Local religious leaders to Corker: 'Prevent nuclear war and protect climate'

Brandon Paykamian • Apr 24, 2018 at 5:45 PM

More than 40 local religious leaders signed a letter urging U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to support measures to stop nuclear weapons proliferation and efforts to stave off climate change.

The letter encouraging the senator to support the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, carbon tax legislation and other measures to promote energy efficiency was hand-delivered Tuesday morning to Corker’s Jonesborough office by members of the United Religions Initiative and Green Interfaith Network Inc.

“We expect Senator Corker to take this letter very seriously,” United Religions Initiative Corresponding Secretary Linda Cataldo Modica said.

In the midst of tensions between the United States and North Korea, Modica said her organization and Green Interfaith Network felt the need to rally local congregations together to voice their moral concerns about the dangers of nuclear war. With Corker still serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee until he leaves the Senate in January, representatives of both organizations said they felt it was important to reach out him.

The letter and its nonpartisan proposals were put forward by the congregations of St. John’s Episcopal Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Munsey United Methodist Church, all of Johnson City; First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton; and members of the local Jewish and Muslim communities, Modica said.

“I would say our religious communities are dedicated to disarmament — period,” she said.

The two organizations urged Corker to support Senate Bill 200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, which would require Congress to declare war before the executive branch could use nuclear weapons.

The two interfaith groups also called for ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“Our concerns were raised starting in January, when the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists released its latest threat assessment. What they basically said was that our chances of nuclear war and of climate catastrophe are higher than they’ve been since the end of World War II, during the Cold War,” Modica said.

She said the bulletin raised concerns about increased investments in nuclear weapons modernization over the past decade — which totaled over $4 trillion — and the possibility of a nuclear war coming from the administration of President Donald Trump.

“That raised our alarm level,” she said. “The concern of our interfaith community is that there’s too much spent on nuclear weapons and that the money should be used for humanitarian purposes, education, health, housing and development of human capital in America, not on weapons that should never be used.”

She was joined Tuesday by Green Interfaith President Ted Jackson, who said the letter included proposals to support a carbon tax and other measures to promote energy efficiency.

“I think both proposals should be a high priority for him, granted, he’s got others,” Jackson said. “These are all doable things.”

Corker did not immediately return requests for a comment, but spokesman Micah Johnson emailed a statement saying the senator would not support a change to the president’s powers to react to national threats.

“We appreciate Tennesseans sharing their thoughts about issues important to them and to our country,” the statement read. “Senator Corker has been a leader in strategic arms reduction and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to avoid conflict. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is also a strong defender of the constitutional role of Congress in authorizing the use of military force and convened a hearing last fall on the authority to use nuclear weapons. He would not support changes that undermine the president’s ability to protect the country and respond to threats.”


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