Basic Human Rights and Income Inequality
Watch our video to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!
We, the Sisters of St. Francis, Sojourners, and Associates, recognize the inherent sacredness and dignity of each person and that we are all one human family. We believe that every person has a basic human right to an adequate income, safe and affordable housing, food security, affordable health care, quality education, and equal protection of the law.
The moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. They have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. People are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect those most in need.
Persons who are marginalized from society are given little representation or voice in public and political debates. As Franciscans, we are compelled to care for our sisters and brothers who struggle for justice in all forms, by advocating to bring about changes at the state, federal, and global level. We continue to work in defense of human dignity and the rights of all humans.
Racism, both institutional racism, which privileges some at the expense of others, and the daily acts of microaggressions, hate, and discrimination by individuals, diminishes us all. While the 13th Amendment allegedly abolished slavery in the United States, that slavery has been perpetuated through criminalizing behavior, disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, and a so-called “war on drugs” that weighs more heavily on minority communities. It is time to dismantle these systemic, structural, and cultural realities of white supremacy. Racism calls for a transformation of the heart. We acknowledge our complicity in perpetuating the racism endemic to our country from its beginning. We look within ourselves and recognize how our white privilege has allowed us to accept the reality where some people matter, and some do not, and pledge to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion for all.
People experiencing poverty have less access to clean water, nutrition, health care, education, shelter, and clothing. According to The World Bank, 689 million people across the globe live on less than $1.90 a day. Here in the United States, there were 34 million people in poverty in 2019 (Source: US Census). Even for those who live above the federal poverty level, many cash-strapped households are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, filling a prescription, or fixing the car. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to systemic racial economic inequality. We continue to advocate for social and economic policies that work to reduce income inequality both domestically and abroad.
There are many forms of homelessness, all of which are an affront to human dignity. Seventeen out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 (Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness). These 567,715 people represent a cross-section of America. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group. On average, a household must have an annual income of at least $49,830 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at HUD’s average fair-market rent of $1,246 per month. The average hourly wage of renters in the U.S. is $18.22, $5.74 less than the two-bedroom housing wage (Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition). For centuries, structural racism in the U.S. housing system has contributed to stark and persistent racial disparities in wealth and financial well-being, especially between Black and white households. The root causes of homelessness are complex and varied. While emergency solutions are crucial to meet the needs of people without shelter, continued education, advocacy, and legislative reforms are needed for long-term success.
Food security is defined as people having access at all times to secure enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecurity exists whenever people go to bed hungry or do not have access to food that is nutritious. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children (Source: Feeding America). Domestic programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and school meal programs help to alleviate hunger in America and need to be fully funded.
Affordable Health Care
Quality and affordable health care is a right and needs to be accessible to all humans, regardless of ability to pay. It is critical to move beyond political debate to consider how moral values and principles of justice should elevate and inform the moral imperative and continued dialogue about health care reform. The American health care system is plagued with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups. These inequalities contribute to gaps in health insurance coverage, uneven access to services, and poorer health outcomes among certain populations. African Americans bear the brunt of these health care challenges.
Education is a civil right. Safe and just schools mean that every child, no matter their grade, color, or zip code, deserves a safe and welcoming school where they can thrive. A child raised in an impoverished home should have the same life chances as children brought up in affluent homes, where food, medical care, and personal security are never in doubt. But institutional and structural racism are still barriers to equal access to quality education. America’s schools continue to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps. Zero tolerance and other exclusionary school discipline policies are pushing kids out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system. We support the call for a world where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive.
Equal Protection of the Law
As outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. In the United States, this includes access to voting, housing, education, or any form of discrimination.
If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative. We support and advocate for collective bargaining and a livable minimum wage.
NETWORK, a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation. Founded by Catholic Sisters in the progressive spirit of Vatican II, NETWORK strives to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all in the shared abundance of God’s creation.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. The organization is made up of roughly 450 people of 70-plus nationalities who are country experts, lawyers, journalists, and others who work to protect people most at risk, from vulnerable minorities and civilians in wartime to refugees and children in need.
Poor People’s Campaign
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is a growing movement of people coming together to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
Catholic Charities is the largest private network of social service organizations in the United States that works to support families, reduce poverty, and build communities.
Bread for the World
Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision-makers to end hunger at home and abroad. By changing policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, we provide help and opportunity at home and far beyond where we live.
Poverty USA/Catholic Campaign for Human Development
Poverty USA is an initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and was created as an educational resource to help individuals and communities address poverty in America by confronting the root causes of economic injustice – and promoting policies that help to break the cycle of poverty.
Feeding America’s mission is to feed individuals who are food insecure in this country through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.
The National Coalition for the Homeless
The National Coalition for the Homeless is a national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights are respected and protected.
A project of the Institute for Policy Studies since 2011, this website provides information and insights for readers ranging from educators and journalists to activists and policymakers. The focus throughout: What can we do to narrow the staggering economic inequality that so afflicts us in almost every aspect of our lives?
Coalition on Human Needs
The Coalition on Human Needs is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. The Coalition’s members include civil rights, religious, labor, and professional organizations, service providers, and persons concerned with the well-being of children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.