Mainstream religious leaders today are hosting a vigil by the statue of populist champion and former Gov. Floyd B. Olson, in honor of Statehood Day. On the 153rd anniversary of the North Star State, our state’s most respected faith leaders will be drawing attention to the absolutely vital role of our state government in providing for the “security, benefit and protection of the people.”
Those words _ “security, benefit and protection of the people” _ are not just some modern liberal interpretation of the role of state government. The phrase looms large in the first sentence of Article I of our state constitution (in which there is no mention of protecting wealth and property and privilege, or keeping taxes and labor costs low.) And those inspiring and inclusive words in Article 1 about the essential “Object of Government” are being emphasized by the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition “in calling the public and our elected officials to a more just and compassionate public stewardship.”
The JRLC is an alliance our state’s largest denominations (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic) and the coalition is a member of the Invest in Minnesota coalition, which advocates for a balanced approach to the budget crisis, opposes an all-cuts strategy, and supports restoration of the higher income tax rates of a decade ago on high-income Minnesotans.
These leaders of faith are producing a strong counterpunch to the weekend’s anti-tax, anti-government rally, which ironically coincided with recent news stories documenting that federal and state effective tax rates have fallen to historic lows, even as the economic condition of low- and moderate-income families decline. Public investments in health, education and human services help ameliorate this growing inequality and public investments in human capital and physical infrastructure also are good for business in the long run. Church leaders, who often are called upon by conservatives to apply their meager financial resources to plug the holes left by cuts in government budgets, know these realities better than most.