Cutting health care, eliminating safe and sick time and frightening undocumented workers in Minnesota are all just plain mean, say Minnesota religious leaders.
“We are concerned that there has been a culture of meanness created at the federal level — a federal level where one party controls every single branch of government and continues to be stuck. In Minnesota, we have to do better,” said Rev. Grant Stevensen at a Thursday press conference. Stevensen and other religious leaders from ISAIAH also preached against bills on the verge of passing in the Minnesota legislature.
Rev. Paul Slack said the Minnesota budget bill is a moral document “that states our values clearly in terms of the direction we are taking our state.” He said that proposed cuts to programs that help the poor in a time of plenty were not moral. There are cuts of $599 million in the Health and Human Services bill, and “that’s tragic,” said Slack. “this kind of massive cut threatens the care for over 1.2 million Minnesotans who are on medical assistance and Minnesota Care.” He said that the cuts which are targeted at families with children are “the worst kind of cuts possible.”
Rev. Eric Hoffer threw his support behind opening up Minnesota Care for all who choose to buy into it, something that Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed. “I believe it is a fundamental God-given right to receive stable and affordable person-centered health care. And everyone deserves this. Especially children, seniors and people with particular health concerns.
“Unjust Ridiculous Choices”
Hoffer attacked the frame that removing mandates built into Obamacare gives people freedom of choice. “For many people the proposed health care cuts are leading to the types of choices that are between insurance and rent. Between health care or child care. Between growing in wellness or being well fed. Those are the kind of false, amoral, unjust ridiculous choices into which our leaders are forcing Minnesotans and Americans today.”
“And real choice is being able to pick between trusting caregivers, not tossed between whomever your insurance covers that year.”
“The solution to this false living out of the idea of freedom of choice perpetrated by our federal and state leaders is giving people the free and equal access to stable and affordable health care no matter who you are, no matter where you work and no matter how much money you have.”
Rev. Mark Vinge preached against the bill that would take away safe and sick time from workers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He said lawmakers “have passed a scoundrel of a bill called ‘preemption” in both the house and the senate that strips local control from every community in the state. It is undemocratic and mean spirited.”
Minneapolis and St. Paul recently enacted ordinances requiring employers to provide sick and safe time to their employees. Vinge said other communities deserve the same protections, but won’t get the chance to pass them. “Is that the role of the legislature? To go around undoing ordinances passed all across the state?”
“Instead of creating positive legislation, they want to destroy dreams and the hopes of people.”
“How is that moral?” he asked. “When children are sick they need their parents to care for them.”
“That is straight-out stealing. That is theft. It is morally bankrupt and we call on Gov. Dayton to veto any preemption legislation that comes across his desk.”
Stevensen said many of the religious leaders at the press conference have begun opening the doors of their congregations “to provide sanctuary for those who have been frightened and threatened by our government.”
Rev. Corinne Freedman Ellis said tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in Minnesota feel threatened by the “hateful rhetoric of last year’s political season and this year’s public policy.” She called for more communities to have “strong separation ordinances so our local police can concentrate on serving their communities, not serving the agenda of federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials. Our state government should be supporting this work.”
“Our futures are bound together. Our nation has been swept up in a tide of fear and distrust. Minnesota has to be an example of another way,” said Freedman.