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WI: Where Politics and Religion Do Mix

February 28, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - It has been said many times that politics and religion don't mix, but some Wisconsin Jewish leaders say they have a duty to get involved in the workers' rights issue. A group of Madison rabbis has sent a letter to colleagues across the nation speaking out against proposed legislation that would severely limit the ability of public employees to collectively bargain and would slash funding for the state's safety net for the poor.

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim says they are adding their voices to those of thousands of people who have been protesting at the State Capitol.

"We're afraid that it's really going to diminish all of the institutions - the schools, the hospitals, the child care centers - all of these places that are so important to us."

Zimmerman notes that not just rabbis are getting involved, but clergy from many religions are taking a stand. She says some 100 clergy involved with the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South-Central Wisconsin are opposing the budget-cutting legislation, which Gov. Scott Walker has proposed in order to close a huge deficit.

Opposition to the budget repair bill has attracted a lot of clergy support, according to Zimmerman.

"Almost 100 clergy members have signed on to a letter opposing Gov. Walker's proposed legislation."

That's because the issue of workers' rights is of great concern to religious leaders across the state and nation, the rabbi explains.

"These are political questions, but they are also very religious questions."

She points to Jewish teaching that dictates a religious mandate to protect workers, as well as the poor.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI