KIFA Establishes Partnership with ELCA

Lawrence, KS (March 19, 2019) — Kansas Interfaith Action (KIFA) today announced an affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), by action taken by the Central States Synod Council on March 16, 2019, to endorse KIFA as a state public policy office (SPPO) of the ELCA.

ELCA Advocacy has 16 SPPOs in more than 16 states throughout the country, focused on developing and advocating for legislative priorities on the state level. Some are Lutheran offices, and some are ecumenical or interfaith organizations already doing the work in those states. This is the case with KIFA.

“We are very excited about our partnership with ELCA,” said Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of KIFA. “ELCA is doing important advocacy work throughout the country, providing an important moral voice grounded in deep commitment to faith, and we are pleased to be part of it. This partnership will make KIFA part of a network of advocates throughout the country. We also believe that this will help strengthen our outreach to Lutherans throughout Kansas, as well as to other denominations.”

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KIFA Day 2019

Last Thursday upwards of 20 clergy and other people of faith held our first-ever KIFA Advocacy Day. We went to the Capitol to bring moral witness on important issues facing Kansas, including Medicaid Expansion (as clear a moral imperative as there is in state policy right now); fair and sustainable taxation; addressing gun violence; and supporting clean energy. We spoke with leadership, committee chairs, and the governor. We spoke on behalf of people of faith, and on behalf of those who don't have the connections or the time to speak for themselves.

For more pictures click through. 

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Legislative Update 2 - 3/11/19

-- Last week the House passed SB22, which would give tax cuts of somewhere between $140 and $190 million mostly to corporations and the wealthiest Kansans. Details on the bill here. Leadership sweetened the deal in the House by adding a percentage point drop in the food sales tax, and that enticed enough Moderate Republicans to pass the bill. However, the vote was 3 short of a veto-proof majority.

This bill is a bad idea because giving tax cuts to corporations and rich people when the state can’t afford social workers or prison guards is a bad idea.

The bill goes back to the Senate where they will either concur (accept the House version) or go to a conference committee. We’re fairly certain Gov. Kelly will veto whatever comes out; without an override, legislative leadership may have no choice but to dismount their high horses and try to negotiate a deal with the governor, which they should have been doing all along.

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Legislative Update 3/4/19

“Turnaround” is the date by which a bill has to pass one chamber to remain on the docket for the rest of the session. Exceptions to this are myriad, but suffice it to say that Turnaround, which was last Thursday, is when things in the legislature get a little more focused. I want to give you an update on where things are with various bills or issues that we’re following. Today is Medicaid expansion; other issues will follow in a subsequent letter.  

The other thing that needs to be said by way of introduction is that even for someone used to the slow pace of the Kansas legislature, this year has been particularly glacial. Legislative leadership seems more interested in preening and challenging the governor than they are in actually legislating. You almost wouldn’t know that the Kansas government is in an advanced state of disrepair by the way legislative leadership is behaving.

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KIFA Board Chair Gives Senate Invocation

Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, chair of the board of Kansas Interfaith Action and minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, gave the opening invocation at the session of the Kansas Senate on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Here are her words:

Spirit of Life and Love, God of many names and no name at all; Here in this, the People’s House, Be with this body of leaders as they endeavor to serve communities across our state; Guide each heart and mind in making decisions that create sustainable communities with access to the resources of life and liberty for all;

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KIFA In the News

KIFA Executive Director Rabbi Moti Rieber and board member Rev. Rachael Pryor, were among the clergy participating in an Interfaith Service prior to the inauguration of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday, January 14. The theme of the event was "unity," as this article from WIBW-TV relates. 

On the same day, Rabbi Rieber was interviewed by Nick Gosnell of WIBW radio about KIFA's 2019 legislative priorities. A write-up of the interview appears here. 

KIFA's 2019 Legislative Priorities

Kansas Interfaith Action takes as our starting point the "four evils" of racism/discrimination, poverty and economic injustice, gun violence, and climate disruption. All of our legislative activities fit into one or more of these categories. KIFA has set the following priorities for the 2019 Kansas legislative session: 

Economic Justice

Kansas Interfaith Action believes that everyone has the right to adequate and healthy food, water, housing, and healthcare. Government has a vital role to play in making sure that working people are treated fairly, and that those less fortunate are cared for.

  • Expansion of KanCare would help about 150,000 working Kansans access affordable healthcare. This measure is long overdue and is our highest legislative priority for the 2019 session.
  • Development of a robust economic justice agenda. Welfare reform (the so-called “HOPE Act”) has had significant negative consequences, including contributing to the increased load on the foster care and child welfare system. KIFA believes that an anti-poverty agenda must include supports to help people succeed in their transition from poverty to self-sufficiency. Elements include:
    • Increased minimum wage
    • Paid family leave for all Kansans
    • Addressing the regressive impact of the sales tax on food on poor and working people
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The Election, and What's Next

We were very excited by the results of the gubernatorial election last week. We congratulate Laura Kelly on her convincing victory and look forward to working with her for the betterment of Kansas when she takes office in January. We also particularly want to congratulate KIFA's good friend Sen. Lynn Rogers on his election to Lieutenant Governor.

Since KIFA began in 2016, and even in our work before that, we have always been in the position of playing defense, of trying to stop bad things from happening in the Kansas legislature. We always knew that if this or that anti-immigrant, anti-poor people (though not, of course, anti-poverty), pro-gun etc. policy could get through the legislature, it would be signed into law with no question. We anticipate that Gov. Kelly's veto pen will protect us from a lot of that, and that's a relief. No armed teachers in public schools, for instance.

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A Note About Pittsburgh

First of all I want to thank those of you who have reached out to me by email or message in recent days. I very much appreciate people thinking of me.

While I didn't know anyone at the Tree of Life synagogue, many of my friends and colleagues have spent time in Pittsburgh; all of them knew the synagogue and a couple of them knew people who died on Saturday. The Jewish community is very small, especially at a time like this.

On the one hand, this event is another in a long list of antisemitic incidents throughout history. There is just is something unique and seemingly permanent about Jew-hatred, and we really do need to see antisemitism as an ongoing hatred that sometimes lies dormant but remains just below the surface. The number of antisemitic incidents has increased dramatically in just the past couple of years, and the situation is frightening, given the historical record.


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A New (Old) Revival: Rich Shockey

KIFA Board member Rev. Rich Shøckey, an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, has written this piece for a "Naz" blog about how salvation isn't simply a private matter, but is intimately connected to the wider scope of the Kingdom of God. In these days when the public representatives of evangelical Christianity seem to oppose justice, it's a moving and timely message. We share it with you with his permission. 

“What the church needs is revival!”

It’s a mantra oft-repeated by well-meaning evangelicals. I can imagine this very phrase was common among those early Nazarenes who sought a more embodied spirituality than they found in their Methodist churches.

And I agree. We do need revival. But maybe not how you might think.

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