Diverse Religious Leaders, Members of Congress, "Granny D" Discuss Role of Faith In Efforts to Enact Campaign Finance Reform
Granny D: "Is campaign finance reform a religious issue? It is one of the central religious issues of our time."
Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON MArch 2, 2000 — While religious leaders representing diverse faith traditions, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) listened, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a 90 year-old great grandmother of twelve who just walked 3000 miles across the country for campaign finance reform, spoke movingly this morning of the role faith played in her journey. "I do not mean to suggest that the Lord makes doing the right thing easy. My walk was not easy. But He seems to clear the field for you when you are ready to do serious battle. He does appreciate, I think, our moments of courage, and He does not mind showing His hand at such times."
Following Granny D's remarks, Levin, Shays and the religious leaders joined in an engaging discussion of what faith traditions have to say about campaign finance reform and of how faith communities can further the cause of campaign finance reform. Below are highlights from the speakers' remarks.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
We all are equal on certain fundamental things. We all have an equal vote. As children of God, the same God, we are all brothers and sisters. That is the fundamental principle of democracy; based on that premise we believe representative government depends on the governed, that the governed must have an equal vote. And I believe if access is sold to that government, and sold to the highest bidder, sold to those people who have money, that this undermines a fundamental principal of government and violates the spiritual basis for democracy as well.
Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT)
We all become corrupted by a system that enables us, and in some cases forces us, to turn and raise millions and millions and millions of dollars; it is a corrupting system. . . .
If the only ones who can speak out to reform the system are people who have not been corrupted we will never change the system. We need some senators, who say, not only in their most private moments, as they do, but in their most public moments, "Yes the system has corrupted me." And we need to allow for an environment where they will not be criticized for saying that.
Doris"Granny D" Haddock
Is it not that we are charged in this life with doing God's work where we might? Are we not the keepers of our brothers and sisters? Are we not to be agents for justice and equality and kindness? Surely we cannot fulfill our high role if we do not have the power to manage our collective resources. Surely, only a free and empowered people can properly take care of one another. If we allow ourselves to lose our ability to manage our considerable common wealth to best address the great needs of our people, we abdicate our earthly responsibilities to our God, do we not? . . .
Is campaign finance reform a religious issue? It is one of the central religious issues of our time . . . If we are to do the right things for our people and for the lovely home given us by God, then we must, as free adults, have the power to do what is right. I do not mean that churches and states should mix: it is enough that our civic values, which we all share with only a few arguments around the edges, are informed by our deeper beliefs in the equality of people and basic rights of all God's creations.
The Rev. Dr. Jay Lintner, Director, Office of Church and Society, United Church of Christ, and Co-Chair, Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform
I want to get the scripture into this discussion right from the start. First from the Torah, in the law of Moses: "You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials and subverts the cause of those who are in the right." . . .
I've really come to believe spiritually that this is not just a matter of reform. To break the power of money in elections takes more than reform. I believe we can create something new in our democracy. Democracy is an ongoing experience. But unless we get public financing, unless we move to really break systemically the power of money in elections, we'll always be reforming. I want to talk about something new which breaks, finally, the power of money in the electoral process and returns the government to the people.
Sister Kathy Thornton, Executive Director, NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
If money is free speech, then a good many Americans have no speech. . . .
Catholics and other people of faith, as witnessed here, believe that participation in the political process and the life of a nation is a right and a responsibility of all, not a privilege of wealth. . . .
An enduring theme in Catholic social teaching is that political processes be structured to provide every citizen effective opportunity to play a free and active part in the foundation of the community, in the administration of public affairs and in the election of their leaders.
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Co-Chair, Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform
It's coming from the pews, it's coming from the pulpits, we are hearing how frustrated the members of our churches and synagogues are across the country. We have to put that together so that we are walking together not literally but politically to make this happen, and that churches and synagogues are at the forefront of it.
What makes the Judeo-Christian experience than almost any other political entity that existed before was that it was the first that was democratic in its underlying concept.
The Rev. Meg Riley, Director, Washington Office for Faith in Action, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Campaign finance reform is not an abstract political issue, it is very concretely related to all of our other issues.
Thomas Hart, Director of Governmental Relations, Episcopal Church, Office of Governmental Relations
Most faith traditions adhere to the belief that we were created in the image of God and respecting the dignity of every human being. These are core ethical traditions, are reflected in our most important civic documents as well, Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Campaign Finance Reform cuts to the heart of those tenants which is the base of our religious and civic documents. I think the mere perception that money creates an inequality among people, is cause for alarm and cause for us to take action.
The Rev. Russell O. Siler, Director, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
Generations ago our forebears were part of the struggle that was based on the premise access to the electoral process should not be based on the color of a person's skin and after that should not be based on a person's gender. Now we need to affirm the same principals of justice and say that access to our electoral process should in no way be based on the size of a person's wallet.
Note: Complete text of Granny D's speech is available upon request, as are written statments from all of the religious leaders who participated. Additionally, interviews with some of the panelists can be arranged upon request.