The Gospel of Matthew tells us that we must not serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24) After hearing God’s call to “rebuild His Church” a young St. Francis famously renounced his wealthy merchant father and all his worldly possessions. Our faith teaches us that we must recognize each person as a gift from God, and that we must emphasize the importance of the essential humanity and dignity of each person. And, as Pope Francis calls us to “meddle in politics” we interpret this concept as a requirement that all Americans must have an equal say in the public square.
Following the Gospel example of Jesus and taking our cues from both St. Francis and Pope Francis, the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) has taken the lead on an interfaith coalition, “Faithful Democracy” looking at the issue of money in politics. The coalition looks at the issue from both a faith and legislative perspective, using the issues of climate change, gun violence prevention, and immigration/private prisons as catalysts. Ultimately, we seek to advocate for overturning the Citizens’ United ruling and passage of some form of public financing to stop the corrosive influence of unchecked big money on our democracy.
It is imperative that for a fully functioning and representative government of all Americans that we institute reforms in the areas of campaign finance, voting rights, and good governance. FAN has been an instrumental faith voice calling for those reforms since the Citizens United decision nearly a decade ago.
From the coalition’s beginnings in the wake of the Citizens United decision in 2010, FAN and Faithful Democracy’s work with the WISC (Washington Interfaith Staff Committee) was unique—it is multi-issue and works with both faith-based and good governance partners including Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and Democracy 21. FAN and Faithful Democracy are now seen as the major faith-based players on issues of money in politics and good governance. The WISC community involvement in the work of getting big money out of politics stretches back even further than the passage of Citizens United. “Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform” was instrumental in the passage of McCain-Feingold in 2002. After Citizens United, it was imperative for WISC to once again focus on issues of good governance and FAN was tasked with taking the lead.
Join us as we bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth and implement vital reforms that are necessary to have a fully functioning and healthy democracy.
Engagement around Faithful Democracy in 2020:
- FAN released this statement on the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act
- Click here to read the Faithful Democracy Voters Covenant.
- And read the related news coverage: “Catholic, other religious groups endorse ‘Faithful Democracy’ statement”
- As a leader of the Faithful Democracy campaign, FAN participated in drafting this sign-on letter to both Senate and House offices urging funding and priorities to protect upcoming elections in the next COVID response package.
- Faith Leader Sign on Letter for a Free, Safe, and Fair Election
All through 2020, Faithful Democracy is launching a bi-monthly toolkit “Unheard Voices” which will look at issues of voting rights and good governance. Each chapter will be listed below as it becomes available.
Chapter One: Voting Rights and Disenfranchisement
Chapter Two: Money in Politics
Chapter Three: 2020 Census Toolkit
Chapter Four: Faithful Elections in COVID
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Faithful Democracy Coalition is working hard to ensure safe and secure elections in November, 2020. As the Senate debates another stimulus package, we call on our Members of Congress to take extra steps to make sure everyone can vote, like offering more absentee ballots and sanitizing voting equipment. To do this, the Senate needs to allocate the $3.6 billion to protect our elections. Several organizations sent appeal letters to the Senate Rules Committee ahead of the vote, including FAN. Read our letter here.
Call your Senators and tell them you support $4 billion in funding for necessary changes to elections systems that allow voters to safely participate in the November election. Use this number to get connected to their Senate Offices: 1-888-415-4527
Click here to sign the people of faith money in politics petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.
Click here to sign the Faith Voices petition urging Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment intact.
Click here to watch the Faithful Democracy Town Hall Webinar: Protecting Our Democracy in the Face of COVID-19
For more information about the campaign, email Jason Miller, FAN Director of Campaigns and Development.
The Latest Updates
In May, 2020, Jason Miller joined the Texas Impact podcast to talk about the importance of vote by mail and the need for election funding. Listen here: http://texasimpact.libsyn.com/ep-102-jason-miller-franciscan-action-network
In January 2020, the Faithful Democracy coalition hosted a faith-based press conference to mark 10 years of Citizens United, which included a surprise appearance by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts (pictured, left).
Faithful Democracy members were in attendance at a press conference in March (pictured, right) which celebrated the first anniversary of the passage of H.R.1 – For the People Act of 2019.
Faithful Democracy In Recent Years
2019 started with positive momentum with the introduction of HR1 in the House of Representatives. There is a new-found energy on Capitol Hill around these good governance reforms with the introduction and passage of HR1 in the House of Representatives. The spring 2019 Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference had a domestic focus on voting rights. FAN was instrumental in crafting the “domestic ask” around this issue, led an interactive workshop on voter suppression in local communities, and helped with the public witness the morning of the Lobby Day which ended with a procession and petition delivery to Senator McConnell’s office.
2018 saw the Franciscan Action Network sign onto the “Declaration For American Democracy” with over 100 faith based and good governance non-profits calling on Congress to pass a money in politics and voting rights reform package. Hill visits continue around this effort. FAN is one of the lead faith-based organizations that are a part of DFAD and are continuing conversations with other faith based orgs to get them signed onto this campaign.
Faithful Democracy’s work in 2017 largely focused on keeping the Johnson Amendment intact, which would protect the 501c3 status of our Churches keeping them non-partisan and ensuring that they continue to provide vital social services. This work with a variety of faith and non-profit partners has included op-eds, a sign on letter delivered to every member of Congress, and individual House office visits. One major victory in 2017 was ensuring that overturning the Johnson Amendment (akin to ‘Citizens United 2.0’) was not part of the tax reform package.
Franciscan Action Network 2019 Letter to Congress in support of HR4: The Voting Rights Advancement Act
Sign the petition: Demand Congress overturn Citizens United and end unlimited amounts of political spending that influence our elections
Accomplishments of the Campaign Include
- A 2014 sign on letter to the House of Representatives that highlighted the various pieces of legislation that would attempt to fix the problem of money in politics.
- The coalition published a series of op-eds (found here, here, here, and here) around money in politics specifically tailored to key legislative issues.
- The coalition co-sponsored an interfaith, bipartisan House congressional briefing held in June 2014 with Rabbi Justus Baird from Auburn Seminary in New York City and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), and the United Church of Christ’s Rev. Sandy Sorensen on the issue of money in politics from a faith and legislative perspective. FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan moderated the event.
- Over a dozen direct Hill visits to Senate offices on the Udall Amendment SJ Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress the ability to once again regulate campaign finance. Further Hill visits to Senate and House offices have continued into 2015.
- A workshop at Catholic University of America in Fall 2014 that brought together faith leaders, academics, and non-profit leaders to analyze the role of money in politics.
- An article from Catholic News Service about the event at CUA which is also a good primer about the intersection of faith groups and the issue of money in politics can be found here.
- Two different MIP workshops at the April 2015 Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference. The first workshop examined the rise of for-profit prisons. The second workshop focused on problems in our communities affected by MIP and how workshop participants could advocate for change.
- A June 2015 presentation at the Franciscan Federation conference in Indianapolis, Indiana to Third Order Franciscans all across the country about the role of money in politics and how it affects the “first issues” that Franciscans care and advocate about. An additional money in politics workshop with Doug Hughes, “The Gyrocopter Guy” was held at the 2016 Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference.
- A January 2016 Money in Politics Symposium in New Hampshire with local faith and government leaders as well as Sr. Simone Campbell and Karenna Gore.
- Coordination and implementation of two different interfaith prayer vigils including the creation of a “golden calf” at the April 2016 Democracy Awakening rally and campaign.
- Johnson Amendment Resources:Read the letter that was delivered to the House offices here.
- An article about the Johnson Amendment letter delivery in The Hill can be found here.
- View photos from the letter delivery here.
Money in Politics Op-Ed
Climate Money in Politics Presentation Slides
House Sign on Letter
Climate One Pager
Gun Violence Prevention One Pager
Immigration/Private Prisons One Pager
House Briefing Media Advisory
House Briefing Pictures
Fact Sheet on Political Spending Post-Citizens United
SJ Res. 19 Udall Amendment Press Release
Money in Politics House of Representatives Sign-On Letter
Institute for Policy Research Bulletin on Money in Politics
Catholic News Service article about Oct. 1st workshop at Catholic University
National Catholic Reporter Interview about MIP with FAN ED Patrick Carolan
Money in Politics State Based Supporters Map
Sojourners Op-Ed on the Pope and Money in Politics
Letter from Missisippi Faith Leaders in Support of “Faithful Democracy” Campaign
Private Prisons Op-Ed in Houston Chronicle
Video: Morality and Big Money – We The People Convention with FAN’s Patrick Carolan
Video: New Hampshire Money in Politics Faith Symposium
Supreme Court Sign On Letter
Money in Politics: What’s FCNL Doing About It?
Op-Ed by FAN’s Patrick Carolan: What Religion Has to Do With Campaign Finance and Voting Rights
“Money still talks the loudest in gun violence debate” Op-ed on money in politics and gun violence
“US Civil Rights Groups Demand Action to End Voter Suppression”–August 2019 Article on Voting Rights Act Anniversary Rally
Five Part Series on the Role of Faith and Money in Politics
Part One: To Change the Power Behind the Law
Part Two: Renew Our Democracy: Break the Chains Between Campaign Finance and Private Prisons
Part Three: Caught in the Net of Corporate Greed: Our Immigrant Sisters and Brothers
Part Four: Buying a Seat at the Negotiating Table: Money and Trade Agreements
Part Five: Fiscal Transparency and Good Governance: Ensuring that communities bearing the burden receive the profits