Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of the Allen Temple Baptist Church announced today a new initiative emerging from the religious left in the U.S. in response to McCutcheon vs. FEC, the Supreme Court decision from April 2,2014, that banned limits set by the Federal Election Committee on the total that could be spent by any individual in an election. The previous limit was $123,200. Now there is no limit on the total a wealthy individual can donate in a given election cycle. In response to the decision, Rabbi Lerner said:

The Supreme Court is continuing its recent turn to give the super-rich and the richest corporations unlimited power to shape American elections and the government policies that will be enacted by these candidates once in office. This can only be reversed by an amendment to the Constitution, and we’ve designed it: the ESRA – Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment. That amendment will ban all money from elections for the president, the Congress, the governors, and the legislatures of the several states except for money provided by public funding for elections.

MoveOn and other organizations have organized protests against this decision, and many ordinary citizens are outraged. But, Lerner pointed out, “this is not going to be changed by demonstrations, but only by a concerted campaign to pass a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” [Please read the ESRA at www.tikkun.org/ESRA]

Commenting on the proposed amendment supported by an organization called Move to Amend, which would overturn “Citizens United,” Lerner pointed out that McCutcheon vs. FEC now makes clear that only an amendment that mandates public funding of elections and banning all other sources of money and influence. He added:

The super-rich would still shape elections even if restrictions, such as those incorporated into Move to Amend’s proposed Constitutional amendment, were constitutionally allowed on corporate spending. Only the ESRA would actually get money out of politics – the Move to Amend proposal won’t accomplish that, so when people spend years trying to get it passed they will end up, should they succeed, with an amendment that really doesn’t constrain the super-rich who currently shape elections. Now will it constrain the other way money in politics shapes public policy – the way that corporations can threaten to move out of the city, state or even country if governments start to constrain their ability to produce environmentally unsustainable products, require a livable wage, or tax them adequately to fund necessary social services. It is this power of corporations that gives them immense influence in shaping public policies at the city, state and national levels, and hence the big money will continue to prevail even if Move to Amend were to pass. Not so with the ESRA – please read it at www.tikkun.org/ESRA.

Understanding that a Constitutional Amendment will take a massive effort, and will take many years, Lerner and Smith invited American churches, synagogues, mosques, ashrams and zendos, religiously oriented colleges and universities, and all other religious institutions to mobilize to get money out of politics!

“This is the contemporary continuation of Jesus’ struggle to get the moneychangers out of the Temple,” said Pastor Smith. “Our holy democracy is being undermined by the distorting influence of corporations and the super-rich, and it’s time for us to throw the money people out of politics and create a level playing field in which everyone has equal impact. The ESRA does that.”

[Note to our readers: Please both paste this on your Facebook or other social media page AND get this to your local media, and ask them to either print it or to interview Rabbi Michael Lerner whom they can reach at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com. And please let the new executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Cat Zavis, know if you would be willing to help get an endorsement of the ESRA from your local city council, state legislature, or Member of Congress (your Congressman and/or Senators). Cat can be reached at cat@spiritualprogressives.org. Meanwhile, please re-read the ESRA at www.tikkun.org/ESRA]

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