Washington, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and U.S. Senator Cory Booker joined with faith leaders today to call on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. The press conference announced the release of a letter, which will be sent to members of Congress to rally legislative support for raising the minimum wage ahead of tomorrow’s Senate vote. More than 350 clergy members signed the letter, along with more than 5,000 people of faith from across the country. During a teleconference, Perez, Booker and the faith leaders voiced their support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, citing both faith values and economic necessity.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said that faith leaders have played a key role in the minimum wage fight, and that he has seen first-hand how the current minimum wage hurts hardworking American families. “The role of faith leaders in this debate is indispensable,” Sec. Perez said. “As I continue to travel the country, the stories I hear frankly break my heart…Progress is about persistence. We’re going to be persistent. Nobody who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.”
“Being a Christian, I know what the call of my faith is, and I’m glad that faith leaders know that this is not just the economically right thing to do, but the moral thing to do,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said. “As a former mayor in a community with a disproportionate amount of poverty, I know that the boost in take-home pay a low-income family would see as a result of a minimum wage increase would be infused into the economy very quickly – giving everyone a boost. Raising the minimum wage can bring transformative change for millions of Americans, especially women and children. When you pay workers more, you see tremendous benefits.
Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, said that the current minimum wage fails to provide for the nearly 10 million people his organization serves each year. “This issue is a moral issue. The principles of Catholic social teaching give us a measure for how our policies impact our society, especially the least among us,” Rev. Snyder said. “It’s time to do something about raising the minimum wage in our country. When we can improve the lives of so many, it is the moral thing to do, and it is the right thing to do.”
“The call to raise the minimum wage is about more than income inequality. It’s a moral issue,” said Rev. Dr. James C. Perkins, Vice President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit. “Here is an opportunity to help families support themselves.”
Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, reaffirmed the commitment of faith leaders to the fight for a just minimum wage. “The faith community is united across the nation in advocating for increasing the minimum wage,” Bobo said. “All faith traditions teach us that we have to care for the least among us.”
The letter calling for an increased minimum wage that was announced during today’s teleconference will be sent to Congress ahead of tomorrow’s vote. The letter and national signers can be found here. The letter with a full list of clergy signers can be found here. The full text of the letter is included below:
Dear Member of Congress,
We represent diverse faith traditions, but we share a common conviction that the dignity of work and the security of the family are non-negotiable moral values. Driven by Scripture’s repeated admonitions against exploiting and oppressing workers, we believe that every job must enable those who work to support a family.
For the minimum wage to be moral and just, it must be a living family wage. A minimum wage that pays a full-time worker $290 a week is unjust in an economy as wealthy as ours.
Far too many of our neighbors and loved ones perform grueling and important jobs but are paid so little that they must turn to charity and government assistance to make ends meet.
After a long shift cleaning buildings, no mother should have to wait in line at a food pantry just to provide for her children. No farm worker who toils all day should lack a roof over his head at night.
History teaches us that in the absence of adequate labor laws many corporations will pay wages that are too paltry to sustain life. Legislation requiring employers to pay a living wage is indispensable to ensuring that no worker will suffer the indignity of poverty.
As faith leaders, we support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation so it won’t be eroded by the rising cost of living. We also support raising the tipped wage to at least 70% of the minimum wage.
Abundant economic research demonstrates that raising the minimum wage does not hurt small businesses or cause layoffs, but in fact stimulates the economy while lifting many out of poverty.
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.
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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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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, www.InThisTogether.org, 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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Open letter rebukes those who use religion to justify discrimination
Washington, DC – Following Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of SB 1062, which would have permitted businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, nationally prominent evangelical leaders released a statement not only condemning the bill, but also challenging fellow Christians who supported it and similar legislation in other states. Signatories include Alan Chambers, the former president of Exodus International, Ted Haggard, pastor of St. James Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rachel Held Evans, a leading millennial Evangelical. The statement said in part:
As evangelicals we are saddened to see our brothers and sisters in Christ leveraging their faith to support an Arizona law that would allow business owners to discriminate against the gay community and many others on the basis of religion. We believe that Christians should oppose this law and others like it in Kansas, Georgia and Florida.
To support such a law is to fail to walk in the footsteps of Jesus who was known for associating with and loving those who were considered outcasts by his society.
Signers of the statement also commended Gov. Brewer’s veto.
“Gov. Brewer did the right thing,” said Rev. Ted Haggard. “In public commerce religion must not be a basis upon which we deny a fellow human being our services.”
Religious leaders’ stances on this issue will also shape the future of the church. A poll released yesterday by Public Religion Research Institute showed that 55 percent of white evangelical Protestant Milliennials believe religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
Signers of the statement include clergy, theologians and thought leaders from across the spectrum, from Haggard to progressive evangelical leader Brian McLaren. The full list of signers and the full text of the statement are below and can be found here. Signers’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
As evangelicals, we are saddened to see our brothers and sisters in Christ leveraging their faith to support an Arizona law that would allow business owners to discriminate against the gay community and many others on the basis of religion. We believe that Christians should oppose this law and others like it in Kansas and Georgia.
To support such a law is to fail to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, who was known for associating with and loving those who were considered outcasts by his society. Serving people with whom we disagree is a central calling for those who follow Jesus. We believe that the current position that many Evangelical leaders are taking on issues of discrimination toward the gay community directly contradict that posture of radical love and grace that Jesus so powerfully embodied in his life and teachings.
Many Millennials are leaving the church because far too often the church has failed to live in the pattern that Jesus has called us to. Many of us are committed to following Jesus but have become increasingly disheartened by the uncompassionate postures that many of our leaders in the evangelical church continue to take on many important social issues. We are saddened by the lack of Christ-likeness displayed by our leaders and deeply desire to see our churches return to speaking and living like Jesus. We believe that the time has come for church leaders to stop allowing fear to dictate their theological and social positions, and start acting in the radical love of Jesus.
Rev. Ted Haggard
St. James Church
Former President, National Association of Evangelicals
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Former President, Exodus International
Rachel Held Evans
Author and speaker
Author and activist
Marco Island, Florida
The CANA Initiative
Founder and director
Charlotte, North Carolina
Rev. Amy Butler
Calvary Baptist Church
Rev. Lillian Daniel
First Congregational Church
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Dr. Michael Hardin
Founder and director
The Revangelical Movement
Dr. Phillip Clayton
Ingraham Professor of Theology
Claremont School of Theology
Dr. Joel Cruz
Chicago Theological Seminary
Dr. Egon Cohen
Department of Religion
Rev. Jack Haberer
The Presbyterian Outlook
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Rev. Dr Troy Jackson
Ohio Prophetic Voices
Mr. Jason Wiedel
Mr. Hye-Sung Gehring
Kingsway Christian Church
Disciples of Christ (Christian Church)
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John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, offered the following comments on Time magazine naming Pope Francis the “Person of the Year.”
Pope Francis has done more in the past nine months than any Catholic leader in 50 years to begin rescuing the Catholic Church from a Vatican culture often more fixated on privilege and power than the radical message of the Gospel. His personal humility, focus on the poor and stinging critique of economic inequality is capturing the attention of global leaders and ordinary people. Like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, this pope is calling the Church to a deep spiritual reform that asks bishops to come out of cathedrals and walk the streets with the homeless, the hungry and the lonely. At a time when 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics, Pope Francis provides a road map for U.S. bishops to regain their public voice and moral credibility by being pastors, not culture warriors.
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