As people of faith, we recognize the responsibility of government to seek justice for all people and to build the common good. Justice cannot be achieved unless the rules governing the democratic process are just and fair for all. Central to that process is a citizen’s vote—not limited by the powers of money, social class, and unequal access to public media.
Money has always played a role in electoral politics, but what kind of role it plays should be subject to regulations that reflect ethical and democratic values. Most important, it is necessary to have policy safeguards in place which ensure that more than just the wealthiest interest groups have a voice in the public sphere.
A broad spectrum of faith traditions shares religious teachings that recognize each person as a gift of the Creator and emphasizes the essential human dignity of every person. Every person should not only have the right to vote, but he or she should have the right to speak and to be heard. Every person, our shared teachings tell us, should be able to contribute his or her ideas and concerns to the shaping of our democratic government and the policies it adopts. We support the democratic process which was founded on the concept that the best solutions of problems come from the marketplace of ideas where everyone can contribute. But these contributions can be nearly meaningless when drowned out by the few.
As people of faith we experience firsthand the results that unlimited money has on almost every issue we care about. No matter what the issue whether it be immigration reform, voting rights, climate change, gun safety we understand how the influence of money has stopped our ability to have an open and honest discussion.
As people of faith spiritual people we are called to create a beloved community. We are called to care for the poor and marginalized. Yet it becomes impossible to create a loving community a common home when the partisan divide in America is fueled attack ads funded by private interest groups who are unaccountable and unidentifiable. A beloved community cannot be created when corporate funding supports systematic building of a private prison system or works to deny certain classes of people the right to vote. A beloved community is not one where wealthy voices are the only ones that are heard.
As money in politics begins to weigh more than their own voices and views, people in the pews see the country losing its hold on democracy and look to Congress for course corrections. In a recent poll, 80 percent of registered voters, across party affiliations, said they believe that our political system needs reform.
Pope Francis in discussing the role of money said We have created new idols the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goals.
Pope Francis also stated “we have begun this culture of disposal where human beings themselves are considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away.”
Faith communities are uniquely positioned to address money in politics due to their commitment to make sure the voices of those in need are not ignored. As our system of government becomes increasingly beholden to those who can afford to spend the most in elections, the less the voices of the poor and their allies can be heard.
Patrick Carolan is the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network An organization of Franciscan Friars, Sisters, Anglicans, Lutherans and Lay people and all Franciscan hearted people working together to on social justice and transformation in the spirit of Saints. Francis and Clare of Assisi. Patrick is also the cofounder of the Global Catholic Climate movement and Faithful Democracy a coalition of faith communities coming together to help #GetMoneyOut
You can reach FAN on the web at www.franciscanaction.org on Facebook: FranciscanActionNetwork and Twitter @FranciscanNet.