Lutherans in Minnesota

Joint Religious Legislative Coalition brings broad coalition to Minnesota State Capitol to do citizen lobbying

Issues included economic fairness and judicial impartiality

More than 750 people listened to keynote speaker Rabbi David Saperstein at the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s annual  Day on the Hill on March 13. Saperstein is director of the  Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

More than 750 people listened to keynote speaker Rabbi David Saperstein at the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s annual Day on the Hill on March 13. Saperstein is director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

Abraham and Esther were some of the first lobbyists, Rabbi David Saperstein told a large crowd of Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews, assembled for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s (JRLC) 2014 Day on the Hill. “They both spoke truth to power,” he said.

Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., inspired more than 750 “citizen lobbyists” to go to the Minnesota State Capitol with the same sense of mission, as they advocated for a broad range of issues, including reform of payday lending practices, more funding in the bonding bill for shelter for homeless individuals, the dismantling of a cap on the number of children who qualify for childcare assistance, a constitutional amendment to keep partisanship out of judicial elections, and an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

“Rabbi Saperstein was electric,” said Brian Rusche, the executive director of JRLC. “Seldom have I heard a message as impassioned and as rich in context.”

Saperstein later told Rusche that “every state in the nation should use JRLC as a model to pattern their own efforts to impact their elected officials.

After the opening plennary, participants, many there for the first time, were given tips for a successful legislative visit. “Lead with your principles,” and “Be prepared for them to get a little agitated and attack your facts or credibility,” they were instructed. And, no matter what, “keep a smile on your face, stay with your statement of principle, adn ask them to keep an open mind on the evidence.”

Rusche also told the crowd that this legislative session was moving at “breakneck speed.” He cited the fact that the payday lending reform bill (HF 2293) had passed through the House Commerce Committee after a hearing on the second day of session.

JRLC is sponsored by four member communities — the Minnesota Council of Churches, the Minnesota Catholic Council, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota & the Dakotas, and the Islamic Center of Minnesota. Each of the four bodies has veto power over any particular legislative topic.

The 2014 Interfaith Social Justice Award was given to Riverside Hope Student Group at Al-Amal School in Fridley for their relief efforts after the tragic fire in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on January 1. James D. Soderberg, recently retired from Churches United in Ministry in Duluth, was honored with the Lawrence D. Gibson Award.

 

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