FAST (Faith and Action for Strength Together) is an organization of local churches working for “Social Justice” inspired by the bible. They have pushed many initiatives over the last few years and make many claims of success which, on close examination, are not very accurate (more to come on that here and on another day). One of their programs is an ordinance in the City of St. Petersburg to create a quota of people (5% for now) that MUST be hired from local city residents. They see this as a way to address local unemployment. There is a problem with this approach- it actually promotes social INJUSTICE!
Is your congregation a member of FAST?
Check the list on the bottom and get involved with them soon to make a difference!
How can it be considered “just” or moral to prevent a person who is qualified from having a job in St. Petersburg just because they don’t live in the city? What if a man from Pinellas Park or Manatee or Tampa needed to support his family and was willing to work in St. Pete for a lower wage than a St. Petersburg Resident. Or what if he was more qualified? The ordinance that FAST would push for would prevent that man from having a job? How does that promote “Social Justice”? Some of the program advocates would argue “it only subjects a small percentage to the quota”. They may argue “this approach is justified because in the end it gives a local person a job”. However these arguments engage in what ethicists would call “moral relativism” or “situational ethics”. These are slippery ethical slopes that lead to loss of morality in a society. As a catholic, I find these relativistic approaches to violate the catechism of the catholic church.
The Catechism states (1887)
“The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures which “make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible.”
In other words “the ends do not justify the means” and such ethical violations “make Christian conduct…almost impossible”. The Catechism further defines “Social Justice” as
1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man.
Thus the teachings of the Catholic Church that Social justice is designed to allow individuals to obtain “their due”. How can it be just to deny an individual a job or a group of individuals from the next town a job? The Catechism unequivocally protects the dignity of man in its definition of the common good:
“1906 By common good is to be understood “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”26
The Common good has three key elements: 1) presupposes respect for the person, 2) the social well-being and development of the group itself, 3) peace. It thus further speaks against a program that would use the force of law (no peace) to deny a job (no respect for a the person) to a person or a group of people (no development for a group). Further reading of the catechism reveals that authority is only legitimate when it protects the dignity and rights of individuals.
Unfortunately, FAST tends to support programs and initiatives that are more consistent with the secular definition of Social Justice:
“ Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution.”
It is quite clear that a jobs program that allows even one man or woman to – by law – be denied a job is entirely unjust. It certainly violates the moral action required by the teaching of the Catholic church. This is important since 11 of the 38 congregations are catholic.
FAST has the potential to do great good. However, FAST is losing its moral legitimacy because if it falsely advertising successes it has not achieved (e.g. a Drug court program is advertised in the latest FAST brochure to have allowed 4000 offenders to avoid jail a save the state $95 million. A story in the Sun Beam Times revealed otherwise). FAST also loses its claim to be working for Justice when it pushes for a program that is entirely unjust.
We can all help FAST find better ways to promote justice without hurting anyone along the way. They will have a FAST annual Assembly October 17, 2011 at 7 pm at Blessed Trinity Church 1600 54th Ave. South, St. Petersburg. Please ask your local church leaders how you can sign up as a “network member”. Then, come to the annual assembly on October 17 and participate in the decision making about how to make FAST adopt a more just agenda that will actually help people. By the way, most churches give money directly out of the church budget to FAST without the consent of all parishioners.
Congregations in FAST:
Bethel Community Baptist
Blessed Trinity Catholic Church (Co-Chair)
Christ Church of Universal Love
Espiritu Santo Catholic
Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist
Faith United Church of Christ
Good Samaritan Episcopal
Holy Cross Catholic
Holy Family Catholic
Holy Trinity Episcopal
Hope Luthern Church
Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church
Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist
Mt. Carmel Baptist
Mt. Olive A.M.E.
Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist
Mt. Zion A.M.E.
Mt. Zion United Methodist
New Faith Free Methodist
New Zion Missionary Baptist
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Riviera United Methodist
Shiloh Missionary Baptist
St. Brendan Catholic
St. Cecelia Catholic
St. John’s Episcopal Church
St. John Missionary Baptist Church
St. Joseph Catholic Church
St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church
St. Matthew Catholic Church
St. Michael Catholic Church
St. Petersburg Islamic Center
Tempel Beth El
Transfiguration Catholic Church
Union Street United Methodist Church