICO National Network

Gene McCarraher, Associate Professor of Humanities, Villanova University

Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Rev. Brian McLaren, Evangelical writer and speaker

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA

Alex Mikulich, Assistant Professor, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University, New Orleans

Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Washington, DC

David O’Brien, University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

William L. Portier, Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk, Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati

Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Stephen F. Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Anthony B. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

John Sniegocki, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and former President, Chicago Theological Seminary

Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology and Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University, Bronx

Bishop Edgar L. Vann, Second Ebeneezer Church, Detroit

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada

Todd Whitmore, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Barbara Williams-Skinner, Founder, Skinner Leadership Institute

Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church

Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, III, Executive Director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies

 

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