General Assembly backgrounder: social justice issues

Gun violence, abortion, hunger, U.S. economy top list at GA221

June 5, 2014


Gun violence, abortion, hunger, and the U.S. economy are among the topics that will be discussed by commissioners to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when they gather June 14–21 in Detroit.

Two of the overtures assigned to the Assembly’s Committee on Social Justice Issues — from the presbyteries of National Capital (09-01) and Hudson River (09-07) — advocate measures to prevent gun violence. Another overture, from the Presbytery of Nevada (09-12), seeks training in trauma crisis counseling for pastors and other caregivers so that they can respond more effectively to the needs of survivors following a mass shooting or homicide.

The Presbytery of South Alabama is calling for appointment of a special committee to review PC(USA) policies on abortion and propose new policies if needed. The presbytery’s overture (09-02) also urges a two-year churchwide “season of reflection” on the plight of unwanted children, “both born and not-yet-born.”

Two overtures (09-09 and 09-11) seek to address root causes of hunger and poverty. The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta is calling for measures to promote food severeignty, which includes the right of all people to “safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and food-producing resources.” The Presbytery of National Capital urges the Assembly to affirm the importance of maternal and child nutrition in the 1,000 days between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The overture cites the 1,000 Days Movement, a campaign of Bread for the World supported by Presbyterian Women and other faith-based women’s organizations.

Two measures seek to address injustices in the U.S. economic system that have contributed to the widening gap between rich and poor. An overture from the Presbytery of Santa Fe (09-06) urges the church to support financial and political reform, including “advocating for strategies that address the lack of persecution of the individuals and financial institutions responsible for the 2008 meltdown of the U.S. economy.” In a paper titled “Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age” (09-16), the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy offers recommenations seeking a fairer tax system in the United States.

Other overtures call for a national moratorium on the death penalty (Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, 09-04), a new study of end-of-life issues (Synod of the Covenant, 09-10), and a churchwide study to discern how to advocate for more effective drug policies in the United States (Presbytery of San Francisco, 09-05).

A resolution from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (09-15) proposes actions to counter a “new wave of voter suppression” it says is disproportionately affecting racial ethnic communities following the June 2013 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court nullifying a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

These and other social justice issues will be considered by Assembly Committee 9 — Social Justice Issues. Eva Stimson, a free-lance writer and editor, will cover Committee 9 for the General Assembly Communication Center.

  1. WE apologize for the delay and the difficulty finding the tax justice report, which is on under the Social Justice Committee of the 2014 General Assembly: It is being laid out more accessibly and will be posted and linked. To Mr. Woods' points, briefly, the bottom 50% of the population pay most of their taxes through payroll and sales taxes, which are highly regressive, and the top group he identifies does in fact receive a vastly disproportionate levels of income the higher up the ladder you go. As for the corporate income tax, the stated rate and the actual rate are vastly different. The report in fact calls for a reduction in the statutory rate but favors a continuing role, given the enormous power and wealth corporations wield and the need for the US not to become a tax haven.

    by Chris Iosso

    October 6, 2014

  2. The statement "“advocating for strategies that address the lack of persecution of the individuals ..." contains an error. The word the authors want is not "persecution" but "prosecution." I doubt that the PC-USA has any interest in "persecution" beyond defending those subject to it.

    by Bill Julian

    June 13, 2014

  3. As for the "tax justice" issue, the fact is that the top 25% of the federal filers will now pay 90% of the total personal income taxes collected. The bottom 50% of the filers will pay just over 2% of the total personal income taxes collected. Do we really want a system where ONLY the well-off pay income taxes? As for corporate income taxes, the USA has the highest tax rates in the world - which invites US companies to invest and create jobs in countries other than the US. Is that good economic policy - creating jobs in other countries vs. the US because of punitive tax rates? The PROBLEM is not insufficient taxing of the well-off and businesses. The PROBLEM is way too many wasteful, inefficient and often superfluous programs being funded by the government. Anytime the federal government tries to do something it creates giant bureaucracies churning out volumes of regulations which are often irrelevant or useless and often conflicting. The Department of Energy and the Department of Education are two such growing tumors. They have endless appetites for money and what they do that is actually positive could be done better, faster and cheaper by state or local governments or private companies. It is not governments that create wealth & jobs. That is done via private enterprise, individual investors and entities with funds available for investments. If the idea is to create a more wealthy society reduce the role and reach of government - including taxes. If the idea is to reallocate wealth by force, then, by all means increase taxes and the role of government. But, if you choose the latter course, the economy will not grow, jobs won't be created and the total pie to be shared will shrink,

    by Bruce Woods

    June 13, 2014

  4. Overture 09-16 can be found here: Thank you!

    by Bethany Daily

    June 9, 2014

  5. I would like to read the entire paper “Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age” (09-16), including the appendices with charts it alludes to, but after finding the paper once online I am having trouble accessing it again. Would it be possible for someone to send it to me or let me know a better way to access it? I am an economist who is also an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and am very interested in this topic. I hope the proposal can be the very best it can be and can be well prepared to make clear why we need more progressive taxation. Thanks, Jane Lean, Honor MI 49640

    by Jane Lean

    June 8, 2014