By Marc Kovac
A group of clergy opposed to Senate Bill 5 is calling for civility in the coming Issue 2 campaign.
But We Believe Ohio also made it clear during a press conference at a church near the Statehouse on Wednesday that they believe God is on the side of union workers, and Republican-backed changes to the state’s collective bargaining law should be defeated.
“We believe there is an unjust and growing gap between the rich and the poor and a daily disintegration of the middle class in America,” said the Rev. Tim Ahrens, pastor of First Congregational Church of Columbus.
“We also believe that organized initiatives are under way here in Ohio and in many states to further destroy labor and organized workers, and we believe this is wrong.”
Wednesday’s press event included a confessional litany, with participants responding in unison, “Restore us.”
Representatives of Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities read passages from their respective sacred texts. They also urged people of faith to use the Labor Day holiday this weekend to talk about labor issues.
But the bulk of the press conference focused on members’ opposition to Senate Bill 5, including a call for both sides of the issue to sit down and work out their differences — after voters defeat the issue in November.
“When Issue 2 is voted down and Senate Bill 5 is successfully and officially repealed, We Believe Ohio urges that a bipartisan committee of state legislators be formed to sit down at a table with representatives of public employees and negotiate what’s in the best interest of the state and in the best interest of the public employees,” said Rev. Eric Brown, from Woodland Christian Church in Columbus.
In a written response after the event, Jason Mauk, spokesman for the Building a Better Ohio, the pro-Senate Bill 5 campaign, said, “There’s nothing more compassionate than helping our hard-working government employees keep their jobs, while reducing the cost of government on Ohio families.”
He added, “These pastors help families everyday who’ve been hard-hit by this economy. Our local communities are laying off good police officers, firefighters, teachers and other government employees because, like too many families, they’re struggling to pay the bills. Taxpayers are constantly being badgered for higher taxes to sustain the growing cost of government, and Ohioans are now shouldering one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. We can keep the failed policies of the past, or we can embrace some very reasonable reforms that will move Ohio in a new direction.”