Presiding Bishop, 32 other faith leaders denounce brinksmanship

UPDATE: Episcopal Public Policy Network urges Congress to stop playing politics. Sign their letter.


Thirty-three faith leaders (including the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori) have denounced the antics of the Republicans in Congress who are about cut off pay for government workers, cripple the U.S. and damage the economy. Bread for the World website has their letter:

Washington, DC, September 30, 2013

On the eve of a possible shutdown of the U.S. government, religious leaders denounced the political brinkmanship prevailing in Congress today.

“Shutting down the government will do real damage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking at a press conference today. “Risking our nation’s creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy.”

Unless our nation’s leaders come to an agreement on appropriations for the coming months, the U.S. government will close on Oct. 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year. If no agreement is reached by Oct. 17 on increasing the debt limit, the country’s creditworthiness will be compromised.

In a letter released today, 33 faith leaders urged members of Congress to keep the government open. The letter states:

“Our democracy rests on principles of reason, compromise, and a commitment to the common good. To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation’s near term financial being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.”

The entire letter is below:

September 27, 2013

Dear Senator/Representative:

As leaders of faith communities and organizations comprising millions of people from all walks of life across our nation, we are deeply concerned by the completely avoidable budget and financial crises we are fast approaching as a nation.

Though Congress must pass the federal budget, it belongs to every American. This common fund formed of our combined tax revenues is designed to support the shared infrastructure, well-being, and long-term ethical values of our society. As people of faith we find it morally irresponsible to blockade the process by which we provide for our nation’s shared needs in a bid to force any individual legislative priority.

It would likewise be reckless to propel the United States into financial default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling for spending that Congress has already approved. Shuttering the federal government or defaulting on the nation’s financial commitments is likely to reverse our fragile economic recovery, punish the middle class, and deeply harm our most vulnerable neighbors.

Our democracy rests on principles of reason, compromise, and a commitment to the common good. To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation’s near-term financial well-being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united in community.

We ask that lawmakers address their concerns through the proper legislative channels. It ill serves our nation and people to stand in the way of funding federal operations or raising the debt ceiling in an effort to block implementation of health care legislation that Congress duly enacted. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.

We commit to keeping you in prayer, asking that God continue to give you wisdom as you faithfully serve our nation during this time when the country most needs your principled leadership.

Sincerely,

Ruth Messinger

President

American Jewish World Service

Dr. Lester A. Myers President

Center of Concern

Rev. John L. McCullough President and CEO Church World Service

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Rev. David Beckmann President

Bread for the World

Dr. Sharon Watkins

General Minister and President Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Dr. Jack Sullivan

President

Disciples Justice Action Network

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson

Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. Linda Hanna Walling Executive Director

Faithful Reform in Health Care

Diane Randall

Executive Secretary

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. Sayyid Syeed

National Director

Islamic Society of North America

Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ

Executive Director

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Salam Al-Marayati

President

Muslim Public Affairs Council

Jack Payden-Travers

Director

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund

Nancy Kaufman

Chief Executive Officer

National Council of Jewish Women

Sr. Patricia Chappell Executive Director Pax Christi USA

Rev. Kip B. Banks

Interim General Secretary

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM

President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Rev. Peter Morales

President

Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President and

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo

Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries United Church of Christ

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF President

Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy President

Interfaith Alliance

Rabbi Steve Gutow

President

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Fr. Tim Mulroy, SSC

U S. Regional Director

Missionary Society of St. Columban

Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS

National Coordinator

National Advocacy Center of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

Peg Birk

Transitional General Secretary National Council of Churches

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Rev. Gradye Parsons

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Rabbi David Saperstein

Director

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rev. Jim Wallis President Sojourners

Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz

President

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Bishop Peter D. Weaver

Executive Secretary, The Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church

Shan Cretin

General Secretary

American Friends Service Committee

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13 Comments
  1. “Republicans in Congress…are about cut off pay for government workers, cripple the U.S. and damage the economy?” FYI, both the Senate and the Presidency are currently controlled by Democrats.

  2. Fr. Will McQueen

    Oh, so I see that blame can only go in one direction here. I guess Harry Reid had nothing to do with this at all. He didn’t give an inch, and yet he hollered about compromise that only meant agreement with him.

  3. Fr. Will McQueen

    It would likewise be reckless to propel the United States into financial default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling for spending that Congress has already approved.

    Umm, no. It’s quite responsible to refuse to raise the debt limit because Congress is authorizing spending WITHOUT THE MONEY TO PAY FOR IT! This congress has a severe spending problem and most is on programs that should be relegated to the state and local level and NOT and at a federal level.

  4. Joe Monk

    Democrats who are currently holding the country hostage for a law that the country doesnt want…

  5. Jim Naughton

    The Affordable Care Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives, went into effect today, as did the government shutdown that one faction of the Republican party engineered to punish the country for a variety of perceived sins against their conservative ideology. There’s no “both sides share the blame” angle here. It’s just that the Senate and the White House aren’t giving the Tea Party caucus a do-over on the ACA. And, honestly, anybody who thinks that the shutdown has anything to do with spending is clueless. Even the people who engineered it aren’t making that argument.

  6. Normhutch

    Joe, it is the Republicans who are holding the country hostage not the Democrats. You state that, “Democrats who are currently holding the country hostage for a law that the country doesnt want…” I assume that you are referring to the Affordable Care Act. Recent polls, including one by CNN, indicate that a majority of the people in the US support the ACA. Additionally, we recently had a election that returned President Obama to office. A substantial part of the election was debate about the ACA and returning the President is an affirmation by the voting public for the ACA. The ACA is the law; it will go forward; it has been found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court. The current attempt to derail the ACA by not funding the government is a childish attempt by the far right wing of the Republican Party (Tea Party) to either get their way, regardless of what the majority wants, or they will take their ball and go home. The Democratic majority in the Senate has (several times) submitted a bill that would simply fund the government with no extraneous attachments. It is time that the Republicans supported that so that the country and the Congress can move on to considering other important legislation.

    Norman Hutchinson

  7. Cynthia Katsarelis

    It’s definitely the Republicans. The ACA was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. The Tea Party Republicans are trying to use extortion to subvert the democratic process. The ACA is starting to help people already. As a matter of faith, compassion, mercy, and the love of God requires that we care for our fellow humans and covering more people at lower prices is a matter of faith. Is ACA perfect? No. Is it a major improvement over the insurance companies bean counters/death panels? Definitely.

    I don’t see how the GOP reconciles this charade with the Gospel of Jesus or the Baptismal Covenant. I’m glad they aren’t trying, this time.

  8. tgflux

    Oh dear. I saw that there were already 7 comments on a “Sky Is Blue”-type thread, and figured, well, what happened here.

    Anyone remember those halcyon days before FOX News? Sen DP Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Now, FOX gives its viewers their own “facts”, and behold, the first four comments here…

    JC Fisher

  9. Michael Russell

    Republicans have voted 41+ times to repeal the entire act. Why would anyone in their right mind believe they were actually interested in negotiating any part of it now? Their stated intention is to repeal the law. The President is right to refuse to discuss this as a topic.

    Not having been able to do that in the normal legislative process they now hold the Senate, White House and country hostage to a position for which they do not have enough votes.

    Let’s also remember that they have only a 17 person majority in the House. If 17 votes changes so does their sole hold on power. The people spoke in 2012 on the ACA in re-electing the President and no “fiction” about “Romney was just a bad candidate” is enough to make them the spokespersons for what All Americans want.

    What is most amazing is that were this bill as bad as they say, then the proof of the pudding would be in the eating. Letting it come to full implementation and fail would be their best of all possible worlds. Letting it be implemented cannot possibly have worse consequences than shutting down the government and threatening to default on the debt. So what are they afraid of?

    They are afraid that the ACA will become as popular as Medicare. I don’t notice any of the seniors in the Tea Party renouncing Medicare, even though at the time of its inception the Republicans fought it too.

    And how can the ACA fail to be popular. It prevents insurers from dropping people or refusing to cover them with pre-existing conditions. It eliminates the life time cap on illnesses. It allows everyone who cannot now get it (50 million) to get insured. Who could not like that?

    They object to people being required to participate, but frankly, under the old system I was required to pay for the non-participants through the highest cost least effective form of medical care: Emergency Room treatment that could have been done in other settings if people had insurance.

    Why am I, though my insurance premiums forced to pay for the “dead beats”? ((I say this to make a point not to excoriate people unable to get insurance)) What has happened to Republicans that they would effuse over a system that shifted the costs of uninsured care to all of us in the most expensive way?

    No this is about skunking the President, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with past Republican principles, it is about denying the President any win and especially one this big.

    Of course any system this big will require fine tuning. Social Security, Medicare and others all did. And of course it could all be handled at the State level, but it wasn’t, was it.

    Nope we are held hostage by a majority of really only 17 of 435 and the question has to be asked why those 17 or so with sense among the GOP do not force, with the Dems a clean resolution and a debt ceiling increase.

  10. Paul Woodrum

    Aren’t politicians elected to play politics, to set the policies by which the body politic is governed? ‘Tis a noble calling however ignobly today’s Republicans may be practicing it.

  11. John B. Chilton

    I notice that the letter from the faith leaders does not place the blame on either party.

    And, JC Fisher, thanks for the link. I was struck by the EPPN link you sent because it asks for endorsement of a letter to Congress that says, among other things, “Other policy conversations, such as the question of the implementation and funding of the Affordable Care Act, must not derail the principal responsibility of lawmakers to pass a budget. Instead, please concentrate your energy and time on the immediate task of passing a continuing resolution so that vulnerable persons, the economy, and every U.S. citizen are not forced to shoulder the enormous costs of further delays.” Read into what you will, but it doesn’t explicitly say pass a clean Continuing Resolution that doesn’t delay or defund the ACA.

    As to who is to blame for the impasse, I blame the House Republicans. Yet there are two level-headed items today that point out that shutdowns are due to the separation of powers that we treat as sacrosanct, the House Republicans are playing by the rule book:

    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-constitutional-roots-of-america-s-fiscal-crisis-by-peter-singer

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/02/the-shutdown-is-the-constitutions-fault/

  12. barbara snyder

    Thanks for those links, John Chilton – very interesting….

Comments are closed.