Measures 66 and 67: Caring for the Least of These

“The moral case for voting in favor of these tax increases, regardless of your religious affiliation, is clear,” writes Chuck Currie in an OregonLive article, Measures 66 and 67: Caring for the Least of These. He makes a compelling argument for people of faith involving themselves in public policy matters, even tax increases. His analysis has something to offer us as we in Illinois continue to debate ways of solving our deep fiscal crisis and means of avoiding devastating service cuts. Rev. Currie maintains that what we do in this very difficult situation to care for the “least of these” has a direct bearing on our relationship with God and our capacity for Christian discipleship. Read on, and take his words to heart as you involve yourself in addressing the need for new revenues and a fairer tax system that protects the most vulnerable in our Illinois communities.

Measures 66 and 67: Caring for the least of these
January 13, 2010, 7:00AM
By Chuck Currie

Oregonians reading their recently arrived Voters Pamphlet might have been surprised to see so many religious leaders expressing support for Measures 66 and 67. Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the statewide association of Christian denominations, and the evangelical-leaning Oregon Center for Christian Values are just two of the religious groups expressing support for the measures that voters will consider for the special mail-in election on Jan. 26.

Why would Oregon’s faith community become involved in this election? For Christians, the answer is easy. Jesus taught that how we care for the least of these in society — children, the elderly, those who are sick — is akin to how we treat God. In other words, if we leave our state with inadequate schools, without care for the aged, without medical care for those who are ill, we are literally abandoning our relationship with the Almighty.

But shouldn’t communities of faith be taking care of people without asking the government to take on the responsibility? Already churches, synagogues and mosques are providing help by operating hospitals, shelters, food programs, schools and health clinics either directly or through volunteer and financial support. As Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon notes: The faith community “cannot meet the needs that exist in Oregon without a strong government role in providing health care, affordable housing, job training and other services that provide hope and opportunity. Support from private donors and business partners do not provide enough resources to serve all of society’s most vulnerable populations. We need all of us to come together to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for all Oregonians.”

Measures 66 and 67 will impact few Oregonians, and requires only modest tax increases on businesses and individuals. For example, the minimum corporate tax, currently $10 (yep, 10 bucks), will now be just $150 (the first increase since 1931) and families making more than $250,000 a year will see the taxes on their income above that level increase just 1.8 percent. Overall, the marginal tax rate on corporate profits will increase a modest 1.3 percent.

As proponents of Measures 66 and 67 point out, the net impact will mean more than $1 billion in saved programs that are directly related to education, public safety and human services. The moral case for voting in favor of these tax increases, regardless of your religious affiliation, is clear. Without the passage of Measures 66 and 67 the state of Oregon will have to cut even more from our budget during a time of increased need, and the results would be distressing for a state that already leads in unemployment and is now the state with the second highest hunger rate.

As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has spent his entire adult life working on issues related to homelessness, housing and health care, I can testify that these are trying times for all Oregonians. For the common good of our state, it’s time to set aside partisan political labels and ideologies so that together we might embrace a higher purpose: the health and future of our Oregon.

Religious leaders from the Roman Catholic Church to the United Methodist Church to the Episcopal Church USA to the United Church of Christ (churches that sometimes disagree on profoundly important theological issues) have come together now to say that our faith compels us to hear God’s call to protect the “least of these” by voting yes on Measures 66 and 67. Scriptures tell us: “… if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday … you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in (Isaiah 58 NRSV).”

The passage of Measures 66 and 67 will set Oregon on the road to recovery and offer hope to many who live now in fear.

Chuck Currie of Northeast Portland is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a member of the public policy committee of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

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