I'm proud that this essage was publicized and sent out on my birthday!
Joint Lutheran Message to the Presidential Candidates
July 8, 2008
We write to you representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America, and Lutheran World Relief. Lutherans have a long history and wide experience with direct ministry and advocacy related to health and human services, relief and development, refugee protection and immigration. Lutheran ministries reach every state in our nation and are present in more than 60 countries, serving millions of the most vulnerable people in America and throughout the world each year. Loving and serving our neighbors -- Lutherans make a difference.
The Scriptures are clear about God's concern for and solidarity with people living in poverty and on the margins of society. They are equally clear that God calls us to be stewards of creation. We bring into the public square a commitment to service for the well-being of all of God's children and a faith conviction that government is an important catalyst in God's work of restoring peace, achieving economic justice and protecting the environment.
The record of effective and transformative work by Lutheran organizations demonstrates our belief that people of faith can help change the world in practical ways. Our broad and long-standing experience also teaches us that our faith-based response to human need is enhanced and more effective when supported by government with the wisdom and will to provide resources to fulfill its basic constitutional mandate to protect the well-being of all its citizens.
In this spirit, we offer the following priorities as our collective vision for the next several years and urge you to provide Presidential leadership on these important issues as you take office.
Economic Insecurity and Poverty
The persistent poverty in America is a moral scandal and an affront to our nation. Thirty seven million Americans -- one in eight -- live below the official poverty line, including nearly thirteen million children. Tens of millions more experience economic insecurity, faced with rising prices, stagnant wages, poor or no health insurance, and a strained social safety net. There are historically high degrees of economic inequality between the rich and poor and, increasingly, the rich and middle class, yet upward economic mobility is a reality for only one-third of Americans.
Poverty in America is far higher than in many other developed countries. Simply put, too many people are being left out and left behind.
Lutherans have a long-standing public record of making a difference in the lives of people living in poverty and those facing economic insecurity, and we remain committed to serving those in need in our communities. However, we cannot significantly reduce the number of people living in poverty and economic insecurity without a deep and sustained commitment from our political leaders. Our theology tells us that "God institutes governing authorities? to serve the good of society" (Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, 1993), and we believe that a just society is one that cares first for its most vulnerable members while supporting the health and well-being of all. Therefore, we call upon your administration to do the following:
Publicly commit to the measurable poverty reduction goal of 50 percent over the next ten years, and propose a budget that adequately funds programs providing necessary supports and services to low-income families.
Propose a comprehensive health care plan that provides affordable access to basic physical and mental health care for all Americans, particularly those who are vulnerable. We also believe that any health care plan must address the rapid increase in the aging population and financing long term care services.
Assist states by increasing their Medicaid funding and by strengthening the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to allow for outreach to and coverage of uninsured but eligible persons.
Support the preservation and production of affordable housing for people with low incomes and other vulnerable populations, including the creation of a National Housing Trust Fund and support for Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities and Section 202 housing for senior citizens.
Global Warming and Energy Policy
Global warming presents a terrible and growing threat to the future of God's creation. The most adversely affected will be people living in or near poverty, particularly the more than one billion people living in extreme poverty who already lack access to basic resources, who bear the least responsibility for global warming, and who have limited resources to adapt to future climate-related perils. Increases in drought, flooding and other natural disasters are already beginning to impact core Lutheran ministries around the globe and the U.S. is one of the largest contributors to global warming.
Our church supports the principle of sustainability and policies that provide "an acceptable quality of life for present generations without compromising that of future generations." We urge you to fully support research and investment in clean, renewable energy sources that will both benefit current generations and our environment and ensure that future generations enjoy the same benefits. We urge you to act decisively in response to these challenges:
Re-engage the United States in the international talks on global warming and ensure full participation by the U.S. in the development and implementation of any new
agreements, leading by proposing legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 20 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent of 2000 levels by the year 2050.
Focus any supportive resources on low income Americans, who are hardest hit by increases in energy costs, and on increased development assistance to help poor communities around the globe adapt to changes in climate.
Adopt policies that encourage energy conservation in the federal government, and in American homes, communities, national transportation and distribution systems and commercial enterprises.
Re-direct valuable research dollars from "clean coal" technology to renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass; and from corn-based to cellulosic ethanol. New sources of energy present an important opportunity for investment and jobs in a struggling rural America.
Fair and Humane Immigration and Refugee Policy
Lutherans have long responded to the call of Jesus to "welcome the strangers" in our midst through legal and social service and pastoral care. Through our work, we witness a badly broken immigration system that fails to fulfill its traditional purposes of providing an orderly, secure system of migration for refugees, needed workers and family. While the United States continues its indispensable, international leadership on refugee protection, the number of refugees we admit is at its lowest level in decades, with a notable failure to protect Iraqi refugees.
Domestically, the federal government is vigorously enforcing the broken system, arresting and detaining over 300,000 non-citizens annually and conducting raids of people's communities, worksites, and even homes. Families, especially children, pay the price. Instead of improving order and security, this approach sows fear in our communities. We ask for your leadership to increase our national commitment to immigrants and refugees:
Appoint a Secretary of Homeland Security committed to fundamental reform, humane enforcement of immigration laws, restoration of due process, and fairness, proportionality, and human rights as DHS processes applications for immigration status. Signal that your administration will shift to humane enforcement by ending over-reliance on detention and replacing that strategy with more humane, less expensive, and less restrictive means of meeting enforcement needs. Signal the shift by declaring a moratorium on raids until clear protocols and protections are in place to ensure immigrant families and local communities are not harmed, and by declaring off-limits the raids of places of worship, social service sites, and schools (unless required to address a danger to the community or to national security).
Advance the common good through immigration reform by building a national consensus for an orderly migration system that protects families, preserves human rights, enables workers and families to come out from the shadows and live without fear, and provides a path to permanence.
Protect families as a core principle of U.S. immigration policy by strengthening policies that enable family members to receive and maintain legal status through family visas and refugee visas. This also means halting the detention of hundreds of immigrant families in penal settings and prioritizing their placement in alternative to detention programs. Finally, this means ensuring that all immigrant children in federal custody are treated in accord with child welfare principles consistent with their best interests.
Increase admission and place greater emphasis on integration of refugees. Traditionally, U.S. refugee admissions are over 100,000 people per year. We urge your administration to return immediately to that level and to go further by reinvigorating U.S. leadership in protecting refugees from danger and integrating them into American communities. We also urge greatly increased humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis and increased admissions and integration resources for Iraqi refugees being resettled in the United States.
International Poverty, Development and Disease
Lutherans have a long history of serving those most in need throughout the world and advocating for U.S. policies that promote sustainable development and the well-being of all of God's children. Today, parts of the world live in tremendous wealth while extreme poverty and disease continue to threaten the lives of billions of people in developing countries. For decades the U.S. government has demonstrated leadership in addressing these challenges through effective aid programs. Still, the needs of the most vulnerable in the world are great. When these needs go unmet, the humanitarian consequences are grave and the stability of international relationships is threatened. We urge your administration to appoint a Cabinet-level Secretary of Global Development to coordinate related programs, and we urge you to continue the leadership necessary to end global poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals:
Increase foreign aid and make it more effective. While the U.S. has demonstrated leadership in fighting poverty and disease in the world, our nation still lags behind in contributing our fair share of foreign assistance. An additional one percent of the U.S. budget would fulfill our nation's responsible commitment to ensure the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. We urge that such increases be primarily dedicated to the most pressing areas of poverty and disease, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, women's economic empowerment, child survival and education.
Expand debt cancellation for the world's poorest nations. Debt cancellation has proven to be an effective tool in empowering the poorest nations in the world to invest more of their own critical resources in the health and well-being of their people. The poorest nations in the world that demonstrate good governance and budget transparency should all have the opportunity to have their debts relieved if they are committed to investing debt-savings into anti-poverty efforts.
End U.S. notoriety as "largest debtor" to the United Nations. U.S. debt to the U.N. is expected to reach more than $2 billion in 2009. In addition, we are likely to owe $266 million by the end of this year for peacekeeping missions which we approve in the Security Council. Our delays and unpredictability threaten the functioning of the U.N., which provides vital humanitarian and development assistance worldwide and helps nations achieve the MDGs. Full payment of our dues would also help to restore the image of the U.S. around the world.
Increase opportunities for fair trade. Trade is a critically important factor in development for the world's poorest nations. Unfortunately, current global trade structures tend to benefit wealthy countries and large corporations at the expense of those most in need. We urge your Administration to pursue multilateral trade agreements that will help achieve sustainable livelihoods for all.
Conflict Resolution and Peace Building
Lutheran theology is grounded in a fundamental belief that peace on earth is possible. Our tradition calls on individuals, communities and national governments to be active in creating just peace in the world. The reality of conflict in the 21st century, especially conflict related to terrorism and extremism, presents a great challenge to the international community and to U.S. foreign policy. While we understand that in some circumstances our country will respond to modern-day threats with force, we recognize that marginalization and desperation, often perpetuated by poverty and hunger, are at the root of most conflicts. We believe that sustainable peace is inextricably linked to the well-being and human dignity of all persons, for which there is no military formula. We especially urge your engagement on the following three conflicts that are responsible for the extreme suffering of millions of innocent civilians in the world today:
Support a sustainable peace in Iraq by increased U.S. diplomatic pressure urging the Iraqi Government to make the necessary compromises and power sharing agreements to end the ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence. We urge your Administration to use U.S. influence with regional actors, including Syria and Iran, to ensure support for a representative Iraqi Government. Finally, we urge you to provide adequate humanitarian relief and development assistance to help meet the needs of those displaced and assist in the rebuilding of Iraqi infrastructure.
Support a sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine by increased robust diplomacy and U.S. leadership in order to help the parties achieve a viable two-state solution that results in the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state and security guarantees for Israel. We urge your Administration to make economic development in Palestine, including the encouragement of corporate investment, a priority to ensure a sustainable solution to the conflict in the Holy Land.
Support a sustainable peace throughout Sudan by addressing the two distinct but related conflicts in the South and in Darfur simultaneously. Urgent diplomatic efforts are necessary to prevent peace governed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in the South from unraveling and more robust diplomatic efforts are needed to secure a feasible Darfur peace agreement. We urge your Administration to provide adequate funding and technical assistance for peacekeeping missions in Sudan in addition to adequate humanitarian and development assistance.
Lutheran Commitment to Refugees and Immigrants
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the Lutheran expression of service and advocacy to refugees and migrants in America, has been bringing hope and new life to newcomers since 1939. In partnership with a national network of affiliates, partners, congregations and volunteers, LIRS serves and advocates on behalf of the most vulnerable migrants including refugees, asylum seekers, children alone in the world, people in immigration detention and families fractured by migration.
Lutheran Commitment to International Relief and Development
Lutheran World Relief (LWR), an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world's most impoverished communities to help themselves. With partners in 35 countries, LWR seeks to promote sustainable development with justice and dignity by helping communities bring about change for healthy, safe and secure lives; engage in Fair Trade; promote peace and reconciliation; and respond to emergencies. A ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945.
Lutheran Commitment to Health and Social Service
Lutheran Services in America (LSA) is an alliance of national Lutheran church denominations and their health and human service providers. LSA member organizations deliver more than $9.5 billion in services to more than six million people every year -- that translates to one in 50 people in the United States and the Caribbean. LSA members provide services in all 50 states and the Caribbean. The network of close to 300 organizations serves senior citizens, children and families, people with mental and physical disabilities, refugees, victims of natural disasters and others in need. Through these efforts LSA is on the front lines of building self-sufficiency and creating hope in millions of lives.
Loving and serving our neighbors -- Lutherans make a difference.
Thank you for your consideration of these policy priorities. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss them with you and to working with your Administration to improve lives around the world. We acknowledge and admire your endurance and vision during this long campaign for our highest office. Please know that we pray for you and your work on behalf of the American people.
Blessings and Best Wishes,
The Reverend Mark S.Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Jill A. Schumann
President and C.E.O.
Lutheran Services in America
Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
The Reverend John Nunes
Lutheran World Relief