By Matthew Streib
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) Catholic and evangelical social justice leaders on Thursday (Jan. 24) urged President Bush to use his upcoming State of the Union address to turn around what they called his faltering moral legacy.
Frequently referring to the state of American public policy as “shameful,” the representatives of five major religious organizations said Bush has sidestepped pressing religious concerns, despite his recurrent religious rhetoric.
Specifically, they said the White House has failed to deal with growing poverty at home and abroad, turned a blind eye to torture, ignored climate change, and neglected the human suffering from the war in Iraq.
“We have yet to fully sort out the legacy of an explicitly evangelical president, who sadly has had such a truncated vision of what a moral leadership looks like,” said the Rev. David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights.
“I am hopeful that the evangelical community as a whole has been chastened by that and is open to reconsidering what we think a truly evangelical moral leadership would look like.”
The four other participants were the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; the Rev. Paul de Vries, board member of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Sister Anne Curtis of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy.
Gushee, an outspoken opponent of torture, said it is “hard to overstate the devastating effect of this policy on the moral standing of the U.S. in the world…”
Sider, however, praised the Bush administration for its endorsement of faith-based initiatives, which “leveled the playing field” for religious groups seeking federal funds, even though Sider said Washington has failed to provide enough money for church-based social services.
For her part, Curtis urged increased funding for the estimated 4.2 million refugees who have fled the violence in Iraq. “Not only have they been horribly traumatized by the violence of the war, but they continue to struggle to find and meet their most basic of human necessities,” she said.
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