Members of Arizona's faith community gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday to condemn the proposed 2.5% flat tax, saying it would disproportionately impact marginalized communities and that they would be "among the first" to call for a referendum if it passes.
The Arizona Interfaith Network, a statewide coalition of organizations including the Valley Interfaith Project, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and Yuma County Interfaith, held the news conference at 10 a.m.
The Rev. Martha Seaman, a deacon at Church of the Epiphany-Tempe who also serves as president of the Valley Interfaith Project board, began the conference by calling the flat tax a "dangerous" proposal....
The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, a senior pastor at Church of the Ephiphany-Tempe, said the lost tax revenue would "cripple our state for generations to come" and called the state budget "one of our most basic moral documents" that reflects who and what is prioritized in Arizona.
Ruffin said the "immoral" flat tax would benefit wealthy Arizonans at the cost of the poor and middle class, which he described as antithetical to religious teaching. "You can turn to Leviticus, to Ezekiel, to Zachariah, to Malachi, to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to the whole of the Pauline epistles....
"we're taught to care for the most vulnerable among us first, not simply when we have extra in our pockets and we feel charitable."
If the flat tax passes, Ruffin said the Arizona Interfaith Network would be "among the first" to call for a referendum, a measure in which voters can veto a law by gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
He said the network would also be launching a series of community and congregational study sessions to further explore the flat tax and its implications.
[Photo credit: (right) Matthew Casey, KJZZ; (left) ABC News]
Oped: First the Pandemic, Now a Flat Tax. Haven't Arizona's Most Vulnerable Suffered Enough?” The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Arizona Faith Leaders Condemn Proposed Flat Tax, Say They Will Call Referendum, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
AIN Clergy Denounce the Flat Tax Proposal, Valley Interfaith Project
In Tucson, Arizona, work at Pima County Interfaith began advocating for pandemic relief as the pandemic hit, seeing it as a natural outgrowth of its grassroots work.
Ana Chavarin, an organizer with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization, said its community leaders quickly advocated for rental assistance for people threatened with eviction. And, after weeks of activism, members were able to convince health care providers to bring vaccines to some of the most vulnerable communities Feb. 6.
She credited local leaders for their work in neighborhoods, parishes and church congregations. She said the effort is rooted in church teaching on solidarity and recognizing the dignity of each person....
Chavarin recalled that when coronavirus testing began in Tucson, the site was established far from low-income communities. For people with a vehicle, the trip would take 40 minutes. However, for poor residents it required riding on multiple buses on a trek that took several hours in each direction.
To prevent such inequities, Chavarin urged collaboration among low-, middle- and upper-income residents to develop solutions to community challenges. While such conversations might currently be pertinent during the pandemic, they could also lead to meetings on environmental issues, jobs and education, she said.
She cited the letter to the Corinthians for inspiration in understanding the importance of building such relationships: "When one part of the body is hurting, then the whole body is hurting."
"We need to understand," Chavarin said, "that we are one body in need of creating those connections and having those conversations to talk about specific goals."
[Photo Credit: Eloisa Lopez, Catholic News Service / Reuters]
To Overcome Economic Disparities, Turn to Papal Encyclicals, Panelists Say, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans are in danger of losing their homes when the CDC eviction moratorium ends December 31st. Leaders and clergy of the Arizona Interfaith Network are now calling on Governor Ducey and state elected leaders for a moratorium on evictions.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Rabbi John Linder declared.
Episcopal Bishop Jennifer Reddall affirmed, "We aren't set up to handle hundreds of thousands of homeless people." She and Linder are leading the network’s call on Gov. Ducey to enact a statewide eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues its surge across Arizona.
And in December, she joined online house meetings organized by the Valley Interfaith Project, a onetime Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization that now advocates for people facing eviction during the pandemic.
Valley Interfaith, she said, has "given me a voice."
Arreola is among thousands of people nationwide who have turned to parishes, Catholic Charities agencies and Catholic-affiliated nonprofits for assistance to stave off eviction. The number of people seeking financial assistance and emotional support is staggering, Catholic officials nationwide told Catholic News Service
[Maricopa County constable evicts a family from their home in blurred out photo above. Credit: John Moore, Getty Images]
After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks.
Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:
"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."
Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State Order, Arizona Interfaith Network [pdf]
Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
700 PCIC leaders packed the parish hall of St. Pius X Catholic Church to secure commitments from candidates for federal, state and local office around an agenda that included immigration and food security at the federal level, and workforce development, education and healthcare at the state and local level.
Candidates that attended included Congressional Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (CD 2), Pima County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Richard Elias, and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Religious leaders in attendance included Catholic Monsignors Raul Trevizo and Tom Cahalane, Episcopal Rector Robert Hendrickson (St. Philip’s), Rabbi Tom Louchheim (Or Chadash), Lutheran Dean & JobPath Board Chair Steve Springer (Dove of Peace), and Methodist Pastor Sharon Ragland (St. Mark’s). Bruce Dusenberry, former Chamber of Commerce Chair and Board of JobPath, Flowing Wells School Superintendent David Baker, and Community Food Bank President Michael McDonald also participated.
Hundreds of PCIC leaders helped Get Out The Vote through election day, resulting in a 70.5% voter turnout rate in Pima County -- the highest in recent history.
Candidates who committed to the agenda won their elections, including one State House seat and one US Congressional seat (CD-2). The City Parks & Recreation Bond also passed.
'Accountability Session' Sunday a Chance to Evaluate Candidates, Arizona Daily Star
Forty members from St. John the Evangelist Church and the neighborhood attended a civic academy yesterday to learn about “public charge.” This new policy by the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security would affect many legal immigrants who are applying for permanent residency (green cards) and penalize applicants if they or their families have received government support such as SNAP (food stamps), subsidized health care, and other support that the government has labeled a “public charge.”
As rumors of this new policy surfaced, immigrant churches and Pima County Interfaith started conducting research. The fear began a few months ago when the press began to talk again about this policy. Rumors and misinformation led many immigrants to renounce their citizen children’s benefits out of fear. Among those immigrants most affected by this proposal are low-income families, single mothers, and children with chronic illnesses.
At Sunday’s session, a single mother asked if she could lose her permanent residency if she continued to receive AHCCCS, Arizona’s version of Medicaid, for her infant baby. Fortunately, she received her visa through the VAWA program that so far is exempt from being a 'public charge.'
After the session, some attendees thanked the St. John team for making this presentation. They said they felt more relaxed now that they knew which programs would be counted as 'public charge.'
A young mother said, "I'm going to register for citizenship classes and I'm going to apply to become a citizen. I'm afraid this administration will find another way to revoke my residency and separate me from my family."
On school days, the children from St. John's School plan to use the park. After school, Pueblo High School and neighborhood skaters are expected to take over. In the evening, seniors and everyone else hope to walk and play in its environs. Lights won't go out until 10:00pm, when a neighbor will lock the gate and new bathrooms.Read more
125 Pima County Interfaith resident leaders of Ward 3 Tucson assembled and secured commitments from primary candidates Felicia Chew, Paul Durham and Tom Tronsdal. The session was organized by Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, Southern Arizona Interfaith (SAI) and Literacy Connects. All three candidates pledged to support keeping Tucson an Immigrant Welcoming city, to support PCI efforts to fight SPICE and other drugs in Ward 3, and to meet with the organizations if elected.Read more
Initially convened by Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas, with support from Southern Arizona Interfaith and Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, clergy from Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Sikh backgrounds participated in the preparation of the joint statement. 105 religious leaders from 57 congregations ultimately signed on.Read more
Former students like Patty Popp credit JobPath for helping them bridge the gap between minimum wage work and a living wage career. After training for an associate's degree in radiologic technology, she kept on advancing to her current position as Director of Clinical Operations at Radiology Limited. Her story can be read in the first article below.Read more