EPA efforts highlighted at Democrats' faith council meeting

Lisa Jackson administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency speaking at the DNC faith council CNA US Catholic News 9 5 12 Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, speaks Sept. 5, 2012 at the DNC's faith council.

Concern for the environment and a desire to care for one's neighbor through the federal government were among the ways Democratic speakers described their faith in action at a religious gathering at the party's national convention.

Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that her work to protect the environment stems from her faith, which drives her in an attempt to build "our country as a community that takes care of each other."

Jackson decried the plight of "a child who has asthma" and struggles with "dirty air." She also praised faith communities for uniting to embrace new standards that address mercury pollution from power plants.

"This president has done so much in the areas I care about," she added.

Jackson was a featured speaker at a Democratic National Convention faith council gathering, which was held at the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina.

Speakers at the Sept. 5 event described faith as an "integral" part of the Democratic Party and blasted critics who objected to a decision to remove a reference to God in the party's official platform.

A reference to God was later reinserted into the party's platform, drawing both cheers and boos from numerous Democratic delegates.

The faith council meeting included numerous speakers who offered prayers and reflections, as well as panels on various topics. A panel on voter outreach was introduced by James Salt, executive director of the pro-Obama organization Catholics United.

Speeches at the gathering included repeated references to being "our brother's keepers" and maintained that the biblical admonition must be carried out through federal government programs.

The government was described as the Good Samaritan and tax cuts for the wealthy were criticized. Other prominent issues raised by speakers included education, immigration concerns and health care.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the social justice lobby NETWORK, promoted a "faithful budget" that raises revenue by taxing the wealthy.

Sr. Campbell asserted that taxes are "a faith position" and encouraged people "to be bold and speak out for revenue because that is the responsible faith way forward."

Faith was also connected to the "freedom" to choose abortion.

"I'm protecting my faith as strong as I do when a man comes into my way and tells me that I can't make decisions about my body," said Reverend Regina Thomas.

Speakers largely avoided concerns about religious freedom raised by Catholics and other people of faith in light of the Health and Human Services mandate that requires many religious employers to violate their firmly-held beliefs by offering health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

Kathy Dahlkemper, a Catholic and former lawmaker who describes herself as a "whole life Democrat," defended the Affordable Care Act as "the most pro-life piece of legislation that we've ever passed in this country," despite the fact that it funds abortion-inducing drugs and granted the authority to issue the controversial HHS mandate.

Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, also defended the health care law, adding that he fears that "there is a movement in our nation to try to make us a homogenous people."

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Bishop Yvette Flunder of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a lesbian African American, also spoke at the faith council gathering, arguing for "radical inclusivity" and "a divine reformation."

"We need a new definition of righteousness," she said.

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