Public Positions of ELCA Faith Community with Md. Story-Lines
Three issues of importance to the public positions of our ELCA faith community will continue to generate news, debate, and policy actions through the summer and fall. Several have Maryland story-lines.
The first is continuing economic deterioration. Those of us who advocate human-service issues were relieved at how well the General Assembly session went. When it was over we looked at one another and collectively said, “That wasn’t too bad.” Federal stimulus money helped Maryland keep its commitment to expand health care on July 1st (and not reduce it as in other states), perhaps the most important human need issue. Some help with utility bills was offered (and not reduced as in other states) and more may be coming from the PSC. Child care, a favorite target for budget axes, was maintained. The senior prescription drug assistance program was funded. Job training for welfare clients was expanded. If you have followed national news stories you know that the states have slashed budgets to keep up with revenue free-fall and the result that in these worst of times is there’s less, not more, assistance available. Taken as a whole, Maryland is not one of those states and is holding on to services for vulnerable citizens. This leaves aside the problem of under-funded services that are not up to the task in good times. Still–it’s better to be in Maryland than in many others jurisdictions. The next revenue estimates will come in July and the expectation is that they will still be in free-fall. Unemployment (which is currently at a new, contemporary high) will be higher, more businesses will be closing, there will be another round of defaults and foreclosures, and draconian measures may yet be applied. In spite of that poverty and religious advocates will be talking to department heads this summer about protecting the vulnerable and more planning for the kind of public investments that will reduce poverty and sustain a vibrant economy. One learning of this economic disaster is that oft repeated axiom that “Wall Street can’t thrive if Main Street can’t survive.” Surprisingly in these difficult times, there is a renewed sense of urgency about addressing chronic poverty, a persistent problem of American society. It may not be a new New Deal, but we as a faith community are working to reduce poverty and increase opportunity.
Second, is health care; by now most people have absorbed the news that health care is this year’s priority in Washington. It remains one in Maryland also. The committees that deal with health care in the Maryland Senate and House will be working this summer on sketching out a proposal to finish the task of covering everyone in the State. That is why we are urging every Maryland, ELCA congregation and its affiliates (such as women’s and men’s organizations) to endorse and sign-on to the plan of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, Health Care For All [http://www.healthcareforall.com/HTML18.phtml]. A letter from LOPP/MD’s board, which endorsed the plan last fall when it was released, will be sent to each ELCA congregation this summer. The letter will include a packet of information and our position on the plan. We are trying to build and demonstrate public support for covering everyone in Maryland through affordable and feasible policies. This is an exciting time to be working on the public policy of health care access. Please join your church’s advocacy ministry in helping it happen here in Maryland.
Finally, immigration remains one of the most contentious and volatile public issues in the nation and in our State. On the one-year anniversary of a big ICE raid in Iowa, LIRS and the ELCA released a letter about the raid and the issues surrounding it. The position articulated in the letter is not new; neither is it non-controversial for many including those that attend our churches. A link to the letter is provided and you may want to make copies as a hand-out or for discussion. I recall again the Faith Night several years ago when we asked the assembled Lutherans and Episcopalians how many came from congregations that were dealing with immigrant people and their issues. Nearly half the fifty or so present raised their hands. But there are plenty of folks who dealing with the issue in other ways. One individual who represents a vociferous anti-immigrant group in Maryland identifies herself as “Lutheran” in public appearances. Another Lutheran who works in Annapolis used the term “treason” with me when characterizing the ELCA/LIRS policy position. In the letter provided by the link, the paragraph immediately under the subheading, “Grace and Mercy” summarizes well the position we state to policy-makers in Maryland and in Washington. You may note that one of the bishops who signed the letter is Jerry Knoche of DE/MD, who is one of the church’s immigrant advocates in the college of bishops. Here is the link [http://www.lirs.org/News/NewsReleases/20090512PostvilleAnniversary.htm]; I commend both the letter and its position to you and your congregants.
Feel free to reproduce and distribute this LOPP/MD message. Thank you for your partnership in ELCA advocacy to Maryland.
The Rev. Lee Hudson, Director