From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
RELIGIOUS LOBBYISTS HEAD FOR CAPITOL HILL
05 May 1996 07:34:39
95029 RELIGIOUS LOBBYISTS HEAD FOR CAPITOL HILL
by David E. Anderson
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON--The new Republican-dominated Congress will change some
of the dynamics but few of the issues that historically have
concerned Capitol Hill lobbyists for religious organizations.
"The rhetoric changes, the faces change, but it doesn't change
the issues," said Ruth Flower, legislative secretary of the Friends
Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker lobby.
For Reform Judaism and liberal Protestant denominations, the
biggest issues are beating back a Republican-sponsored balanced-
budget amendment, seeking "humane" welfare reform and trying to
save foreign aid.
For the Catholic Church, the issues include welfare reform,
limits on abortion and a tax credit for low-income parents with
For groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals
and the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist
Convention, the big priorities are restrictions on abortion and
passage of a school-prayer measure.
"I think there is a strong constituency out there among
Americans who say (the issues are) more than `just my pocketbook,'"
said James Smith, executive director of the Christian Life
Commission's Washington office.
"They are concerned about the distribution of condoms, the
breakdown of the family, the training of children within the public
schools, gay rights and the rampant availability of abortion. We
will not let this Congress go by without addressing these issues
at some point."
Tim Crater, a policy analyst at the National Association of
Evangelicals, said his group's top priority is passage of an
amendment allowing for student-led, student-initiated prayer in the
"There is broad public support for it," he said. The NAE has
drafted a proposed bill and is circulating it among members of
Congress and other groups for comment.
While most religious groups work both sides of the partisan
aisle and count members of both parties among their supporters,
liberal denominations acknowledge that the Republican sweep of
Congress makes it harder to achieve their goals.
"The (Republican) `Contract with America' is certainly not
compatible with our agenda," said Kathy Thornton, executive
director of Network, an independent Catholic social-justice lobby.
Nearly all of the mainline Protestant groups surveyed have
made defeat of the proposed balanced-budget amendment a top
priority, contending it would harm the poor.
"We are aware of the need to reduce the deficit,'' said Kay
Bengston, a domestic policy expert in the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America's office of governmental affairs. "But it is
this strategy of using the inflexibility of a constitutional
amendment that we oppose. And when you look at the specific
programs that would need to be cut to achieve the balanced budget,
it all comes out of programs to help low-income people."
The National Council of Churches, the Lutheran office on
governmental affairs, Church Women United, the Board of Church and
Society of the United Methodist Church, the Friends Committee, the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Network have all
made defeat of the budget proposal a top priority.
The other major domestic agenda item for the mainline groups
is welfare reform.
"Welfare reform is going to be a real test of values," said
John Carr, secretary of the department of social development and
world peace at the U.S. Catholic Conference, which represents the
nation's Roman Catholic bishops in public policy matters.
"We want to see genuine welfare reform, but we are concerned
that it serve the needs of poor families, not the needs of
politicians. ... There needs to be more personal responsibility,
but not just for the down and out."
Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism, said opposition to a school prayer
amendment is among the top issues for his group.
A coalition of religious and civil liberties groups is being
organized to fight efforts to pass a prayer measure, he said.
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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