US religious groups launch initiative for a nuclear-free world

By staff writers
14 May 2007

A coalition of national and regional religious leaders across the United States has launched a major initiative to "zero-out" funding for the production of new nuclear warheads.

The Rev Dr Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) kicked off the initiative this week with a speech at San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church in Alamo, California.

"We must ask ourselves why we would continue to spend billions constructing weapons that have the power to destroy us, rather than build systems and structures that will save lives and help all persons reach the potential for which God created them," declared Dr Edgar.

He continued: "If we have the power and the will to create something that could annihilate all of humankind, surely we can summon the will to provide adequate and affordable health care to every American."

"The administration's proposal to build more nuclear warheads is not only immoral and unnecessary, but also dangerous," said Jessica Wilbanks, coordinator of the National Religious Partnership, which counts the Episcopal Church, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism among its fourteen national partners. "If other nations follow suit, we could be caught up in another arms race."

The Bush administration's plan to build-up new nuclear warheads would command a minimum of $150 billion dollars in government resources.

The Rev Rick Schlosser, executive director of the California Council of Churches, offered an alternative application of those funds in the State of California.

"It is immoral for so much money to be directed into weapons development when so many human needs are going unmet. Here in California, people need quality, affordable health care - and instead the funds that could pay for it are going to an unnecessary expansion of our bloated nuclear arsenal," said Rev. Schlosser from his Sacramento office on a telephone news conference on 10 May 2007.

In January 2007, seventy-four religious groups and denominations issued a statement opposing American plans for a nuclear weapons build-up. In particular they pointed out the hypocrisy of the US developing new nuclear weapons while insisting that other countries should not acquire them.

"Religious communities in the United States have already weighed in," said Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action West. "If human life means anything to us, then there can be no future for the nuclear weapons complex."

Co-sponsors of the new initiative include the National Council of Churches USA, the California Council of Churches, Peace Action West, Tri-Valley CAREs, and the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger, an interfaith coalition of denominations and national religious bodies dedicated to ending the nuclear weapons danger.

The NCCUSA is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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