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In Our View: An interfaith letter to lawmakers


Government's moral test

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Faith is part of the political mosaic, whether it's Ayn Rand-inspired self-worship or Christian Fundamentalism. In Washington, where religious affiliation is comparatively low, Roman Catholics represent the largest population, followed by Mormons.
The "I'm spiritual, not religious" mantra gained resonance beginning in the mid-1960s. There are closet atheists serving in the Legislature, but in the closet they remain. The last acceptable prejudice is discrimination against non-believers. Voters presuppose that an absence of faith translates into an absence of conscience.
Even in the ruggedly individualistic Northwest, to unhitch religion from politics is unworkable. Faith centers on specific values, and those values inform public policy. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion. That doesn't muzzle the faithful from participating in civic life nor having a political voice.
In a June 14 letter to legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai asked the state to pass a budget that embraces human dignity. The centerpiece is the state's moral responsibility to preserve the safety net for the hungry, the sick and the homeless. It's a powerful, transcendent message.
"Both of our traditions believe strongly in helping those who are not able to help themselves and need extra support to get back on their feet." they wrote. "While our faiths may have different terms and teachings, we both strive to achieve the same goals."
Herein lies an inconvenient truth: Consistency elevates faith. While Catholics often disagree with the Archdiocese regarding birth control and marriage equality, the Sartain/Weiner letter is a reminder that socially conservative values are not inimical to questions of economic justice. The beauty of the faith exhibited by the late Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield, a Protestant conservative, is its uniformity. He was anti-abortion, anti-death penalty and anti-war. He took the sanctity of life literally, much to the consternation of his Republican and Democratic colleagues.
The Sartain/Weiner letter merits reflection among believers and non-believers alike. Lost in the special session's noise over tax breaks and the estate tax is a sober discussion on the moral test of government. After funding K-12, then what?
"In Judaism, we are taught Tzedakah (Justice) and Gemilut Chasadim (the practice of loving kindness) are primary responsibilities," they wrote. "We need a humane budget in our state that will allow for all of the most vulnerable to be cared for and protected, a budget which extends an open hand to all Washington citizens."

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