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Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics

Religious voices have entered the campaign finance debate, with a tract titled "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy."
Religious voices have entered the campaign finance debate, with a tract titled "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy."

In a newly issued report, a group of 11 theologians goes where the pols and lawyers dare not tread, with a faith-based analysis of money's role in politics. In "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy," published by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, you can guess where it comes down on the big questions.

The tract asserts that the current political money system — with superPACs, secretive social welfare organizations and unlimited contributions — "does not take into account the needs of the poor."

It says that although corporations draw criticism for political activism, "incorporated groups can be powerful vessels for holiness." It also makes three points about justice: that it calls for fair procedures and fair outcomes, comes "through a multiplicity of voices," and is distorted by bribes.

A few highlights:

  • Professor William Cavanaugh, of DePaul University's Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, writes that modern politics, where wealthy funders have the most opportunity for political speech, "is upside-down."
  • Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership, addresses the Supreme Court's rulings that the only form of political corruption is a direct, quid pro quo exchange between donor and politician. Historically, rabbis presumed that all contributions produce influence, Klapper says, and believing otherwise "would be Jewishly viewed as dangerously naive."
  • And Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals For Social Action, argues for fair outcomes from a political money system. He says biblical justice calls for fair procedures but rejects "the Marxist ideal of equal outcomes." His conclusion: "Do unlimited political contributions tend to promote economic justice for everyone? Or do they largely promote the self-interest of a small powerful minority?"

    Now, back to the regular attack ads.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.