Tuesday, June 14, 2005

When Religions Lobby

Are you disappointed that when you’re sitting in church praying for the poor, the handicapped, the needy, and for Paris Hilton to have a horrible wood chipper accident, and the issues of photo identification for voting and product liability reform don’t come up? Are you concerned the church isn’t doing enough to promote the percentage of recycled materials in newspapers, or to support a mandate on public schools to require teaching the history of organized labor?

If you answered yes to all of the above, your prayers are answered in the form of the Reverend Sue Moline Larson, director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin. Ask any Lutheran who she is and what she stands for, and you will likely get a blank stare.

Larson got the director’s job with the LOPPW in 1993, after serving as co-pastor of the Bristol Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie. Since she assumed the position, she has been a strong advocate for hunger relief and debt forgiveness around the world. What might disturb the majority of her flock, however, are her actions relating to policy here in Wisconsin.

Speaking as a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Larson is a registered lobbyist with the State. In addition to the issues referenced above, her lobbying effort includes, but is not limited to:

Supporting creating a state holiday to honor Cesar Chavez
Supporting allowing illegal aliens to pay in state tuition at the UW
Supporting full public financing of Wisconsin elections
Supporting encouraging the use of hybrid-electric vehicles by state employees
Opposing expanding the school choice program in Milwaukee
Opposing freezing property taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
Opposing classifying possession of ecstasy as a felony
Opposing changing reporting requirements for rent-to-own contracts
Opposing allowing school districts to refuse to hire felons
Opposing conscience clause legislation, which would allow medical professionals the option to refuse to participate in abortion-related activities
Opposing creating a tax credit for medical insurance premiums
Opposing increasing penalties for patronizing prostitutes
Opposing the carrying of concealed weapons
Opposing changing the requirements for the siting of nuclear power plants
Opposing lowering the drinking age for active military soldiers to 19 years old

I’m no Bible scholar, but I missed the part where the Lord lectured about the siting of nuclear power plants. Just which sermon was it that Jesus voiced his opposition to product liability? Was the burning bush not adequately flame-retardant? Did Jesus encourage the use of hybrid-electric vehicles right after he expressed his preference for Bo Bice to win American Idol?

The Lutheran Office for Public Policy isn’t the only religious group that purports to speak for a denomination while lobbying state government. The Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations was formed in 1938 as an organization to promote Israeli statehood, lobby against anti-semitism, and work with other religions to find commonalities. The Jewish council is subsidized by the Greater Jewish committee, yet has exploited a clause in their charter that allows them to advocate for "social justice," meaning liberal social policy. Some Jews believe that the Milwaukee Jewish Council is now merely a front for the Democratic Party, while the political views of most Jews are much more mixed.

The Jewish Council has actively lobbied against freezing property taxes, against the carrying of concealed weapons, and for expanding mandated health coverage for insurance plans. The Jewish Council consistently takes a pro-abortion stance (against conscience clause legislation for health professionals, against prohibiting public funding of abortions, for providing sexual assault victims with abortions), despite various Jewish sects’ opposition to abortion and contraception.

For the most part, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference stays true to Catholic teaching, but does veer off into liberal politics where church teaching allows. The Catholic Conference lobbies heavily in favor of issues that benefit them directly, such as school choice and student transportation, and vigorously supports anti-abortion legislation and anti-same sex legislation. They have, however, lobbied against concealed carry and for expanding mandated health insurance coverage, and they have opposed legislation that would allow employers to take into account an employee’s criminal record into account when making a decision to hire or fire that employee.

Conservatives are lectured frequently about keeping church and state separate. Liberals love to spin conspiracy theories that conservatives meet in clandestine locations and plot evangelical takeovers, with Pat Robertson leading the charge. Religions that lobby for liberal causes, however seem to be relatively ignored.

It is clear that religions have an interest in caring foor the poor and the needy. What is new, however, is religion's reliance on government to serve those ends. It appears that some religious leadership is done lecturing their own members on the need for kindness and charity, instead opting to force citizens via governmental mandate to fund programs they see as promoting "social justice." One of the reasons we are in the moral state we are is that citizens are moving away from traditional religion, and becoming more reliant on government. If we truly want to see a society that is more caring and compassionate, the answer is more religion, not less.

This new approach is also dangerous in that it ascribes the moral high ground to certain political issues. Religions now argue that funding elementary education at less than their preferred amount runs contrary to Christian teaching. Somehow, we got to the point that expanding mandated mental health coverage (which would increase insurance costs, making it less affordable to those who need it) becomes the moral position, rather than a public policy decision. Marquette University recently felt this backlash when they boldly stated that reinstating the "Warrior" nickname was somehow not in the Jesuit Catholic tradition, an assertion that Catholics across Wisconsin seemingly reject.

Wisconsin Lutherans are a relatively conservative group. Some questions: who authorized Reverend Larson to take a hard line liberal position on behalf of the state's one million Lutherans? Is she funded with collection plate dollars? Does she answer to anyone? Does she realize the bills and topics she has taken it upon herself to support and oppose on behalf of all Lutherans match up perfectly with the likes of the radical pro-abortion crowd, fringe environmentalists, vote fraud perpetrators and the Democratic Party?

Reverend Larson is either totally ignorant of the fact that her ultra liberal crusade misrepresents tens of thousands of Lutherans in Wisconsin, or she is so arrogant that she doesn't care. Perhaps she doesn't realize that most Lutherans believe the church has more important issues to focus on than hybrid electric vehicles, product liability lawsuit reform or setting the public school curriculum. Yet she continues to advocate for her own personal left wing social engineering agenda while clothing herself in the banner of the Lutheran Church. Seems like the same level of arrogance and hypocrisy that caused Martin Luther to protest nearly 500 years ago. How ironic. I guess the good news is that her policy influence under the dome is roughly equivalent to that of the custodian whose only job is to change the Capitol's lightbulbs.

I actually intercepted an e-mail from Our Lord Jesus Christ to Reverend Sue Moline Larson, which might explain some of her actions:


From: Christ, Our Lord Jesus [mailto:Jesus.Christ@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2005 10:03 AM
To: Reverend Sue Moline Larson
Subject: Important Business in Wisconsin

Dear Reverend Sue:

It’s been a while – how are things going down there in Wisconsin? Things up here in Heaven are great. Liberace and Kurt Cobain started a food fight in the cafeteria the other day that is still the talk of our dorm. We have an intramural basketball game against Hell next week that everyone is gearing up for – I hear Mohammed Atta has a mean jump shot, although he has trouble going to his left.

In more serious news, I was reading through the paper, and noticed there’s some pretty bad stuff going on down there on Earth, that might need a little intervention from yours truly. I see thousands of people dying from the Tsunami in Asia (you guys don’t say “The Orient” anymore, right?), I see AIDS devastating Africa, and I see ethnic genocide taking place around the globe. Most importantly, there is one issue that takes precedence over all of these, and I am personally enlisting you to take care of it.

Could you make sure that Wisconsin elections are publicly financed? There is clearly no better use of taxpayer money than to use it to run campaign TV ads. Those politicians are working too hard on the campaign trail, raising money, so we need to use general tax revenue to do that work for them.

I appreciate your help on this, and on your past efforts to get Cesar Chavez his own holiday in Wisconsin. Your work will not go unnoticed. I’m off to a house party – Tupac and Biggie are having a big throwdown down the block. Einstein got wasted last time and joked about how he stole that whole “theory of relativity” from the back of a Bazooka Joe comic strip.

Also, good luck to you on figuring out that whole stem cell deal - we are having a ball up here watching you guys sort it out. Get it - the whole "take a life to save a life" trick? What will my Father come up with next?

Christ out.

-JC

P.S. – Bob La Follette is sick of Ed Garvey trying to pimp his name to benefit his own image. He said he’s added him to his “spam” list.