The general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) has called on the US Congress to account for linking federal minimum wage legislation with the bill to fund the Iraq war - denouncing the move as unacceptable.
"It is reprehensible for Congress to attach the federal minimum wage to a funding request for what most religious leaders in America have called an immoral war," said the Rev Dr Bob Edgar in a message to the more than 105,000 members of www.FaithfulAmerica.org, NCCUSA's online advocacy community. Dr Edgar urged the online members to email their Congressional representatives.
"Whatever the political manoeuvres that led to this situation, it is clear Congressional leadership has lost sight of the value of working men and women in our nation who have gone too long without a raise," said Dr Edgar.
The ecumenical leader also reiterated his opposition to linking a minimum wage increase to tax breaks or other incentives to businesses who may hire minimum wage workers.
"Working Americans should not be a 'tack on' to some other legislation. They should be treated with the dignity and justice they deserve," said Edgar. "Offering tax breaks for business and wealthy citizens at the expense of working people across the country has been a hallmark of the current administration. Religious leaders have consistently called the federal budget a moral document and decried its continued preferential option for the rich while the Bible clearly has -as Pope Paul VI stated -"a preferential option for the poor."
Dr Edgar cited the success of Let Justice Roll, a nationwide coalition of more than 100 religious and community organizations that was initiated by the NCCUSA
Let Justice Roll "has been successful in raising minimum wages in 11 states because it convinced many legislators that the minimum wage is a moral issue, not an economic issue," he said.
The general secretary, who also a former six-term Congressman from Pennsylvania, said raising the federal minimum wage is "the very least we can do for the least among us."
The NCCUSA is the shared voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and a number of traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.