Faith leaders condemn far right Values summit

WASHINGTON – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders, in a hastily called press conference, spoke out today against the Ryan budget just as the GOP vice presidential candidate wrapped up his speech to the extreme right  Values Voters Summit here.

Ryan repeated his contention today that the budget he has proposed, which kills Medicare and Medicaid and guts services for the poor, is a reflection of the values he learned from his Catholic education.

Sister Simone Campbell SSS, the Catholic nun who became famous as the leader of the Nuns on the Bus Tour of nine states last June said the Ryan budget rejects the teaching of all the great religions of the world and that it does “nothing” to tackle the causes of the federal budget deficit it purports to close.

Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, declared, “None of the programs for the poor that Ryan proposes to destroy are the cause of the budget deficit. The deficit is the result of two wars and military spending that the Bush administration not only did not pay for but made worse with tax cuts for the wealthiest. People of faith understand that taxes are a necessity and that those who are the best off must pay their fair share.”

She said that cutting food stamps, for example, adds to the 46.1 million already officially living in poverty. “It’s even more disgraceful and disconcerting,” she added, “when we recognize that half the people in poverty are working people on the job who earn the minimum wage and that any minimum wage below $12.50 per hour is not a wage people can possibly live one.”

Taking issue even with what the right wing summit defined as a “value voter,” Sandy Sorensen, director of the Washington office of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness ministries, said, “a values voter is a voter who places the needs of the poor at the forefront and a federal budget is a reflection of faith values to the extent that it does that.”

Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc, which is part of the Jewish Partnership for Justice, said Ryan’s speech at the Values Summit this morning was “antithetical to American Jewish values.”

“Our values, as expressed in the Book of Micah are ‘Do justice, have mercy and show love,'” he said “The Ryan budget does no justice, it puts the burden on the poor and rewards the wealth. It shows no mercy by slashing the supports people need to live and it shows no love by arrogantly disregarding the values of all religions.”

He said the first bill passed into law during the Obama administration, the Lily Ledbetter Act which calls for equal pay for women, was “much more reflective of Jewish values.”

The current controversy regarding Mitt Romney’s reaction to the crisis in the Middle East spilled over into the press conference with a variety of questions on the topic for the faith leaders assembled.

“This is the lowest point in the campaign,” the Jewish leader said of Romney’s attacks on Obama at the height of the crisis. “He is trying to use as political chips something that is not a political chip. We are talking about human lives.  Instead of stirring up the pot Romney should be elevating the countless examples we have every day of Christians, Moslems and Jews working together. I know Muslim women working in Catholic social justice programs in New York. Why not point to these good things,” he said.

Sister Simone was asked about Romney campaign efforts to win favor with Catholics by focusing on the abortion issue.

“People of faith cannot ecxercise their faith by being single-issue voters,” she said. “Jesus said we must care for those at the margins and to do this in today’s world we have to navigate a complex series of issues. It is impossible to be pro-life in the complete sense and  at the same time support the Ryan budget.”

Photo: Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, speaks during a stop, June 18, in Ames, Iowa. The group of Roman Catholic nuns say their fight is with a Republican proposed federal budget they say hurts the poor and needy. Charlie Neibergall/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.