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Text of Religious Leaders' March 16 Letter Calling for Campaign Finance Reform

MARCH 20, 2001, Washington, D.C. – U.S. religious leaders brought their appeal for campaign finance reform to the Senate’s doorstep today, where they presented a call for passage of the McCain-Feingold bill (Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2001 (S. 27)) without amendment.

"Not only does the McCain-Feingold bill have bipartisan support, it also has widespread theological support," declared the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, who moderated a midday news conference just outside the U.S. Senate.

"It’s a faith issue," he said, "because we need Congress to act not at the behest of the special interests that can fund their campaigns but on the national interest, especially the needs of people in poverty and of children."

Dr. Edgar and four other religious leaders spoke at today’s news conference, and presented a letter signed by nearly 300 U.S. religious leaders, including 51 Lutheran bishops, 40 United Methodist bishops, 20 United Church of Christ conference ministers and more than 150 heads of Catholic organizations and presidents of Catholic religious communities.

The initiative is sponsored by Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform, which is convened by the National Council of Churches and includes leaders from more than 20 Christian denominations or churches and from the Reform Jewish Movement and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The religious leaders’ coalition specifically endorses the McCain-Feingold bill in the Senate (S. 27) and the Shays-Meehan Bill in the House (H.R. 380) as the first steps toward comprehensive reform.

"We oppose all amendments that would increase the flow of money that would corrupt," said Jay Lintner, providing staff support to the Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform. "We’re in favor of opening up clean money, either from public financing or free television time, but whether that’s possible right now without killing the current bill remains to be seen."

In a letter distributed March 16 to U.S. Senators, the 286 religious leaders insisted that campaign finance reform is "much more than a political or economic matter." They urge members of the Senate to help society "regain its ethical footing" by setting an example and supporting meaningful campaign finance reform.

Many of the religious leaders who signed the letter were part of an open letter to Congress four years ago calling for the passage of meaningful campaign reform legislation. The resulting coalition, Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform, has worked since then with public interest groups in Washington, D.C., and across the nation on a variety of reform efforts.

With this new letter, they come together once again to insist on reform, beginning with the McCain-Feingold bill to ban "soft money."

Besides Dr. Edgar, speakers at today’s news conference included:

U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, (D-Minn.) also spoke.


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