Last week, religious communities sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives expressing support for a bipartisan bill that could jump start economies in coal communities: the RECLAIM Act of 2017.
The RECLAIM Act brings hope for real help for Appalachian communities most in need of economic revitalization. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission 2010-2014 poverty rate report, the combined Appalachian regions of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have a poverty rate that is 4 percent higher than the national average.
Co-Coordinator of Catholic Committee of Appalachia Michael Iafrate said of the legislation, “People in Appalachia have been working to change the dominant story we tell about the region in an effort of reimagining their communities and forging new paths forward beyond coal. The RECLAIM Act is a reasonable first step in assisting these communities to bring these efforts to life as we continue to have difficult conversations about our region and its place in this nation’s history.”
Signed by 40 religious denominations and faith-based organizations, the letter provides faith communities’ reason for supporting the RECLAIM Act:
…we are deeply invested in ensuring every person has the opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential. We also believe in our moral responsibility to ensure God’s creation continues to help future generations thrive. For these reasons, we urge you to look towards real solutions for a just transition for coal communities.
West Virginia Council of Churches Executive Director Rev. Jeff Allen said, “In West Virginia alone, the RECLAIM Act could help us work on an estimated $1.5 billion worth of abandoned mine clean-up work. The people and the lands of Appalachia have made sacrifices to provide energy for this country. It is a moral responsibility for our country to re-invest in our region for new economic opportunities and to heal God’s creation.”
Likewise, Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, who serves also as CCA’s Bishop Liaison, wrote in support of the RECLAIM Act in an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Stowe said,
As a community of faith, we look for these kinds of opportunities which protect and restore the wonders of creation and offer possibilities for meaningful employment. The time is short for the passage of the RECLAIM Act. Let’s make sure our representatives are in support and ready to act.
The letter called on House leadership to bring the RECLAIM Act of 2017 to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible.
The letter of support from religious leaders was spearheaded by Creation Justice Ministries, who represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org.