Monday, December 03, 2007

Letter to the Editor: Interfaith Conference

A letter to the editor, from Paula Simon, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations.

Simon takes exception to some of our comments about the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
As the secretary of the Interfaith Conference and a member of both the Executive Committee and the Cabinet, I would like to clarify a few of the incorrect assumptions that you made in your blog about the positions and activities of the organization based on the content on its website.

You asserted that that the Interfaith Conference “strongly supported Healthy Wisconsin in the state budget.” This is factually incorrect. The Conference co-sponsored a series of health care reform education sessions at diverse congregations across the metropolitan area during 2007. These forums included proponents of a range of health care proposals, including market-driven proposals. At the forum that I attended at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, the panel included a speaker from Americans for Prosperity. A Senate Republican and member of Joint Finance Committee presented the Republican sponsored initiative at two other forums. All of the forums were educational and no endorsements were made of any particular plan. Based on conversations at multiple governance levels of the Interfaith Conference, it was evident that there was no consensus on Healthy Wisconsin, and therefore no vote nor action to support it in the state budget cycle.

I also take issue with your assertion that the Interfaith Conference can be categorized as “a bunch of liberal bureaucrat/activists.” The Interfaith Conference is comprised of thirteen religious judicatories, and each appoints three representatives to the Cabinet that governs the decisions of the organization. I believe that many of them would be shocked to be labeled as such. There are many issues on which we disagree based on our respective theologies. We are, however, all guided by our shared vision to uphold the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community.

While a website might be a window, it is never the full view.
As Simon implies in the final paragraph, we based our assertions about the group on their web site, including the policy statements there, and also the links they included -- which were sharply skewed to the political left. “Strong support” for a government healthcare monopoly was what we saw.

We are delighted to learn that Interfaith Conference panels on health care included Republicans and people supporting a market-oriented health care policy. But wouldn’t it be nice to include these alternative views on the organization’s web site?

Simon doesn’t seem to understand the irony of denying that the Interfaith Conference is “a bunch of liberal bureaucrat/activists” and then pointing out that the organization is composed of “thirteen religious judicatories.” These “judicatories” are virtually all “mainstream Protestant” denominations of the sort that take the standard liberal or left position on any issue. Added to those are three Jewish organizations (which also take the standard liberal or left position on any issue other than Israel), the Milwaukee Archdiocese of the Catholic Church and the Islamic Society.

But the web site really does tell the story.

Simon doubtless sees the activists in the Interfaith Conference as a bunch of moderates with differing views. We all think that we and those we identify with politically are reasonable moderates.

But somehow, these folks invariably take the liberal side of every issue. If anybody wants to challenge that statement, they need to point to a conservative position they have taken.

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