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Catholic and Lutheran mainstream leaders fight for justice in budget-balancing

Date Published: 03/21/2011

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Anti-government conservatives often cloak their movement in a religious mantle and enjoy disproportionate support from the fundamentalist brand of Christendom, while unfairly dismissing progressives, economic and otherwise, as irreligious.  So it's a powerful refutation of that notion when our states' Catholic and Lutheran bishops, representing a vast mainstream of some 2 million Minnesotans, issue the kind of statement they publicized last week.  In a joint letter to lawmakers detailed on MinnPost.com, the Roman Catholic and ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) bishops pointedly advised that "the most telling measure of how well we care for each other is to consider how we treat those who are most vulnerable among us."  And lest one think that's too vague about whether to impose an all-cuts budget or to raise some taxes, the letter pointedly describes the state budget defict as "an enormous challenge that suggests both dollar savings and increased income (italics mine) to achieve a balanced budget that avoids devastating cuts in services to vulnerable people."  Some budget hawks in demanding less government for social services will point to the churches as having that primary responsiblity.  The leaders of our state's largest churches are saying, in effect, that they can't do it all and that the government has that primary responsibility.  The organization that embodies a compelling and truly broad religious alliance for economic equity and justice is the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, which adds other Prostestant mainstream denominations and Jewish and Islamic leaders to the voices for common good and a more progressive tax structure.  This week, watch for a strong presence at the Capitol and visits to legislators' offices from the Lutheran bishops in particular.

Dane Smith

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