The 5th Annual Faith and Families Summit led by Missouri Faith Voices and Communities Creating Opportunity was held in Jefferson City, Missouri on March 11th. This was a great occasion for myself and a few members of our JustFaith group from Precious Blood Center to exercise our faith. Pam Demasi and I joined more than a hundred other faith leaders in Missouri Faith Voices at the Capitol to bear witness to the needs of the vulnerable and to promote the common good through visiting legislators and Governor Nixon about our moral priorities for our state. Missouri Faith Voices represents more than 200 congregations and dozens of denominations across the state to develop and direct the power of people of faith to build a better quality of life for all of our families. We came together to emphasize to our legislators the moral consequences of the choices we face as a society. We let them know of the experiences of our people that show how political and economic decisions have increased poverty and inequality. We let them know that regular people are struggling across Missouri, unable to stretch their meager incomes across mounting bills, especially medical bills. We believe that policymakers face clear moral choices to correct these imbalances.
Grouped into teams of 4 or 5, we all embarked on our mission of proclaiming that people are more important than things and every person is precious. We proceeded forward believing that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person. The teams that my JustFaith group participated in focused on Medicaid expansion and payday loans. Our message was that all people in Missouri should be able to see a doctor when they need, at a cost they can afford. More specifically, the team I belonged to carried the message that predatory loans target people during their most vulnerable periods only to trap them in a vicious cycle of triple interest debt. If people work hard and play by the rules, they should be able to make it from paycheck to paycheck. They should not be charged interest rates higher than 36% APR. Therefore my team proposed opposing SB 694, a fake payday reform bill that would compromise efforts for meaningful predatory lending reform while eliminating all caps on payday lending products. The whole experience throughout the day proved to be worthwhile for my team as we managed to get actual visits with 3 out of 4 of the legislators we set out to visit and got quality time with each. It was spiritually uplifting to end the day with our rally in the rotunda as we further emphasized our common mission of people of faith. I came away thinking that this is what social justice lobbying is all about.