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Clergy Commend Sen. Landrieu’s Vote to Reduce Gun Violence

June 28, 2013, 7:15 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

Centrist Senators who voted against improving background checks on gun purchases have received a strong backlash for caving in to the demands of gun industry lobbyists. Rightfully so — voting against the Manchin-Toomey bill was an act of cowardice.

On the other side of the coin, faith leaders are commending Senators who bucked political pressure from the NRA and did the right thing. In an ad that will air on Gospel radio stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge for five days beginning Saturday, June 29, prominent community leader Pastor Antoine Barriere of Household of Faith Family Worship Church International in New Orleans thanking Sen. Mary Landrieu for voting in favor of expanding background check requirements for gun purchases.

Faith in Public Life Action Fund sponsored the ad because we think it’s important for lawmakers who do the right thing to know that their leadership is appreciated and critical. Pastor Barriere is a board member of The Micah Project, which is the Greater New Orleans federation of the PICO National Network, which is the largest faith-based community organizing network in the U.S., representing over 1,000 congregations throughout the nation.

You can listen to the ad here.

For years gun industry lobbyists have completely intimidated politicians in both parties and stymied even the most modest gun violence prevention policies. Even though background check improvements haven’t become federal law yet, the NRA has lost control of the debate. With continued commitment, commonsense gun safety laws will pass in the coming months.

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Unprecedented diversity

November 21, 2012, 3:40 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

The 2012 electorate was the most diverse in American history. Asians, African Americans and Latinos all turned out in record numbers despite myriad Republican efforts to suppress minority voting.

President Obama’s electoral coalition reflected this increasing diversity, and Mitt Romney’s did not. Public Religion Research Institute released a post-election survey last week showing that 79% of Romney voters were white Christians. Another poll showed that 80% of Latino Catholics and 54% Latino evangelicals voted for President Obama. More than 9-in-10 African Americans and about three-quarters of Asians voted to re-elect the president.

Religious leaders were instrumental in increasing minority voters’ civic participation. In numerous states including Ohio and Florida, African-American churches mounted not only voter registration drives, but also “Souls to the Polls” campaigns that transported congregants to polling places during early voting periods. Republican officials tried to block these efforts, but they failed to suppress turnout. In Florida African Americans cast more than 500,000 early ballots, and in Ohio more than 200,000 African Americans voted before Election Day.

One energizing factor for Latino voters was President Obama’s decision this year to cease deportations of thousands of young-adult immigrants who were brought here as children — a change made in response to extensive pressure from diverse clergy and people of faith.

High-profile conservatives had disparaging remarks about minority voters in the wake of President Obama’s victory. Mitt Romney told a group of wealthy campaign donors that President Obama won by buying the minority vote with policies like Obamacare and “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. FOX News pundit Bill O’Reilly made similar claims.

Such rhetoric – which some GOP leaders have denounced — is not only offensive, it’s politically foolish. If the GOP wants to broaden its appeal, it needs to respect rather than insult people of diverse backgrounds. They also need to shed the worldview that categorizes healthcare reform and stopping deportations as political bribes rather than morally sound policies that promote the common good.

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Election projection

November 6, 2012, 10:03 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

We’re sending out a special post-election edition of the Washington Word tomorrow about the most important religion and politics stories in the race. Here are some of the results I’ll be watching closely tonight and writing about in the morning: 

  • Catholic voters nationwide and in key states such as Ohio, Colorado, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Between the US Catholic bishops’ strident criticism of the President, the overwhelming popularity of Nuns on the Bus, and Catholic leaders’ strong rebukes of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the Catholic vote has made headlines all year. The presidential exit polls could reveal whether voices for social justice have been more resonant than appeals to social conservatism among Catholics.
  • White evangelical voter turnout in key states. Ralph Reed’s “Faith and Freedom Coalition” voter-registration and get-out-the-vote operation has received extensive media coverage, and he claims socially conservative Christians will deliver a Romney victory. I have my doubts, but we’ll see.
  •  A state constitutional amendment in Florida, Question 3, that would hamstring the state’s ability to fund education, health care, infrastructure improvements, and critical social services. Florida faith leaders have led a massive mobilization against this dangerous legislation.
  • The changing face of social issues, most notably same-sex marriage ballot measures in Maine, Washington state, Maryland, and Minnesota. Supporters of marriage for same-sex couples have done extensive outreach and messaging to the faith community, but religious opponents have also sunk millions of dollars into these campaigns. Support for same-sex marriage has increased among every religious demographic in recent years, but opponents have won every state-level ballot question on the issue in the past. We’ll see if that changes.

Please vote today if you haven’t already!

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Mitt Romney Taps “Immoral Budget” Author Paul Ryan as Running Mate

August 12, 2012, 5:19 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

Paul Ryan

Long before Mitt Romney announced Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, faith leaders extensively rebuked his immoral federal budget plans that, among other things, slash taxes for millionaires while putting affordable healthcare out of reach for millions of children, families and seniors.

Some efforts, such as the Nuns on the Bus tour, have specifically called out the harm Rep. Ryan’s budget plan would cause. Others, such as the Circle of Protection, speak more generally about the moral imperative to protect crucial programs for poor people that Ryan would decimate.

Ryan, a Catholic, notably bristled when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said his budget plan “fails a basic moral test.” Following hard-hitting criticism of his devotion to author Ayn Rand (who denounced Christianity and exalted greed), he claimed to reject her philosophy but didn’t change his political agenda that reflects her embrace of selfishness and rejection of compassion.

Below is a rundown of blog posts FPL has done about Ryan’s budget priorities and his ill-informed religious justifications of them.

April 5, 2011: Paul Ryan’s Cowardly Budget, A reaction to Ryan’s release of his 2012 federal budget plan.

April 11, 2011: Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand: A Love Affair Against the Common Good. Noting the deep and pervasive connection between the Ryan budget and the work of Ayn Rand, who explicitly rejected the religious principles of compassion and altruism.

April 12, 2011: Senator Begich and Faith Leaders Speak Out on Moral Budgets. Summarizing a press conference in the wake of Ryan’s budget release featuring Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and faith leaders from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish backgrounds stress that the budget is a “moral document” with serious human consequences.

April 15, 2011: Paul Ryan’s Distorted Definition of Compassion. Debunking a Washington Post op-ed by Ryan claiming that his budget is compassionate toward the poor.

May 13, 2011: Rep. Ryan: Actions Speak Louder than Words on Pro-Life Values. Highlighting Christian radio ads Rep. Ryan’s home district in Wisconsin run radio ads condemning his budge as inconsistent with pro-life values.

May 19-23, 2011: A series of posts debunking Paul Ryan’s inaccurate Catholic theological defense of his budget plan, and correcting of erroneous media coverage claiming that Archbishop Timothy Dolan agree with Ryan’s argument.

May 25, 2011: 30+ Protestant Bishops: Budget is Morally Indefensible, turns Back on Vulnerable. Highlighting a rebuke of Ryan’s budget by more than two dozen Protestant bishops. That same day, 12,000 Faithful America members launched a petition asking Ryan to choose Biblical values over Ayn Rand’s ideology.

June 3, 2011: Faithful America Member Offers Paul Ryan a Bible. A video of a Faithful America member offering Rep. Ryan a Bible and asking why the congressman chose to model his budget after “the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than values of basic economic justice in the Bible.”

July 13, 2011: Paul Ryan Still Trying to Baptize his Immoral Budget. Noting and responding to a column by Ryan in the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor in which Ryan sought to portray his budget plan as consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.

July 14, 2011: Paul Ryan Still Trying to Baptize his Immoral Budget, Ctd. Highlighting a column in Our Sunday Visitory by Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, responding to Ryan’s column in Our Sunday Visitor.

October 28, 2011: Why Pope Benedict Disagrees with Paul Ryan on Income Inequality, Economic Principles. Video of Ryan evading questions about whether Pope Benedict is promoting class warfare by suggesting that the “wealth creation of the market should be balanced by…redistribution,” and accompanying analysis debunking Ryan’s arguments about income inequality.

November 23, 2011: Rep. Ryan Tries His Hand at Occupy Wall Street. A roundup of hard-hitting refutations to Ryan’s misleading arguments about the causes of economic inequality.

March 21, 2012: Paul Ryan blows off Catholic bishops. How will they respond? After Ryan introduces the second version of his budget plan, asking how Catholic bishops will respond to his complete disregard of the concerns they raised in a recent letter to Congress.

March 27, 2012: An Immoral Budget That Shuns Social Justice. Flagging an op-ed by FPL’s John Gehring and Marquette University Professor Bryan Massingale commenting on Ryan’s budget plan in light of the Catholic bishops’ critique.

April 10, 2012: Rick Warren, Paul Ryan and budget priorities. Debunking rhetoric claiming that Ryan’s budget cuts are helpful to low-income people.

April 13, 2012: Catholic Leaders to Rep. Paul Ryan: Stop Distorting Church Teaching to Justify Immoral Budget. Breaking the story of 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns, and national Catholic social justice leaders releasing a letter calling Rep. Ryan’s budget a “betrayal” of “Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good.”

April 17, 2012: Catholic Bishops Rebuke Ryan Budget. Highlighting a letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calling out the Ryan budget for “making harmful cuts that flout church teaching about protecting poor and vulnerable people.”

April 18, 2012: Immorality of Ryan’s Budget Called out by House Catholics. Pointing out that House Catholics such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) echo the USCCB’s critique.

April 19, 2012: Paul Ryan Dismisses USCCB Criticism: “These are not all the Catholic bishops.” Showing Ryan’s dismissive response on FOX News to the Catholic bishops’ criticism of his budget.

April 24, 2012: Georgetown Professors to Ryan: Stop Distorting Catholic Teaching on Budget. Revealing a letter from 90 Georgetown faculty to Ryan concerning his misuse of Catholic social teaching to defend his immoral budget plan. Released shortly before Ryan gave a lecture at the university.

April 30, 2012: Paul Ryan’s not-so-fact-based conversation. A fact-check detailing the numerous inaccuracies in Ryan’s response to Catholic leaders who rebuked his theological argument in favor of his budget plan.

June 7-20, 2012: A series of posts covering the successful Nuns on the Bus tour, which, traveled 2700 miles through nine states to protest the Ryan’s budgets cuts to programs for poor and working families.

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Santorum Endorser Attacks Romney’s Faith

February 28, 2012, 10:08 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

Rick SantorumIt’s unfortunate that some clergy think it’s appropriate to attack political leaders’ religious beliefs. Last week it was Franklin Graham insinuating that President Obama might be a fake Christian secretly in league with the Muslim Brotherhood. Yesterday, a Michigan pastor who introduced Rick Santorum at a campaign rally arguing that Mitt Romney is not a Christian.

CNN’s Belief Blog has the scoop:

Clark predicted that Romney’s Mormon faith will be a factor for Republicans in Tuesday’s Michigan primary, particularly in the western part of the state where evangelical Christians are expected to make up a larger share of the GOP vote.

Asked if he believes Romney is a Christian, Clark answered: “No.”

When reporters at the event asked if the former Senator shared the pastor’s view, a Santorum campaign spokesperson said no. That isn’t good enough. If Santorum has as much integrity as he wants us to believe he has, he’ll denounce this pastor’s rhetoric and apologize to Romney. Anything less is complicity in an attack on Romney’s faith.

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