BY ISN STAFF | December 13, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.—This week, religious organizations and communities, including the Ignatian Solidarity Network and the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Equality, sent a letter to U.S. House leadership expressing support for a bipartisan bill that could jump-start economies in coal communities: the RECLAIM Act of 2017.
The RECLAIM Act brings hope for real help for Appalachian communities most in need of economic revitalization. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission 2010-2014 poverty rate report, the combined Appalachian regions of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have a poverty rate that is 4 percent higher than the national average.
Co-coordinator of Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Wheeling Jesuit University alumnus, and 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice mainstage speaker Michael Iafrate said of the legislation, “People in Appalachia have been working to change the dominant story we tell about the region in an effort of reimagining their communities and forging new paths forward beyond coal. The RECLAIM Act is a reasonable first step in assisting these communities to bring these efforts to life as we continue to have difficult conversations about our region and its place in this nation’s history.”
Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, who serves as the Catholic Committee of Appalachia’s Bishop Liaison, has also voiced support for the legislation: “As a community of faith, we look for these kinds of opportunities which protect and restore the wonders of creation and offer possibilities for meaningful employment.”
Signed by 40 religious denominations and faith-based organizations, the letter provides faith communities’ reason for supporting the RECLAIM Act:
“…we are deeply invested in ensuring every person has the opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential. We also believe in our moral responsibility to ensure God’s creation continues to help future generations thrive. For these reasons, we urge you to look towards real solutions for a just transition for coal communities.”
The letter called on House leadership to bring the RECLAIM Act of 2017 to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible.
The effort was headed by Creation Justice Ministries, which represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions.