Faith Leaders Challenge Pro-Life Representatives to end Shutdown

October 3, 2013, 11:15 am | Posted by

Reckless Congress Members rebuked for harming pregnant women, infants, seniors

(Updated October 9, 2013)

Washington, DC –  More than 100 Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders issued a statement sharply rebuking irresponsible elected officials for pursuing an “extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” by shutting down the federal government.

Signed by prominent pro-life Catholic and evangelical clergy and scholars, as well as progressive Christian leaders, the statement highlights the fact that federal funding for Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – which provides low-income pregnant women and infants with vital nutrition and health care support — will be cut off as a result of the shutdown.

“We especially challenge those Members of Congress who call themselves pro-life to cease their political posturing on Capitol Hill,” the leaders said. “There is nothing ‘pro-life’ or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference.”

Signatories include two former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican from Republican and Democratic administrations; Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK; Rev. Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners; the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; and Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Agency.

More than 28,000 members of Faithful America — a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice — have also signed the statement.

“It’s time for extreme factions in Congress to stop this reckless behavior, grow up and demonstrate real leadership,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby. “There is no justification for playing politics in Washington when struggling families, pregnant women and seniors are getting hurt.”

“This shutdown will cause unnecessary pain to families already struggling to make ends meet,” said Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association. “Congress has a moral responsibility to act now and do what’s right for the country.”

“The low-income families and hardworking people across Ohio who will suffer because of this shutdown deserve better,” said Rev. Tim Ahrens, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio. “We all do. It’s time for the tiny political faction that caused this crisis to stop playing games and get back to work.”


The complete statement and list of signatories is below.

As Christians and citizens, we are appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families.

We especially challenge those Members of Congress who call themselves pro-life to cease their political posturing on Capitol Hill. Shutting down the government in a futile effort to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act will hurt low-income pregnant women and infants who receive vital nutrition support. The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will receive no additional funds during the shutdown.

There is nothing “pro-life” or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference.

The shutdown hurts all Americans, including seniors who will see “Meals on Wheels” cut, preschoolers who will be turned away from Head Start, and public servants who will be locked out of their workplaces without pay as bills pile up. This failure of political leadership and responsible governance exposes our nation’s misplaced values.

Struggling families, seniors and pregnant women don’t deserve to be victims of a manufactured crisis in Washington.

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

Jim Wallis

Rev. Larry Snyder
Catholic Charities USA

Noel Castellanos
Chief Executive Officer
Christian Community Development Agency

Rev. Jennifer Butler
Faith in Public Life

Timothy Collins
Executive Director (retired)
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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

Rev. Richard Cizik
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

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

Miguel Diaz
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)
University Professor of Faith and Culture
University of Dayton

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale
Ray of Hope Christian Church
Decatur, Georgia

Stephen Schneck
Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies

J. George Reed
Executive Director
North Carolina Council of Churches

Brian McLaren
Christian author and activist

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Leadership Team

Rev. Michael Livingston
Past President
National Council of Churches

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

Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International

Rev. Troy Jackson
Ohio Prophetic Voices
Cincinnati, Ohio

Rev. Tim Ahrens
Senior Minister
First Congregational Church
Columbus, Ohio

Rev. Dr. Kendrick Curry
Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church
Washington, DC

Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, Sr.
New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church
Chicago, Illinois

Kit Danley
Founder and President
Neighborhood Ministries
Phoenix, Arizona

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

Dominican Sisters of Houston
Houston, Texas

Rev. Dr. John Brisco
Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church
Norfolk, Virginia

S. Maxine Johnson
New Destiny Bible Fellowship
Camp Springs, Maryland

Sr. Rose Marie Tresp
Director of Justice
Sisters of Mercy South Central
Belmont, North Carolina

Sister Rosemary Welsh, RSM, RN
Executive Director
Casa de Misericordia/Domestic Violence Shelter
Laredo, Texas

Terry Lynch
Executive Director
The Downtown Cluster of Congregations
Washington, DC

Bishop Michael Kelsey
New Samaritan Baptist Church
Washington, DC

Minister Mack Baugh
Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church
Washington, DC

Debra James
Senior Pastor
Zion Hill Baptist Church
Washington, DC

Pastor Bruce Jones
First Baptist Church
Louisa, Virginia

Dr. James C. Perkins
Greater Christ Baptist Church
Detroit, Michigan

Fr. Rafael Garcia, S.J.
Immaculate Conception Church
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Marva Riley
Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church
Washington, DC

Pastor Calvin A. Durham
New Hope Church of God in Christ
Norfolk, Virginia

Pastor Orlando Bego
CenterPoing Baptist Church
Camp Springs, Maryland

Rev. William L. Coop, H.R.
MidCoast Presbyterian Church
Topsham, Maine

Rev. Sandy Huber
Discipleship Minister
Powell United Methodist Church
Lewis Center, Ohio

Rev. Mark Greiner
Takoma Park Presbyterian Church
Takoma Park, Maryland

Fr. Daniel McLaughlin, M.M.
Arlington, Massachusetts

Christine Thompson, M.Div.
Zion Personal Esentials Pantry
Monona, Wisconsin

Rev. Emily Bowen
Brightwood Christian Church
Springfield, Missouri

Pastor Susan Stonestreet
United Christian Church
Lincolnville, Maine

Pastor Bob Hake
Orangewood Church of the Nazarene
Phoenix, Arizona

Adam Estle
Social Justice and Missions Pastor
Orangewood Chuch of the Nazarene
Phoenix, Arizona

Rev. Sean Carroll, S.J.
Executive Director
Kino Border Initiative
Nogales, Arizona

Bishop Lanier Twyman
St. Stephen Baptist Church
Temple Hills, Maryland

Rev. Anne S. Howard
Executive Director
The Beatitudes Society

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

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

Rev. James F. Keenan, S.J.
Founders Professor in Theology
Boston College

David O’Brien
Professor Emeritus
College of the Holy Cross

M. Shawn Copeland
Professor of Systematic Theology
Boston College

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

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology
Xavier University

Alex Mikulich
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University, New Orleans

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

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

Lisa Fullam
Associate Professor of Moral Theology
Jesuit School of Theology
Santa Clara University

Rev. Tom Reese, S.J.
Senior Analyst
National Catholic Reporter

Tobias Winright
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Saint Louis University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus
Duquesne University School of Law

William J. Collinge
Knott Professor of Theology
Mount St. Mary’s University
Emmitsburg, MD

Susan H. Collinge
Catholic Campus Minister
Gettysburg College

Rev. T. Michael McNulty, S.J.
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy
Marquette University, Jesuit Residence

Vincent J. Miller
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
University of Dayton

Dennis Doyle
Professor of Religious Studies
University of Dayton

John Inglis
Department of Religious Studies
University of Dayton

Una M. Cadegan
Department of History
University of Dayton

Marian K. Diaz
Lecturer, University of Dayton

Sr. Paulette Skiba, BVM
Professor of Religious Studies
Clarke University

Nancy Dallavalle
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University Facilitator for Mission and Identity
Fairfield University

Sr. Nancy Sylvester, IHM,
Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Eleonore Stump
Professor of Philosophy
St. Louis University

Eugene McCarraher
Associate Professor of Humanities
Villanova University

Bradford E. Hinze
Professor of Theology
Fordham University

Mary E. Hines
Professor of Theology
Emmanuel College
Boston, Massachusetts

Danielle Poe
Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Dayton

Elena G. Procario-Foley
Chair, Religious Studies Department
Driscoll Professor of Jewish-Catholic Studies
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Iona College

Sandra Yokum
Associate Professor
Religious Studies
University of Dayton

Mary Ann Hinsdale
Associate Professor of Theology
Boston College

Mark J. Allman
Professor of Religious & Theological Studies
Merrimack College

Marian K. Diaz
University of Dayton

Susan A. Ross
Professor of Theology and department chair
Loyola University, Chicago

John Sniegocki
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Xavier University

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

Michael E. Lee
Associate Professor of Theology
Fordham University

Anthony J. Godzieba
Professor of Theology & Religious Studies
Villanova University

Meghan J. Clark
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
St. John’s University, New York

Doug Pagitt
Solomon’s Porch
CANA Initiative
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Valerie H. Phillips
Associate Pastor
Steele Creek Presbyterian Church
Charlotte, North Carolina

Ralph W. Milligan
Pastoral Psychotherapist in Residence
St. John’s Episcopal Church,
Charlotte, North Carolina

Rev. T.J. Thompson
Cook’s Memorial Presbyterian Church
Charlotte, North Carolina

William P. Wood
Presbyterian Minister (Retired)
Charlotte, North Carolina

Rev. Everdith Landrau
Associate Pastor
Caldwell Presbyterian
Presbytery of Charlotte, North Carolina

Jonathan Dula
Trustee, Dulatown Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbytery of Western North Carolina

M. Elaine Rhodes
Presbyterian Minister (retired)
Presbytery of Charlotte, North Carolina

Rev. Dr. Bill Lindeman
Philadelphia Presbyterian Church (USA)
Mint Hill, North Carolina

Rev. Amantha L. Barbee
Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church (USA)
Charlotte, North Carolina

Betty Meadows
Transitional General Presbyter
Presbytery of Charlotte, North Carolina

Rev. Dr. James A. Thomas, Sr.
South End Presbyterian Church
Charlotte, North Carolina

Rev. Robyn M. Bles
Minister of Growth
Crestwood Christian Church
Lexington, Kentucky

Rev. Dr. Priscilla B. Durkin
Correctional Chaplain II
Southern Correctional Institution
Troy, North Carolina

Neil M. McMillan
Retired Minister
Presbytery of Charlotte, North Carolina

Shantha Alonso
Field Organizer
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Rev. Kim Capps
Silver Spring, Maryland

add a comment »

Obama Administration Offers Religious Employers Broader Exemption on Contraception Coverage

February 1, 2013, 2:09 pm | Posted by

The announcement today from the Obama administration that it is granting a more robust accommodation for religious institutions who object to providing contraception coverage is a sensible move. The values of protecting women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers should not be in conflict.

The provision that nearly all employers must provide contraceptive services under the federal health care reform law has sparked a long, messy fight between the Obama administration, Catholic bishops and some conservative evangelicals. This fight is far from over. A dozen separate legal challenges to the administration’s mandate are now winding through the courts. Because judges have reached different conclusions, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely make the final call.

The most significant news from today’s announcement is that the administration’s “four-part test” of what constitutes a “religious employer” — a major sticking point for Catholic universities, charities and hospitals — has been scrapped for a simpler IRS definition. Under the original proposal, employers could be exempt from the contraception mandate only if their purpose was to inculcate religious values, they primarily employed those who shared their religious tenets, primarily served those who shared their religious beliefs and were a nonprofit under federal tax law. The first three parts of that definition were a big problem for religiously affiliated institutions like Catholic hospitals, universities and charities. For Catholics, medical institutions and charities are not tangential to a religious commitment, but central to putting faith into practice. Respected Catholic organizations like the Catholic Health Association, which supported the health care reform law and has distanced itself from the strident rhetoric of some bishops had been urging the administration to make this fix. At the same time, the administration’s proposals announced today, which are open to a 60-day public comment period, will still ensure women have access to contraception coverage without a co-pay. This is a victory for women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers.

It will take time for various religious organizations to digest the details of today’s announcement, and tensions won’t disappear overnight. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put out a brief initial statement saying bishops “welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely.”

Stay tuned.

add a comment »

Faith Leaders to GOP Governors: Don’t Reject Medicaid Funds

September 10, 2012, 4:56 pm | Posted by

People of Faith for HealthcareToday, a diverse coalition of national and state faith leaders held a press teleconference urging GOP governors to stop obstructing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion plan that will provide healthcare to millions of uninsured, low-income Americans if fully implemented.

Despite the fact that the expanded coverage will save their states billions of dollars in uncompensated care costs, nine Republican governors have indicated their intention to reject the tens of billions of dollars in federal assistance offered to their states by the law.

As FPL executive director Jennifer Butler said on the call:

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.

Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK and “Nuns on the Bus” fame added:

I call on all governors to expand Medicaid coverage in order to save thousands of lives. My strong support of Medicaid expansion comes out of my pro-life stance because it is the right and moral thing to do.

Other call speakers included Melissa Boteach, Director of Half-in-Ten; Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Executive Director of Faithful Reform in Healthcare; Rev. Rayfield Burns, Pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist, Kansas City, MO; and Elder Marco A. Grimaldo, CEO & President of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

Listen to the call here.

Supplementing the call is a letter expressing the same sentiment and signed by nearly 100 national and local faith leaders. Read that letter and see the full list of signers here.

The call and letter come in advance of the release of the United States Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage data on September 12th, which is expected  to show that millions of Americans who would be affected by this expansion are suffering for lack of access to affordable health insurance.

add a comment »

Healthcare Fight Continues

July 3, 2012, 3:35 pm | Posted by

It’s hard to describe the relief I felt when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.

The outcome of the case was literally a matter of life and death for struggling families and people discriminated against by health insurance companies. Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Breyer, tens of millions of Americans will no longer be at risk of getting cut off from the care they need. Roberts, who has a very conservative record, shocked observers of all stripes by breaking ranks with the right wing and upholding the law. Dozens of nationally prominent faith leaders expressed strong approval of the decision.

Unfortunately one of the Affordable Care Act’s most important features – the expansion of Medicaid to cover all Americans who make less than 133% of the poverty level – was weakened by Roberts’s opinion. States may now opt out of this provision easily even though federal funding covers the overwhelming majority of the expense and refusing to accept it would take healthcare coverage away from struggling families.

Some Republican governors appear eager to deprive their constituents of healthcare. Already five GOP governors – Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa – have announced that they will refuse federal funding to expand Medicaid. This could deprive up to 1.4 million people of coverage. Numerous other GOP leaders are threatening to follow suit. Taking away people’s access to quality, affordable healthcare isn’t just cynical, it’s sinful. Putting the ideological demands of the Tea Party before the well-being of families isn’t
principled, it’s cowardly.

One of the reasons Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in the first place was because clergy and faith-based community organizers lifted up the human consequences and moral issues at stake. We can make the same impact now as we did back then.

The “Nuns on the Bus: Nuns Drive for Faith, Family and Fairness” tour, which concluded with an inspirational rally and press conference in Washington yesterday, strongly rebuked Congressman Paul Ryan’s immoral federal budget priorities and presented a faithful alternative. The Sisters on the bus received overwhelming popular support and extensive media coverage during their nine-state journey as they confronted Members of Congress who voted for the Ryan plan. As governors play political games with the well-being of vulnerable families, faith leaders need to mount this kind of pressure again and again in state after state.

add a comment »

Catholic Bishop Contradicts USCCB; Wishes Health Care Law Were Repealed

July 2, 2012, 3:02 pm | Posted by

In an interview with the National Catholic Register about last week’s Supreme Court decision, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia appeared to break with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ official stance of not supporting repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

NCR: What does the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform legislation now mean in the struggle to defend religious freedom?

CHAPUT: I think it’s a disappointment on the part of many of us in the Church because we had hoped the decision would make our lawsuits unnecessary.

The USCCB, of course, released a statement yesterday explaining that while they take issue with certain parts of the law, they have “not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and [they] do not do so today.”

Expounding on his views, Chaput further demonstrated how far he is from the position of his conference:

NCR: The U.S. bishops have spoken in favor of a universal right to health care.

CHAPUT: The bishops really do believe it. Health is a basic human right; we have a right to be healthy. There’s no declaration on the part of the Church that that has to be accomplished through government intervention.

There are many ways of approaching health care, and I think it’s very important for Catholics to understand the fact that the Church, seeing health care as a basic human right, does not mean [to say] there’s a particular method of obtaining that [right that’s] better than another.

Chaput’s assertion here isn’t a remotely convincing argument against the law. Just because Church teaching doesn’t require a governmental role in healthcare doesn’t mean it rejects it. The Bishops concerns about the Affordable Care Act were about particular policies, they had no objections to the general framework of the bill.

Even for those who are opposed to the law on principle, advocating for repeal is incredibly irresponsible. A sudden reversal would put millions of people at risk of health crises and financial ruin.

Chaput’s argument sounds more like that of a Tea Party politician than a Catholic prelate. As his fellow bishops attempt to tamp down appearances of partisanship, Chaput’s comments don’t help the situation.

add a comment »