|Pastor Don Tjiema, middle, of Mountain Valley Church of God answers a question from U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar while fellow religious leaders Rev. Walt Crites of All Saints Anglican Church, left, Richard Haddad, public affairs director for the PV stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mike Johnsen, deacon of St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church, listen to his answer at a faith-based roundtable at the Mohave Trinity Presbyterian Church Wednesday night in Prescott.|
Photo courtesy Matt Hinshaw
PRESCOTT - Local religious leaders offered their perspectives on everything from legislation to taxes to government health care Wednesday night during a "faith-based roundtable" organized by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar in Prescott.
Several people commented that they'd never heard of such an event. Gosar said he invited various faiths to attend, and he'd like to do more in the future with more religious leaders.
The church leaders validated Gosar's decision to vote with the U.S. House of Representatives minority this month against H.R. 592, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act. Co-sponsors included Arizona's Trent Franks. The legislation would add houses of worship to structures eligible for federal money for repairs after major disasters.
Pastor Don Tjiema of Mountain Valley Church of God in Prescott Valley, who also is vice mayor of Prescott Valley, said he would hope that the local community would miss a damaged church and rebuild it.
"I look to my Lord to do that," he added.
Mike Johnsen, deacon of St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church in Chino Valley, feared that a church rebuilt with federal money might fall under more federal laws.
Religious institutions agreed not to get involved in political activities in exchange for tax breaks, Rev. Walt Crites of All Saints Anglican Church in Prescott said, and now their free speech is suppressed.
Gosar said he and his staff had similar discussions, but the roundtable participants articulated the issues much better.
They liked the idea of tithing to the government like they tithe to the church, or at least simplifying the federal tax code.
"You should have money before you spend it," added Richard Haddad, public affairs director for the PV stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Several participants said religious institutions are better at education than the federal government.
The feds should stay out of the health care business, too, some said.
"I think the government should stand aside...and let churches govern themselves in these matters," Haddad said.
The Catholic Church has a long tradition of caring for the sick, and it's leading the fight against "family planning" such as abortion, birth control methods and sterilization, Johnsen said.
All the panelists oppose abortion.
"Moral people believe in the sanctity of life," Crites said.
"Nothing is a mistake except our taking of those lives," Tjiema said.
The religious leaders also touted personal responsibility. Johnsen recalled when Pope Paul VI predicted more divorces, promiscuity, pornography and degradation of women would occur with the advent of the birth control pill.
"That in fact has occurred," he said. "It all begins with, 'Now we don't have to be responsible for our actions.'"
Several roundtable participants said too many people get divorced in this country.
"The whole reason a man and a woman get together is to procreate," Tjiema said. "That's why God gave us those desires."
Too many people say they're getting divorced because they just can't get over their differences, or they just grew apart, Tjiema added.
"You know, get over yourselves," he said.
Most men in prison had no positive role model at home, said Haddad during a discussion about divorce, single mothers and unpaid child support. He said his father abandoned his family when he was a young child.
"One of the number-one problems in the United States is lousy men," he said, emphasizing his belief that Jesus would never abandon children. "We are supposed to emulate our Savior Jesus Christ."