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Faith-based organization seeking to promote economic equality

April 25, 2012|By Mitchell Landsberg
  • Elizabeth Fahey (C) talks with job seekers at the Military Officers Association of America career fair in Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Fahey (C) talks with job seekers at the Military Officers Association… (Brendan Hoffman / Getty…)

It's the economy, brethren.

That's the basic idea behind a new campaign launched Wednesday by a progressive faith-based organization to influence the 2012 election. The PICO National Network said it is enlisting clergy nationwide to register voters, get out the vote and spread a message of economic equality. Calling the campaign "Land of Opportunity," PICO said its goal is to sign up 75,000 new voters and reach a total of 1 million people who will support its message and vote for … well, there's the rub.

Presumably restricted by IRS rules that prohibit churches and nonprofit organizations from supporting political candidates, PICO isn't supporting anyone in particular, its director of policy, Gordon Whitman, said in a conference call.

"We have a message for candidates, and we are delivering it, but we are not supporting candidates from either party," he said. He and several clergy who participated in the call stressed their involvement in state proposition battles, such as opposing a Republican-backed ballot measure in Minnesota that would require voters to show photo identification.

PICO also supports the Obama healthcare plan, immigration reform and economic policies that would increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans to benefit the poor. Making sure that wealthy Americans pay more "is a family value," said one of the campaign's supporters, Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life.

“Economic fairness and opportunity for American families are the top moral priorities for religious voters in the 2012 election,” Butler also said.

Those are all positions, of course, that generally line up with those espoused by President Obama and not by Mitt Romney. In general, polls have shown Obama lagging among religiously active Americans, especially white evangelicals and white Catholics. Whitman said PICO represents clergy across the theological spectrum who might disagree on social issues such as abortion, but are on the same page when it comes to economic priorities. He said more secular Americans find it difficult to understand "that poverty is a fundamentally moral issue for religious people."

Original source: Faith-based organization seeking to promote economic equality

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