Organizers of the April 20 Moral Citizenship forum tried for months to get their U.S. Representative, Tom Emmer (R-MN), to come to a public forum. They sent dozens of emails, made dozens of phone calls, visited his office, followed directions and filled out online forms — and got no response at all.
“It’s not just that Tom Emmer is not here with us tonight,” said Reverend Steve Sylvester, the lead pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Circle Pines. “It’s not just that he refused to meet with us. He never even responded to our invitation… A representative. represents. A representative seeks to be in conversation with constituents, bare minimum. A representative acknowledges that his or her constituents exist. Tom Emmer has done not even one of those things.”
ISAIAH, which organized the event, opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Emmer wants it repealed, but has not backed a specific replacement plan.
The forum went on anyway, with 200 people assembled to hear their neighbors talk about three moral and political issues: health care, immigration, and the environment.
Highlights and complete video of forum
Video above: edited highlights of forum
Video below: video of entire forum
Dr. Tara Cole voiced frustration: “How in this supposedly Christian nation, do we allow corporations and politicians to put profit before humanity?” She talked about her experience as a family physician, seeing patients unable to afford prescriptions and other costs of health care. Acknowledging problems with ACA and especially its costs, she said it can be fixed.
Dr. Cole warned against eliminating ACA protections, talking about the “Wild West” landscape that existed before the ACA. She warned against proposals to repeal the ACA, and proposals to eliminate requirements for basic health care coverage.
Amy Charetz described her family’s medical needs with two daughters, ages 7 and 9, both on the autism spectrum. She and her husband both have medical insurance through their jobs.
“Together our daughters have five therapy appointments a week… We met our annual family deductible of several thousand dollars within two months. What my daughters need would cost my entire salary every year out of pocket.”
“Because of the ACA,” Charetz said, “insurance plans are no longer allowed to deny, limit, exclude or charge more for pre-existing conditions, like autism. Democratic kids have autism and Republican kids have autism – this is a bipartisan issue.”
Reverend Tim Maybee, an associate pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, spoke about immigration. He said that it is important not to reduce issues to numbers, but to remember these are human issues and are about “actual living, flesh-and-blood people.”
“Many politicians, including our president, rolled into power this past year because they explicitly appealed to the racial fears of voters,” he said. “Mr. Trump, in particular, did that using the issue of immigration.” He spoke about the biblical injunction to care for strangers and aliens in the land, and about what that means for our care for sojourners among us.
Don Fancher, a member of the United Church of Christ in New Brighton, began by referring to Leviticus 18:26, and to the biblical admonition to be prudent in decisions so we do not defile the earthly environment. He posed a question to Representative Emmer: “We are called to care for God’s creation. As a public official, do you hear that call?”
Kristen Genet, a member of Our Savior’s Lutheran, talked about taking her three children on a road trip to Big Cypress national reserve and the Florida Everglades. There, they saw a presentation about rising sea levels. If the sea continues to rise at the present rate, in 50 years, the boardwalk where they stood to watch the presentation will be under water. As they drove away, a question came from the back seat, “with as much outrage and indignation as a seven-year-old can muster – ‘What if I want to take my kids back there? What if I want to go back with my grandkids? If the water is over the parking lot, I can’t take them there.”
Maureen Foreman sounded a call to action at the end of the forum: “Who am I if I look around at this world and see so many things that are not the way I think they should be, not the way I believe God intended them to be – who am I if I see that and I do nothing?”
Editors note: SD 13 Republicans report that Tom Emmer was at their fundraiser that evening: