Written by Anthony Moujaes
There is a moral imperative to reform campaign politics, to make our government representatives more accountable to the voters who elect them according to an interfaith coalition speaking before Congress. On Wednesday, June 11, the United Church of Christ joined other advocates voicing the need for a responsible government where people, not money, influence the decisions made by our nation's leaders.
The UCC was part of a bipartisan coalition of 18 faith organizations looking at campaign finance reform from a legislative perspective during a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries office in Washington, D.C., had a chance to speak at the briefing about the important role faith plays in government representation.
The issue is more than just a political issue, Sorensen said. It's a moral issue in making sure people on the margins are represented.
"No matter what issue we care about or where we find ourselves on the political spectrum, campaign financing has a fundamental influence on the public policy process, impacting who is at the table when policy decisions are made and in whose interests those decisions are made," said Sorensen.
The briefing offered a look at financial influence in politics from a legislative, bipartisan and faith perspective as members of Congress, representatives from Auburn Seminary and an interfaith coalition of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy groups spoke.
The briefing featured remarks from two Congressional leaders, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), working to change the way politics are financed.
"[Sarbanes] really gave a call to action to, as he called it, not to flee the political town square but to restore democracy for the people, by the people," Sorensen said.
Sorensen was joined by the Rabbi Justus Baird of Auburn Seminary in offering remarks on how to apply theological wisdom from multiple religious traditions to the difficult issue of campaign finance.
"As people of faith, we recognize the responsibility of government to seek justice for all people to build the common good," Sorensen said. "In these challenging times, we cannot afford to have elections dominated by the voices of special interests. We need elected officials who are accountable to everyday voters."
Because of the substantial amounts of money poured into political campaigns, teachers from Auburn Seminary authored a recent report, "Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy: A Theological Critique of the Role of Money in Politics." The report examines how money injected into the political system compromises the mission of a broad faith community that seeks to attain equality for all.
"It is a moral imperative that we reclaim the political process for all the people," Sorensen said, "not just those with the power of large sums of money on their side. There's a disconnect between the policies people are calling for, and what happens in Congress But this is a first step in raising awareness of the issue."