Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money

Dark Money Remains Unchecked in U.S. Elections

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money 

Thursday, September 22nd– Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, leaving elections vulnerable to influence by dark money. The legislation (the DISCLOSE Act of 2021, or S.4822) was reintroduced to remove the influence of anonymously donated funds in politics. It would have required major political donors (those who give more than $10,000) to disclose their identity. And it would have increased the transparency of political advertisements by requiring donors that underwrite ads supporting or attacking judicial nominees, to reveal their identities.

This legislation was designed to ensure free and fair elections and protect the right of voters to have their voices heard in a truly representative, multi-racial, and multi-faith democracy.

Unfortunately, Republican Senators filibustered to block debate on the issue. Their refusal to collaborate with their colleagues across the aisle to protect our democracy from the inappropriate influence of dark money, is an affront to the Constitution. They have shirked their legislative duty and responsibility to voters. It is another disappointing example of Republican Senators prioritizing corporate interest over the people in our country.

The optics of their action suggests a concerted effort to preserve the ability to line their coffers with large sums of money without transparency. And it leaves the fairness of election results to hang in the balance as deep-pocketed lobbyists and donors enjoy an open lane to subvert the will of the people with their dark funds.

“The gall of senators who blocked even moving forward with debate on secret money and the DISCLOSE Act is a slap in the face to our democratic ideals and should leave every American deeply concerned. Without legislation like the DISCLOSE Act shining a light on secret financial donations, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests that are seeking to influence our elections will continue to have free rein to continue their anonymous spending.”

       Christine Wood, co-Director for the Declaration for American Democracy   NETWORK’s Democracy Reform coalition partner 

At a time when extremist legislators across the country are erecting barriers to voting and trying to sabotage future elections, Senate Republicans had the opportunity to prevent special interests, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests from perverting elections and possibly gaining control of our government. They chose not to.

Our Constitution calls for a democratic republic where legislators are elected to craft policies and laws that serve the will of the people. These Senators prioritized greedy lobbyists, special interests, and the like who prefer to do their political maneuvering in the dark. How does giving them free reign to influence our elected officials serve the will of the electorate?    

NETWORK will continue our faithful advocacy for federal democracy reforms. And we need your advocacy too! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! Sign up for the next workshop here. Can you invite three (3) friends to sign up, too?  

Now that Congress has failed to weed dark money out of politics, It is up to the Biden Administration to protect and strengthen our democracy. President Biden can sign executive orders to help shine a light on secret money spending by contractors that receive federal dollars, ensuring transparency, so that American voters can identify the influencers of our federal elections. 

Resources

How would Pope Francis Vote?
We invite you to speak out too by signing this letter
NETWORK Voter Training: learn how faith, social justice, and voting help us build anew

A good Catholic meddles in politics -- Pope Francishe best of hiself, so that those who

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

Add your name to this important statement from Faith in Public Life, the Sisters of Mercy, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Franciscan Action Network, and Catholic scholars and leaders across the country.

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

As Catholic social justice leaders, sisters, clergy, theologians and Catholic university presidents, we are compelled to speak out at a time when democracy and the future of our nation’s freedoms are threatened by powerful interests.

White Christian nationalism —  an ideology heretical to authentic faith — represents a clear and present danger to building a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. Testimony and evidence from Congressional hearings on the violent insurrection against our country last January 6th have only strengthened our urgency to confront attacks against the principle that voters choose our leaders in free and peaceful elections.

We are increasingly alarmed by the signs of the times. Threats of political violence and dehumanizing rhetoric toward elected officials have increased in recent years.The Supreme Court, which in 2013 dismantled key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, will in its upcoming term hear a case that experts warn could empower gerrymandered partisan legislatures to override the will of the voters in the 2024 elections. Lawmakers in states across the country have passed dozens of laws, many based on completely false political premises, specifically designed to make voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens — a shameful echo of our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination.

Catholics must not be silent in the face of growing threats to voters, fair elections and democratic principles.

Our faith tradition teaches that every person deserves equal access to participate fully in our democracy. Pope Francis has said that “democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.” The Second Vatican Council declared in Gaudium et Spes: “It is in full accord with human nature that juridical political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.”

Powerful institutions and political leaders are working to rig the system and erect racially discriminatory obstacles to voting and full participation in American life. Voter suppression is a sin and silence is complicity. The struggle to ensure our government represents and serves all regardless of color, class or creed is a defining moral challenge of our time. We urge our elected officials in Congress and in state legislatures, especially our fellow Catholics, to support legislation that protects and strengthens the freedom to vote without barriers or interference.

Democracies are fragile. In recent years, this timeless truth has been shown in stark ways as demagogues and nationalists in the United States and around the world have attacked the very existence of pluralistic societies. It’s now time for a renewed commitment to the common good that makes full, equal participation in political life a moral priority.

Be a Multi-Issue Voter, a Pope Francis Voter and Improve Our Economy, Reduce Racism, and Safeguard Freedoms

Be a Multi-Issue Voter and Be a Pope Francis Voter. Sign Up to Learn How!

Election Workshops Teach You How to Be a Pope Francis Voter and Transform Politics!

Are you a multi-issue voter who is ready to be a Pope Francis Voter and build toward a multi-racial, inclusive democracy? Not sure what that means, but interested in how you can connect your faith, Catholic Social Justice, and voting? Then “Transform Our Politics! Becoming a Pope Francis Voter,” a virtual three-part election workshop series, is for you!

Each week, you will explore one of NETWORK’s Cornerstones to Build Our Country Anew: Dismantling Systemic Racism, Cultivating Inclusive Community, and Rooting Our Economy in Solidarity. The vision and skills you’ll acquire will help you during this election season and beyond. Download the Build Anew Agenda.

Your vote is your voice! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! We hope to see you at each 90-minute workshop. Session will be recorded.

Workshop I: Dismantle Systemic Racism

Learn how single-issue voting can be a cover for racism, nationalism, and extremism. Key policies that have begun to dismantle systemic racism in the U.S will be highlighted, and we’ll explore more that needs to happen.

Message training will help you take what you’ve learned into conversation with friends and family. Election season can complicate relationships, and so can talk of dismantling racism. NETWORK staff will model how you can use effective messaging to engage in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 12, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 14, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop II: Cultivate Inclusive Community

Explore your understanding of ‘inclusive community’ and break open the Catholic case for democracy. Some assert that inclusive communities create division and foster animosity toward people outside of the group.

NETWORK staff will show how inclusive communities are not exclusionary and are the polar opposite of White Christian Nationalism. We will envision how we can be part of creating a multi-racial, inclusive democracy this election season.

Mon., Sept. 19, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 21, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop III: Root Our Economy in Solidarity

Learn about policies that address the racial wealth and income gap so that everyone has the economic stability needed to thrive. NETWORK staff will help you practice promoting these policies with the people in your life.

Engage in a discussion on the power and benefits of cross-cultural relationships and understanding to build racial solidarity. This must happen to bring NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda into existence so we can build an economy of inclusion that values people and planet over profit. Participants will also learn how storytelling plays a role in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 26, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 28, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

Joan Neal
September 9, 2022

On September 1, President Biden delivered a speech in Philadelphia on the critical state of democracy. He said,” I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now, America must choose to move forward or to move backwards, to build a future or obsess about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear, division and of darkness.”

At this crucial time in our country’s history, our faith calls us to join together to defeat those who would withhold the full rights of democracy from some citizens based on race, ethnicity, or other arbitrary distinctions.  We, the people, especially people of faith, must fulfill our moral responsibility to get involved in the public square and not only cast our own votes but also safeguard the franchise for all citizens and help as many people as possible to cast their votes as well.  Our democracy is in a critical state and ‘we the people’ are the only ones who can save it!

Most importantly, as Catholics, when we vote, we must use our prudential judgement and our political power to elect people who will safeguard the right to vote for all citizens.

Our vote is our voice and right now, we have to raise our collective voice and overcome these anti-democracy forces once and for all.  If we fail this time, we might wake up one morning and find we no longer live in a pluralistic democratic society, but an autocracy enforced by the political and financial power of a select group of people who fundamentally do not believe in democracy at all.

As Catholics, it matters that we vote and it matters how we vote.  People of faith are called to use their prudential judgement to choose and critique our political leaders and the laws they pass, so that we build a society where everyone is respected and valued, everyone can exercise agency over their own lives, and everyone can contribute to the common good.

We are called to care not just about our own personal preferences but also about how elections will affect those who are poor or economically disadvantaged, those who need access to quality healthcare and decent housing, those who are immigrants in our midst trying to find a safe harbor and a place for their families to thrive, those who need to earn a fair wage and have decent working conditions, those who are disabled and anyone in need of care, all those who are marginalized in any way. Justice and our faith demand it.

Ultimately, we participate in our democracy not just because we are citizens but because of what we believe about God and each other.  We know from the parable of the Last Judgement that God is not just concerned with the hereafter.  God is concerned with the ‘here and now’.  So, here and now, we must honor the Imago Dei in each of us and use our vote to act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers if we want a democracy that brings life for all.

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

Joan Neal
September 6, 2022

In his opening address to Congress in January 2021, Senator Raphael Warnock from Georgia said, “We believe democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea – that we are all children of God and therefore, we ought all to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it. Democracy honors the sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. The right to vote is a sacred right.”

The right to vote is also foundational to and a hallmark of a functioning democracy. And as people of faith, we believe that voting is not only a civil right, it is a covenant we have with one another and a moral responsibility.

Therefore, a truly pluralistic democracy, requires that every person/every citizen has the right to vote and that right be protected under law. And when that right is denied, when that right is abridged in any way for arbitrary reasons, it is a moral failure that people of faith, people of good will are obliged to confront. Voting and political participation in our democracy is one of the most important ways we can honor every person’s human dignity, enable our vision of justice, and contribute positively to the common good as members of society.

Our Church has a long history of speaking out about our moral obligation to be involved in politics. In their 2004 document: “Catholics in Political Life”  The USCCB said, “Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism, but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require the division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.”

They also say in their 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (#13).

Multiple Popes have talked about the responsibility of Catholics to participate in the public square. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est reminds Catholics of the connection between Gospel values and political participation when he says, “Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity,” (#29)

Pope Francis has said in Evangelii Gaudium, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of (themselves) so that others can govern.” He went on to say, “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” (#205). Voting is a concrete way for us to ensure justice and charity prevail in our nation and our Catholic Tradition re-enforces it as a moral obligation.

But being a diverse, participatory democracy isn’t easy. Unfortunately, voter suppression efforts are not new to America. We all know the shameful history of the battle for the right to vote in this country — for African-Americans, Indigenous people, women, and other marginalized groups — which emerged out of decades, even centuries of denying their innate human dignity.

It took 251 years for African-American men to be given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment passed in 1870. 95 years later, America finally became a pluralistic democracy with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that guaranteed the right to vote for all African-Americans; provided the legal means to ensure compliance with the 15th Amendment and to challenge restrictive voting laws and practices designed to deny the free and fair access to the ballot.

Despite those challenges, over time the political power of Black and non-white citizens has grown across the country. Once again the backlash has been swift as many politicians try to prevent their fellow citizens from exercising their right to vote. So, the battle for voting rights continues and has escalated since the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision that struck down the enforcement provisions of the VRA and eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for states to change their election laws.

As a result of that decision, today, more than 20 states have passed restrictive voter laws, gerrymandered districts, made it harder to access the voting booth by closing polling places, especially in communities of color, limiting early voting, placing restrictions on vote-by-mail, requiring stricter voter ID, and by putting people in positions who will enforce these restrictions no matter the infringement upon their fellow citizens’ rights.

All of these actions are designed to discourage and suppress the Black and non-white vote, the votes of young people, poor people and people who do not share the political view of one party. Today, we find ourselves as a country facing the very situation the VRA was designed to end. Once again, the foundational principle of a functioning, participatory democracy is being challenged by those who do not see the image of God in their fellow citizens.

In addition to all that politicians are doing to prevent fellow citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote, many other citizens not targeted by these voter restrictions, have failed to fulfill their own civic, sacred duty to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, only 61% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 Presidential election. Now, clearly there are extenuating circumstances for those who, though citizens, are legally or physically unable to cast their votes, but that means 39% of eligible voters failed to vote. 39% of eligible American citizens failed to have their say in the way our country is governed and who is governing it. They failed to safeguard the common good by casting their vote.

Diane Nash, a charismatic veteran leader of the Civil Rights Movement, in an address at the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice in 1961, said:  “The problems lie not so much in our action as in our inaction… I’m wondering now if we in the United States are really remembering that this must be a government ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people’ as well as ‘for the people’. Are we really appreciating the fact that if you and I do not meet these responsibilities then our government cannot survive as a democracy?”

In her address to the National Call to Action Conference in 2012, she said: “We, the citizens, are the only ones who can change this country. We have to get to work, keep on working and force our elected officials to implement our vision of justice and peace.”

And that is the call to all of us. As citizens and people of faith, we are obligated and indeed today it is urgent, that we exercise our right to vote. Unfounded restrictions on lawful access to the ballot, excessive and undue requirements for citizens to exercise their right to vote and the undergirding white supremacist ideology that fuels these actions are a problem for all citizens, especially those of us who see participatory democracy as a way to honor the image of God in our neighbors.

That is why all of us must speak out and act against these unconstitutional attacks on the right to vote. All Americans, need to wake up now! Our democracy is on the verge of collapse under this unrelenting assault against collective rights by people who only seek their own, unrestricted power, people who do not share the vision of the Beloved Community.

The Theology of Voting: Participation in Democracy as a Christian Value

The Theology of Voting: Participation in Democracy as a Christian Value

Joan Neal
Sept. 2, 2022

Many people would not naturally connect theology — the study of God — with voting.  The two concepts might seem to be in different, if not opposite, realms of reality.  But when we think of theology as our organized system of knowledge and understanding about the nature of the Divine and we think of voting as an area that this knowledge and understanding of the Divine helps us interpret, then it is indeed legitimate to speak of a ‘theology of voting’.  For us as Christians, it’s a little like WWJD – what do we believe Jesus would think and do about voting?

As we explore that question together, let’s begin with a foundational belief. Scripture tells us, and we believe, that we are all created in the image and likeness of God – the Imago Dei.  This is the source of the inherent dignity of every human person and this dignity must be upheld in every aspect of our lives, including our lives as citizens and members of society.  We believe, therefore, that society, government, institutions, all must create the environment where every person can not only live but also thrive.  This means that, as Christians, we must ensure that our civic and political systems serve people and not the other way around.

Together, I want to build on and explore the premise that our faith in God and our belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ call us to view voting as a sacred activity that is informed by our identity as Christians, our belief about Who and What God is, our understanding about God’s love for humanity, and our responsibility to each other as citizens of this country who see the image of God in one another.

However it first must be made clear, that I am not conflating our religious beliefs with our identity as citizens.  That is called Christian nationalism and it is the exact opposite of what I mean about connecting our understanding of God and our secular right to vote.  Christian nationalism is the belief that America as a nation is defined by Christianity and only Christianity holds a privileged position in the public square.  It takes the name of Christ and asserts it as the political agenda for the nation, thereby excluding anyone who is not Christian from national identity.  I am not saying God tells us who we can vote for and who we must not vote for.  That ideology is not Christian at all nor does it serve our responsibilities to our nation.

Rather, I am talking about Christian values and how our formation as people who profess a particular understanding of and faith in God and who follow Jesus Christ Whom we believe is God Incarnate, informs our participation in the public square through the exercise of our right and our responsibility to vote as citizens of the United States.  I am talking about our understanding of what it means to be a person of faith and a citizen of this diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, inter-religious, pluralist country.

Jesus told us what is required of us as Christians living in community with one another: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  When St. Paul talked about the early Christian communities as the ‘body’, he was referring to our identity as a ‘family of faith’ that is to be in community or relationship with one another and to live in a community – that is, people with common interests living in a particular city, state or country.  His implication is that we are both Christian and citizen and these dual identities must inform each other in order to build the kind of environment, the Beloved Community, (what Jesus often called the Kingdom or Reign of God), on earth.  That should be our goal.  Clearly, our form of government and our participation in it, matter.

So, when we look at different forms of government around the world, (autocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, etc.), we see that the choices are few of governing styles that provide that environment.  In fact, history shows us that democracy is the system of government that best affords every person the freedom and dignity to flourish.

And that is because democracy is not only a system of government.  It is also an ideal, a vision for how a society can organize itself to recognize and respect the dignity and freedom of each and every person while also enabling the common good to thrive.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965--57 Years Later

Restoring the Promise of the Voting Rights Act — 57 Years Later

Restoring the Promise of the Voting Rights Act — 57 Years Later

Fifty-seven years ago, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a son of the South who recognized the grave wrong of denying African-Americans their right to vote. For the first time in U.S. history, Black Americans had the legal means to ensure compliance with the 15th Amendment of the Constitution and to challenge restrictive voting laws and practices designed to deny them access to the ballot. This was a victory brutally fought for in the Civil Rights Movement and a long time coming.

African Americans were hopeful that at last they could assume their place as full citizens of this country, participate equally in the political process, and exercise their right to vote without fear or harassment. But celebration was short-lived as the Voting Rights Act was met with almost immediate court challenges, mostly from Southern states, the same states where slavery had once thrived. Many people remained determined to deny the most basic right of citizenship to a large swath of their fellow citizens.

Sadly, this ‘tug of war’ for the full rights of citizenship for people of color has continued over time. In 1970, 1975, and 1982, Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act. In 2007, Congress amended it to include non-English speaking U.S. citizens, Indigenous people, and other excluded populations, and extended its enforcement provisions for 25 years. But many states, mostly in the South, continued to place obstacles in the way of non-white citizens’ exercise of their right to vote in order to dilute Black voters’ electoral power and their potential to threaten the political status quo.

Despite these efforts, the political power of Black, Latinx, Native American, and AAPI voters across the country has grown over time. Increasingly, Black and Brown voters have diversified the ranks of elected officials, making their voices heard through the ballot box so powerfully that in 2008, we saw the election of Barack Obama, the first Black President in U.S. history. In 2021, we saw the election of the first Black and the first Jewish Senators from Georgia. While these were historic victories for our country, many white citizens found them a threat to their traditional idea of America.

Backlash against Voting Rights

A growing number of white voters now fear their historical monopoly on political power in this country will be forever eroded if Black, Latinx, Native American, and other excluded voters are able to freely exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote.
This fear was apparent when the Supreme Court, in its Shelby County v Holder decision, struck down the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The court’s ruling found that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were subject to pre-clearance requirements was unconstitutional because it is based on an old formula and assumed there was no longer a need for such enforcement. Contrary to the Court’s assumption, immediately after the ruling was handed down, states began to pass restrictive voting laws and increase ID requirements once again.

State legislatures gerrymandered district maps and made it harder to access the voting booth by closing polling places, especially in communities of color, limiting early voting, placing restrictions on mail-in voting, and by putting people in positions who will enforce these restrictions no matter the infringement on their citizens’ rights. Since the beginning of 2021, 18 states have passed 34 restrictive voting laws, which disproportionately affect voters of color.

Reclaiming Our Right to Vote

Today, as a country, we find ourselves facing the same situation the Voting Rights Act was designed to end. Once again, Black and Brown citizens have to fight to retain the fundamental right to vote their conscience and their preference in free and fair elections.
This is not just a problem for people of color. Unfounded restrictions on lawful access to the ballot, excessive and undue requirements for citizens to exercise their right to vote, and the undergirding white supremacist ideology that fuels them, are a problem for all of us. Voting is the pillar and hallmark of a functioning democracy and when citizens are unduly prevented from the free and fair exercise of that right, it weakens our democracy. That is why everyone must step up to reject these unconstitutional attacks on the right to vote.

Now Is the Time to Act

Right now, our democracy is on the verge of collapse in the face of an unrelenting assault on our rights by people who seek only their own, unrestricted power. Everyone needs to wake up to this threat to our democracy!
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was an important step in securing the rights of citizenship for all people. We cannot and must not let its legacy be lost. At this crucial time in our country’s history, we must come together to protect our right to vote from those who would withhold the full rights of democracy from some people based on race, ethnicity, or other arbitrary distinctions.

The Senate must join the House in passing H.R.4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And it’s our time to emulate the Civil Rights advocates of the 1960s and demand the rights of democracy for all. Most importantly, we must use our political power to elect policymakers who will safeguard the right to vote for all citizens.
Our vote is our voice and right now, we have to raise our collective voice and overcome these anti-democracy forces once and for all. If we fail, we might wake up to find that we no longer live in a pluralistic, democratic society, but an autocracy enforced by the political and financial power of a small group of people who fundamentally do not believe in democracy at all. The time is now to act.

Billionaires: Buying Our Democracy to Line Their Pockets and Empty Ours

Billionaires: Buying Our Democracy to Line Their Pockets and Empty Ours

Christian Watkins
July 22, 2022

Last week, an unknown sum of dark money paid every Republican Senator and one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to kill the trillion-dollar investment and tax plan Democrats have been working on for a year. The plan, which you might have originally known as the Build Back Better Agenda, was remodeled as the Budget Reconciliation Plan.  

Budget Reconciliation, a version of which passed the House in November 2021, would have started to reverse 40 years of trickle-down tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Dozens of billion-dollar corporations – like Amazon, Starbucks, and Netflix who now pay little to no federal income taxes, would have been required to pay at least a 15% minimum tax so they would pay into the U.S. economy like the rest of us. 

Taxing the ultra-wealthy would provide federal funds for policy measures that folks in the United States not only need, but want. Potential policies that would benefit the country include: more affordable health care, climate change mitigation, and reduced household energy costs. 

Dark money and corporate donors used their influence (money!) to flood Congress with messages that benefited them, but drowned out the voice of the people. 

The Constitutional declaration, We The People, should be the driving force that motivates legislators, not corporate interests. We need to get the out-sized influence of dark money and corporate dollars out of politics to heal our democracy. There are responsible Congresspersons who recognize the need for federal reform, and they have created bills that provide solutions.   

The John R Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.5746 S.4) and The For the People Act (S. 1) are ready for debate and a vote. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act corrects the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decisions that diluted the safeguards of Voting Rights Act and dismantles new barriers to voting and election integrity put into place by 19 state legislatures. Chief Justice Roberts said Congress needs to act or else states are sovereign on election law.  Returning election law to the state level would again allow for state legislatures to combine already in place redlining tactics with voter suppression and disenfranchise Black and Brown voters. This country is not a collection of sovereign states, so we need federal standards for elections.  

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 5746 S. 4) would establish guidelines for elections, like: times, appropriate locations for in-person voting, and rules for early voting boxes, etc.).  The For the People Act, is transformative legislation that ensures clean and fair elections by reducing or eliminating the influence of big money, dark money, and foreign money in politics. S.1 also calls for easier voting access.  For example, States would register new voters on election day for federal elections and establish independent (i.e., non-partisan) redistricting commissions to reduce partisan gerrymandering. 

S.1 would strengthen the ethics and financial disclosure requirements for the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and Federal officers and employees. One way this will be done is by prohibiting congresspersons from serving on the boards of for-profit entities. 

Is it no wonder why corporate special interests have rallied to oppose these bills! They want to continue to carry on with the status quo – and use money to influence Congressional decision-making.  We can work around them! If Senators committed to the preservation of “We The People” carve out filibuster exceptions similar to the ones that they have done for Budget Reconciliation measures, Federal executive nominations approvals, and Supreme Court Nominations, then significant action can be taken to protect our democracy.  

Our faith and sacred documents give us much needed guidance about our role in the body politic.  

The Bible says, 

“There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:25-27).”  

And, Catholic Social Justice tradition and the Catholic Catechism dictates that democratic participation in our communities is both a right and a responsibility and each person must be equipped with the proper resources. As a United Methodist minister, I also find guidance from our founder John Wesley who said, “there is no holiness without social holiness.” Taken together with NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda, we are well-equipped for this righteous cause. I pray you’ll dig deep this year and call on your friends and families to do the same! 

We are at a critical time in our country, so contact your Senators now and demand that they work to save our democracy by suspending the filibuster and passing election reform bills. 

Judge Jackson’s Nomination Soon to Move to the Senate Floor

Judge Jackson’s Nomination Soon to Move to the Senate Floor

Julia Morris
April 1, 2022

Next Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote  on whether to send the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the Senate floor. This will likely split the committee in a party line vote, but not necessarily derail the prospect for a final confirmation vote later next week. The particular day for confirmation depends on how much Republicans want to obstruct before leaving town.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) publicly expressed her support for nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In her statement Sen. Collins expressed her concern with the manner in which these hearings have proceeded saying, “In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee … [I]t is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.” Sen. Collins’ support means Vice President Kamala Harris will not have to break a 50-50 tie for the nomination.

At NETWORK, we urge the Senate to confirm her nomination with all deliberate speed. As our Executive Director Mary Novak stated:

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims a new law of love known as the Beatitudes. He said: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. We the People are hungering for justice. We need our political and judicial systems to live up to the vision of ‘right relationship’ where every person’s sacred worth is respected. On behalf of NETWORK’s 100,000 members and supporters, I express our strong support for the swift and historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court.

“Judge Jackson’s service as a federal public defender, the first defender nominated since Justice Thurgood Marshall, means she experienced firsthand the way our criminal legal system works for some but not all of us. This unique experience will allow her to bring a commitment to equal justice for all, grounded in human dignity to the Court.”

Join us in celebrating this occasion. Call 888-897-9753 to urge both of your Senators to Confirm the Honorable, and extremely qualified, Ketanji Brown Jackson!

President Biden in front of a microphone

Centering Solidarity and Healing for Our Democracy

Centering Solidarity and Healing for Our Democracy

A Response to President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union
Mary J. Novak
March 3, 2022

President Biden in front of a microphoneIn his 2022 State of the Union, President Joe Biden addressed people across the country who are anxious and weary as Vladimir Putin threatens the use of nuclear force in his quest for more power and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shatter a sense of normalcy, claiming close to one million lives in this country alone. President Biden named the pain felt by families and recommitted himself to supporting policies that benefit all families and communities. This vision is grounded in his faith, which prioritizes community and solidarity over individualism and greed. He illuminated a path forward for our national community, marked by dismantling long-standing racist policies and building both a vibrant economy that prioritizes shared prosperity and a truly representative, multi-racial democracy.

Shaping an Economy Rooted in Solidarity

In this time of increasing economic stratification, President Biden spoke forcefully about the need to reorient our economy with a new economic vision built on respecting and protecting the rights of workers and putting people over profits. Given rising costs facing families, his statement: “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation” likely resonated with many listeners. We know that ensuring jobs pay a living wage is one of the most effective ways we can uphold the dignity of work. I appreciated hearing the President’s call to raise the minimum wage and for the Senate to pass the PRO Act to protect workers’ right to unionize.

Building Anew and Protecting the Sacred Right to Vote

President Biden’s commitments to advancing just policies in NETWORK’s Build Anew policy areas are deeply rooted in the faith values of solidarity, community, respecting the rights of workers, and caring for creation; they include strengthening our democracy and voting rights; making our tax code more just; and, investing in communities by expanding the Child Tax Credit, affordable housing, and healthcare for all. NETWORK strongly supports these efforts to build a more justice union and looks forward to partnering with the Biden administration to achieve these goals. Together, we still have a great amount of work to be done, including passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but we know it is possible by working together.

Confirming a New Supreme Court Justice

Another important step for protecting the rights of everyone in our county will be the Senate voting to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court Justice. The NETWORK community celebrates Judge Jackson’s nomination and the perspective she will bring to the highest court because of her years of service on the federal district court of D.C. and D.C. Circuit as well as her formative service as a public defender.

Defending the Lives of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

While we commend President Biden clear commitments to advancing just policies for our economy and democracy, we continue to call on the President to be bold in his defense of asylum seekers at our nation’s Southern border. The President was mindful in his speech about the importance of welcoming refugees fleeing Ukraine. Likewise, we call on the President to meet that mission here. Pope Francis has said each person seeking refuge “has a name, a face and a story, as well as an inalienable right to live in peace and to aspire to a better future.” We ask President Biden to take heed of those words and end the cruel and unjust policies that he is perpetuating at the border, and end detention and deportation.

President Biden, our nation’s second Catholic President, often credits the Jesuits and Catholic Sisters with keeping his faith strong. The vision he laid out in his State of the Union reflects a roadmap to rebuilding solidarity, based in encounter. As President Biden said “We can’t change how divided we’ve been. But we can change how we move forward—on COVID-19 and other issues we must face together.”  If we want to rebuild the soul of the nation, we must rebuild it together, with a broad embrace of our human family.