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Consider Joining The Interfaith Alliance


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Friends, Please consider joining the Interfaith Alliance, both nationally and/or the Colorado (or appropriate local ) chapter. Learn more by visiting Interfaith Alliance This organization seeks to provide a progressive counter to the "religious right/Christian Coalition." (If you are clergy, you might also consider joining the related Clergy Leadership Network Clergy Leadership Network ) Conservatives aren't the only citizens who take their faith and their citizenship seriously. Note: You can join either of these organizations as individuals or as groups/organizations/congregations.

 

"ONE COLORADO MANY FAITHS" - A RALLY AT THE CO STATE CAPITOL

January 21, 2004

Remarks, As Delivered By Roger J. Limoges, Deputy Director for Public Policy

 

Good afternoon. My name is Roger Limoges, the Deputy Director for Public Policy at The Interfaith Alliance, a national, grassroots, non-partisan, faith-based organization of 150,000 members who come from over 70 different religious traditions. The Interfaith Alliance promotes the positive and healing role of religion in public life and challenges all who seek to manipulate or otherwise abuse religion for sectarian or partisan political purposes.

 

I would like to first acknowledge the good work of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and their leadership in pulling together this rally. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has a proud history of protecting and strengthening religious liberty and this is why we are here today. I would also like to recognize Arvada Peace and Justice Commission and the Peace and Justice Task Force of Jefferson Unitarian Church for their work on this event. These three groups are really modeling a best practice and spirit that I hope is replicated across the country.

Today's call to action is about people of faith and good will in Colorado coming together to empower their communities of faith and their community of neighbors through informed civic participation. Our priorities are a responsible and civil government; the protection of religious freedom for people of all faiths including those who choose not to practice; and the promise of equality and justice for all Coloradoans. This is our clarion call to action.

 

The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado is the agenda of people of faith and good will across the America. This is an agenda that reflects the public interest, rather than the special interests. While some religious voices - wrongly claiming to represent the view of all religious people - seek to enact their political agenda by emphasizing the differences between us by using scare tactics and the politics of division, we are working to unite Colorado and our nation under the banner of

 

1) We seek a Colorado where the state legislature is defined by integrity and good government. Where legislators will focus on issues truly important to the people of Colorado rather than the interests of politicians in Congress who are only seeking to cement their positions of power. We call on you today not to redistrict by personality and favor, but to create fair lines based upon common sense geography that will enable our elected officials to be effective advocates for the poor, the disenfranchised and the "least of these."

 

2) We seek a Colorado where legislators will work to protect those among us who are targets for discrimination and violence because of our race, creed, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation. At a time when hate crimes are all too prevalent, political leaders must stand with the religious community. We must make it clear that neither hate nor violence is a traditional American value; both threaten democracy and true spirituality. We must promote tolerance and understanding. We must make it unequivocally clear that hatred is not a religious value.

 

As people of faith and good will, we know that while legislation alone cannot remove hatred from the hearts and minds of individuals, hate crimes legislation can help to create

 

The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity on the subject of intolerance. Everyone in this society should enjoy the strongest possible guarantee of freedom from attacks motivated by bigotry.

 

If we aspire to be true to the prophetic core of our religions, we cannot condemn hate and then sit idly by while it destroys our communities. We believe that religion and government must work together to create a society in which diverse people are safe as well as free. We urge both parties to work together and to pass the hate crimes bill that has died in the Judiciary committee session after session.

 

3) We seek a session of the Colorado legislature where the agenda of the far-right, an agenda which includes: taking public funds away from public schools; and mandating the posting of the Ten Commandments in court houses and schools takes a back seat ideas that really matter: such as more money for our schools, smaller class sizes, better healthcare, more affordable housing, access to job training, a safety net to prevent those who need a temporary helping hand from the government from hitting rock bottom and the protection of religious liberty

 

The State Constitution is clear: In Article II, Section 4, the Colorado Constitution states: "No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination against his consent. Nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship."

 

Some in the House and Senate must be reminded that this part of Colorado's constitution is not expendable, nor is it there to promote or serve one religious belief over another. It is there to protect religion from the interference of the government: allowing religion to thrive without the hands of politics manipulating its creed and purpose.

 

And my friends, when legislators file and pass bills which favor their particular religion above others and attempt to cement their particular faith into the public doctrine of our laws and America's political process can be divisive - and never more so than when politicians use faith to advance their own partisan interests, or when they seek to marginalize religious minorities and emphasize their beliefs as the only truth. Such rhetoric is dangerous for politics and unhealthy for religion. And we are here today to promise a stepped-up campaign starting with this event, to say that the closing days of the last session of the legislature were outside the best traditions of Colorado.

 

They were outside of the values that we proclaim to uphold and the model of democracy of which we can proud. We want civility. We want democracy. We want respect for the Constitution. And we want the guarantees of religious liberty that have allowed America to be the most religiously diverse country in the world.

 

At The Interfaith Alliance, we believe religion best contributes to public life when it inspires common effort, promotes concern for the less-fortunate, and upholds the dignity of all people. Let this be the motto for this session of the Colorado legislature where important budgetary and policy decisions are made affecting not only people of faith in Colorado, but the direction and soul of our nation.

 

Thank you.

 

The Interfaith Alliance

 

1331 H Street, NW 11th Floor

Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202.639.6370 Fax: 202.639.6375

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  • 4 months later...

This document clearly shows why organizations such as Americans United and The Interfaith Alliance are so badly needed at this time!

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Americans United Blasts Back-Door Congressional Scheme To Recruit Churches Into Partisan Politics

 

Tuesday June 8, 2004

 

Proposed Change In Federal Tax Law Comes At Same Time As Bush-Cheney Campaign's Outreach To 'Friendly Congregations'

 

CONTACT

Joseph Conn, Rob Boston, or Jeremy Leaming

202-466-3234 telephone 202-466-2587 fax www.au.org

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

AMERICANS UNITED BLASTS BACK-DOOR CONGRESSIONAL SCHEME TO RECRUIT CHURCHES INTO PARTISAN POLITICS

 

Proposed Change In Federal Tax Law Comes At Same Time As Bush-Cheney Campaign's Outreach To 'Friendly Congregations'

 

Republican members of the House of Representatives are attempting to clear the way for partisan politicking by houses of worship by slipping an important change to the nation's tax laws into a job-creation bill, Americans United for Separation of Church and State revealed today.

 

Two sections of H.R. 4520, the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004," deal not with jobs but with partisan politicking by churches. The so-called "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions would essentially gut current law, which forbids churches from endorsing candidates for public office, and replace it with watered-down language giving wide latitude to such activity.

 

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.), contains provisions that would allow church leaders to "unintentionally" endorse or oppose candidates up to three times per year. It also greatly reduces the tax penalty for church electioneering.

 

"This is a blatant attempt to recruit churches into partisan politics," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Even worse, this measure tries to make sweeping changes in tax law through the back door and out of public view. I don't think it's a coincidence that this bill will help the Bush campaign's outreach to churches."

 

Lynn noted that the bill was introduced just days after it was revealed that President George W. Bush's campaign has plans to recruit "friendly congregations" into its election efforts. Americans United criticized that plan, which was widely publicized in the media.

 

The bill's 20 cosponsors are all Republicans, and the bill has apparently been put on a fast track in the House by Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Despite its controversial nature, the church-politicking provision was buried in a lengthy bill that deals mainly with economic matters.

 

The bill was slated for a floor vote the week of June 14, although the death of former President Ronald Reagan may alter that schedule.

 

"Some members of Congress apparently want to open the floodgates for partisan politicking by houses of worship in time for the November elections," Lynn charged. "Their attempt to turn churches into political machines must be blocked."

 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

See www.au.org for more info

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Here's another great organization for progressive (and really all) Christians to join in on!

 

PROPHECY VS. PROPHECY: Death-and-doom or rebuke-and-redress?

by Phil Olson

 

May 23-25 found 300 social-justice advocates gathered in the Washington Plaza Hotel in D.C. for Call to Renewal’s annual Pentecost gathering. Our theme was “A Call to Unity: Making Poverty a Religious and Election Issue.”

 

Call convener Jim Wallis set the framework for our gathering – ‘Burger King Moms’ (minimum-wage-earning single parents) aren’t on the agenda for Republicans (who focus on the upper class) nor for the Democrats (who focus on the middle class); Bill Moyers presented a powerful call to recapture the real Jesus, not the Jesus hijacked by the rich and powerful for their purposes; James Forbes stirred up souls at the National Cathedral with a charge to live out the good news.

 

Following Forbes’ sermon, nearly 50 persons - representing groups ranging from the National Association of Evangelicals to the National Council of Churches (and many groups in between) - signed their names to the Isaiah Platform, declaring that the fight to overcome poverty binds together us as Christians.

 

Since I didn’t hear it mentioned during the gathering, I think the conferees missed an irony: the cover story for NEWSWEEK, dated May 24, right smack in the middle of the Call to Renewal conference. The cover story featured prophecy experts Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, co-authors of the pop Christian series, LEFT BEHIND, which has sold more than 62 million copies thus far.

 

End-times writers thrive on the eschatological trivia (I don’t mean it’s trivial, rather that it’s not fundamental to our faith) that focuses primarily on the books of Revelation and Daniel. Both of these are great, thrilling, challenging portions of Scripture. But many end-times writers shy away from another prophet - Isaiah. Isaiah looks straight in the face of the world’s evil and crushing crises and concludes that God will work out everything through God’s Suffering Servant-Messiah.

 

Jenkins, LaHaye, and the likes communicate a message of doom and gloom. The world is going to hell – the quicker the better – and we’ll soon be out of here. While God may love the world (cf. John 3:16), one gets the distinct impression that the modern-day best-selling prophecy/preachers DON’T. And they carry many Christians with them: those who clench and shake their fists, get red in the eyes and face, and spew forth venom and vitriol.

 

Call to Renewal, on the other hand, lifts up Isaiah’s vision – or, as they put it, the Isaiah Platform. Isaiah, too, can get upset, but his energies are directed against the scandals of poverty, oppression, and injustice.

 

Whose vision is going to win? Ultimately, it’s not any particular prophet who wins; God wins. But in this presidential election year of 2004, whose prophetic vision is going to win: Daniel’s death-and-doom or Isaiah’s rebuke-and-redress? LaHaye & Jenkins, Inc. will still sell scores of books as they attempt to scare the hell out of people as preparation for the next world. But people of faith who embrace a political commitment that trusts in a God who can and will make a difference in this world now – TODAY - know that book sales can’t beat the religious values, economic justice, and moral behavior that characterize God’s kingdom-economy.

 

Left behind? Let’s leave no one behind, especially the poor that God has called blessed, our children, and all the “least of these” for whom God reserves special favor.

 

(For the text of the Isaiah Platform, go to www.calltorenewal.org/events/index.cfm/action/pentecost_event/item/pentecost_2004_platform.html. For Scriptures that support the Isaiah Platform, read chapters 1, 58, 61, and 65 of the book of Isaiah.)

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OPPOSE POLITICIZING HOUSES OF WORSHIP

Remove "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions in H.R. 4520!

 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

BACKGROUND:

 

Republican members of the House of Representatives are attempting to clear the way for partisan politicking by houses of worship by slipping an important change to the nation's tax laws into a job-creation bill. Two sections of H.R. 4520, the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004," deal not with jobs but with partisan politicking by churches. The so-called "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions would alter current law, which forbids churches from endorsing candidates for public office, and replace it with watered-down language giving wide latitude to such activity.

 

The "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions are similar to legislation introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) that was soundly defeated on the House floor during the 107th congress. Although the current version is a modification of previous legislation, its effects are equally troubling. In particular, the current provisions appear to grant churches up to three "unintentional" political endorsements per calendar year without losing their tax-exempt status, though with increasing tax penalties for each violation.

 

Rather than protecting our houses of worship, these provisions will have a deeply coercive effect on them and our country by enticing congregations and religious leaders to participate in campaigns. Churches may rely on political campaign committees, rather than the law itself, for instruction on what activities are and are not permitted.

 

Please CALL, FAX, E-MAIL your Members of Congress and urge them to OPPOSE final passage of HR 4520 unless the church politicking provisions are removed.

 

SUGGESTED PHONE MESSAGE:

 

I have read H.R. 4520, the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004," and as your constituent, I urge you to oppose final passage unless the "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions are removed. Sections 692 and 4956 have nothing to do with jobs but with partisan politicking by churches.

 

The so-called "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions would change current law, which forbids churches from endorsing candidates for public office, and replace it with watered-down language giving wide latitude to such activity.

 

I believe religious leaders have a right to speak out on important issues and current restrictions on houses of worship do not exist as an impediment to that right.

 

These provisions encourage willful ignorance of the law by houses of worship, amending the tax code to permit churches, and only churches, to engage in political campaigns while maintaining their status as tax-exempt organizations.

 

I understand this is similar to legislation introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) that was soundly defeated on the House floor during the 107th Congress. Although the current version is a modification of previous legislation, its effects are equally troubling.

 

Federal tax law serves our nation's religious community well, preventing houses of worship from being drawn into partisan politicking. It does not need "fixing."

 

Once again, I urge you to oppose the "Safe Harbor for Churches" provisions of H.R. 4520. This is an important issue and one I will be following. www.au.org

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Even the House of Reps gets things right from time to time!!

HOUSE COMMITTEE SCUTTLES PLAN TO ALLOW CHURCH ELECTIONEERING

 

Americans United Hails Removal Of 'Safe Harbor' Provisions

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has hailed yesterday's vote by a House committee to remove provisions from a tax bill that would have allowed houses of worship to intervene in partisan politics.

 

The so-called "Safe Harbor for Churches" section of the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004" (H.R. 4520) would have revised current law, which forbids churches from endorsing candidates for public office, and replaced it with watered-down language giving churches the right to intervene in electoral politics.

 

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously last night to remove the provisions after it became clear that the proposed change had no support.

 

"Far from creating a 'safe harbor,' this scheme would have set houses of worship adrift on the stormy seas of partisan politics," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "I'm glad the committee decided to torpedo it.

 

"Americans do not want to see their churches politicized," continued Lynn. "Our houses of worship are already free to speak out on public concerns, and they don't need politicians trying to turn them into cogs in a political machine."

 

The church politicking provisions would have allowed religious leaders to "unintentionally" endorse or oppose candidates up to three times per year. Under current law, a house of worship can lose its tax-exempt status for intervening in partisan politics.

 

Some Washington observers noted that the provisions were quietly placed in the tax bill at the same time that the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign was waging an outreach effort to "friendly congregations."

 

The 'Safe Harbor' provisions ran into trouble from the start. Shortly after their place in the bill was discovered, officials with the Southern Baptist Convention and other Religious Right groups announced they would not support the language. Organizations that promote separation of church and state also attacked it. With the move garnering virtually no support from any quarter, its backers agreed to withdraw it.

 

AU's Lynn warned, however, that the battle over church politicking is still under way. He noted that U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) is promoting a bill that would remove language from the IRS Code and allow houses of worship to engage in politicking with no penalties.

 

"We won this skirmish in Congress, but the larger battle is far from over," Lynn said. "We will continue to oppose misguided schemes that would politicize America's houses of worship."

 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. www.au.org

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Oh good grief, the House killed it, but now it's in the Senate:

 

OPPOSE THE WORKPLACE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT (S. 893)

 

Stop Workplace Protection Bill From Being Used as a Weapon Against Civil Rights and other Individual Rights!

 

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) is gaining momentum in the Senate. The main co-sponsor, Senator Rick Santorum, is pushing for floor action in the near future!

 

WRFA would change the current standard in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for religious accommodations in the workplace in order to expand employees' rights to these accommodations.

 

Although Americans United believes that the current standard in Title VII is insufficient for religious accommodation rights in the workplace, WRFA will have harmful effects on the civil rights and personal rights of third parties in the workplace, including co-workers, patients, and customers. Organizations opposed to full civil rights enforcement and proper access to health care are ready to misuse WRFA. For example, the American Family Association and the American Center for Law and Justice have relied upon the current Title VII religious accommodations standard in representing employees seeking to cause harm to others in the workplace.

 

WRFA could:

 

Undermine civil rights laws and employer nondiscrimination policies and practices. WRFA could strengthen the legal basis for employees who want to invoke the religious accommodation requirements to violate state and local civil rights laws that protect against marital status or sexual orientation discrimination. Moreover, employees could use WRFA to claim that their religious beliefs require them not to have to comply with important voluntary employer policies that go beyond the scope of applicable laws. For example, many employers have their own civil rights policies, including anti-harassment and diversity training policies, that provide key protections against discriminatory harassment in the workplace. Employers may face significant difficulties under WRFA for protecting employees or third parties -- particularly religious minorities -- from religious harassment caused by unbridled proselytization by religiously-motivated employees.

 

Harm the health or safety of people seeking health care or other important information. WRFA will make it much easier for employees to win harmful religious claims that they are now losing under the applicable Title VII standard. For example, a maternity ward nurse refused to scrub for an emergency caesarian section based on her religious beliefs and left a woman "standing in a pool of blood," a nurse insisted on telling an AIDS patient and his partner her views of salvation and that God "doesn't like the homosexual," and a police officer refused to guard an abortion clinic. Further, employees would be granted, through WRFA, a significant predicate for asserting that their religious beliefs prevent them from providing emergency reproductive health care services or HIV-related counseling.

No employee should be allowed to discriminate against or harass their coworkers or customers simply because they can claim a religious reason for discriminating. And certainly no police officer, health care worker or counselor should ever be able to jeopardize another person's health or safety by claiming a religious reason for refusing to do his or her job.

 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

Please CALL, FAX, E-MAIL your Members of Congress and urge them to oppose the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, as currently drafted, because it would be used to undermine key civil and individual rights.___________________________________

 

SUGGESTED MESSAGE:

 

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (S. 893). This broad-based legislation would have a harmful and dangerous effect on employees' civil rights.

 

I believe religious liberty is one of the most cherished features of American life. But no employee should be allowed to discriminate against or harass their coworkers or customers simply because that they can claim a religious reason for discriminating. And certainly no police officer, health care worker or counselor should ever be able to jeopardize another person's health or safety by claiming a religious reason for refusing to do his or her job.

 

Americans should be allowed certain employment accommodations in the workplace, but WRFA, as currently drafted, will be used to undermine the civil rights of co-workers and third parties.

 

Once again, I urge you to oppose the "Workplace Religious Freedom Act" (S. 893). This is an important issue and one I will be following. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter. see www.au.org for more info

 

___________________________________

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PHILADELPHIA CHURCH THAT ENDORSED BUSH GETS

$1 MILLION ‘FAITH-BASED’ GRANT ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative Seems To Have Political Slant, Says AU’s Lynn

 

A Philadelphia church appears to be reaping a windfall of government funds following its pastor’s endorsement of presidential candidate George W. Bush, said Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

 

During the Republican Party’s 2000 national convention, the Rev. Herbert H. Lusk II, heartily endorsed Bush for president in a satellite television uplink from his church. Since that time, Lusk has repeatedly advocated for Bush’s “faith-based” initiative that seeks to fund church-run social service programs.

 

Today as the president was preparing to speak at Lusk’s Greater Exodus Baptist Church on combating AIDS at home and abroad, the Associated Press reported that the church’s charitable operation, People For People, has been awarded a nearly $1-million “faith-based” grant. The article also noted that Lusk hopes President Bush’s “faith-based” agenda will help garner more black votes for the president’s re-election bid. Lusk told the AP that Bush “is worthy of the African-American vote.”

 

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, called the grant of money “a clear and sad example of how government grants can lure supposedly nonpartisan churches into partisan politics.”

“The Rev. Lusk endorsed candidate Bush, and wound up getting a $1-million faith-based grant from the Bush administration,” Lynn said. “Now there’s a heavenly payoff.”

 

Lynn noted that Americans United filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Lusk’s church in 2000, noting that religious and other tax-exempt charitable organizations are forbidden from endorsing political candidates.

 

Lynn noted that Lusk’s “faith-based” grant was not the first one to appear with a political taint.

 

In 2002, The Washington Post reported that Jim Towey, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, had made repeated public appearances with Republican candidates in hotly contested races for Congress and other offices to discuss or award grants. In a recent interview with the evangelical magazine World, Towey warned that if Democrat John Kerry were elected, he probably would “stick the faith-based initiative in the Smithsonian.”

 

In addition, televangelist Pat Robertson, a Bush ally, was converted from being a harsh critic of the faith-based initiative to being a supporter by a well-timed government grant. In early 2001, Robertson warned his “700 Club” viewers that the initiative “could be a real Pandora’s box” because religious monitories might wind up receiving faith-based grants.

 

In fall 2002, Robertson’s Operation Blessing received a half-million-dollar faith-based grant from the Department of Health and Human Resources. Since then, the TV preacher has not criticized the initiative.

 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. www.au.org

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