Saturday, February 01, 2014

Faith Leaders Sign A Letter Urging Governor, State Legislature to Address Poverty in New Mexico (and we need more signatures)

As of Friday afternoon, 116 faith leaders in New Mexico (both clergy and laity) had signed an open letter to Gov. Susana Martinez and the State Legislature urging them to get serious about addressing hunger and poverty in our state.

The effort to get the signatures is led by Rev. Holly Beaumont of Interfaith Worker Justice-New Mexico in Santa Fe, with some support from Carlos Navarro from Bread for the World New Mexico in Albuquerque.

We are continuing to gather signatures, and we hope to have 200 names by the start of next week.

How do we define faith leaders?
If you are a self-identified person of faith, clergy or laity, who has or continues to provide leadership in your faith community or the community-at-large, please sign this letter.  If you would like to sign the letter, drop a note by email to

Please include the following information:
Your name and title (if appropriate)
Your faith affiliation, either congregation, denomination or organization
Your city/town of residence where you live and vote

The Text of the Letter
January 27, 2014

As the 2014 Legislative Session gets underway, we, the undersigned, faith leaders representing religious traditions from across our state are compelled by our convictions to express our concerns regarding the challenges facing our state.

In June 2013, the annual Kids Count report ranked New Mexico last in the United States in child well-being — slipping down from 49th in 2012. An estimated 40,000 New Mexicans seek help from a food pantry or food bank every week; among those 40,000, 54 percent said they must choose between paying for food and paying utility bills. Our state minimum wage is $7.50, when it takes $14.42 per hour to afford a modest two bedroom apartment.

At 22.2 percent, New Mexico has the highest share of poor people of any state, and income inequality in New Mexico is now the worst in the nation. Clearly, we are poised at a crossroads and must choose a new direction.

We all share the responsibility to lift our children and families out of poverty and dependency and allow them to recover the dignity of self-sufficiency, whether we are the governor, legislators, voters...or faith leaders.

As people of faith, our lives are shaped by our sacred texts that point to universal principles. God’s command is clear and unyielding – economic justice grounded in equity and compassion is at the heart of our life together.

The words of the prophet Amos echo across the ages calling us to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a living stream.”

In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus warns that nations as well as individuals will be judged, for “what you do to the least of these you do to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced the biblical truth that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” What affects one, affects us all, for we are our brothers and sisters keepers.

Pope Francis spoke with similar passion: "Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, worshiping God and developing one's own human potential…in the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless." Money must serve, not rule.

Drawing from our deep moral, ethical, and religious convictions, we acknowledge that the decisions reached at this legislative session will impact the future for all of us. Will this generation be provided with the resources they require to fulfill their dreams and potential? Or will they be sacrificed for a future generation that seems never to arrive?

We believe that the opportunity to take important steps toward addressing the crisis of deepening poverty and widening income inequality in New Mexico is within our grasp by passing fair, compassionate and reasoned public policies during this legislative session, including but not limited to: 

SRJ12 which allows voters to approve funding for Early Childhood Education that guarantees all our children will have the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

SJR13 which allows voters to approve a cost of living increase to the minimum wage, recognizing that we are far from a Living Wage that would allow workers to sustain themselves and their families without depending upon public and charitable services.

HB115, the Wage Theft Prevention Act, strengthens every worker’s right to be paid all the wages they have earned for work completed.

SB51, increases the state Working Families Tax Credit and helps families achieve a sustainable income while making New Mexico’s tax system more equitable. These public policies have been tested and proven to address income inequality and help to lift people out of poverty, benefiting all of us with a more just and vibrant economy and paving the road to a better future for our State.

The Bible speaks of the “fullness of time” when it becomes clear that the old order is giving way to something new and fresh. We know these policies are controversial, but the time has come when the families of New Mexico must no longer bear the costs of concession and compromise. We believe we are privileged to be living in one of these rare moments as together we reclaim a vision of fairness and compassion in all walks of life.

Our personal prayers as well as those of our faith communities will be with our legislators and Governor as they listen to the cries of the heart across our state and take bold and courageous action to do what is right and just for all New Mexicans.

(Please note: The congregations and/or organizations listed below are for identification purposes only. These signatures represent the position of the individual clergy and religious leaders who have signed on in support).


(List of names to be posted later)

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