by Don Ingwerson
Continuing to keep in touch with local and federal legislative representatives is vital to the unimpeded practice of Christian Science. The Federal office has shared some insights into this work in the article below, “An Insider’s Look at Capitol Hill and Christian Science.” I hope this information inspires you to become more active with your political leaders!
Have you ever wondered what Capitol Hill is really like, beneath the surface that’s portrayed in the media, and how this relates to the work of the U.S. Federal Office?
Recently, three Christian Scientists with experience working on Capitol Hill took time out of their very busy schedules to “come all the way off the Hill” and talk with Christian Scientists participating in Capitol Hill Day 2013. Their wealth of experience made for a fascinating insider’s look—especially as it relates to Christian Science on the Hill.
These individuals were Elizabeth Crow, a Policy Advisor to California’s Congressman Garamendi; Allison Rose, a professional staff member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the House of Representatives; and Matt Sonnesyn, former Chief of Staff to Tennessee’s Senator Alexander and current Director of Research at the Business Roundtable.
Before the conversation even started, the audience got a taste of what a Capitol Hill staffer’s life is like: holding up her BlackBerry, Allison mentioned that she would “literally have to be checking this” throughout the panel. “The day in the life of a staff person, whether in a personal office of a Congressman or as a committee staffer, is 24/7,” Allison explained.
But Elizabeth made a key point: despite their very full plates, Members of Congress and their staffs really do “want to hear the issues and want to do good.” Later, Matt echoed this sentiment: “These offices are receptive to good. Most of the people you will encounter on the Hill are there because they want to make a difference,” he said.
We have experienced this firsthand: while each meeting is different, most offices Christian Scientists have met with have been genuinely interested in talking with us and learning about how we approach topics like health and well-being, even though in the grand scheme of things, this may not be a top legislative priority for them.
But has this translated into making real progress in our mission as the Committee on Publication? According to Matt, the Church’s activity on Capitol Hill has had a significant impact:
“As someone who has been on the Hill for ten years, I can tell you that when I came to Washington, there was no presence of our church on the Hill that I was aware of for at least five years. The last five years—everyone knows about the presence of our Church and it is positive.”
When you think about it, that’s pretty outstanding—and bears testament to the value of the hundreds of Congressional meetings that Church members throughout the country have participated in. It’s not only about achieving support for specific legislative goals; it’s about building bridges with legislators, bringing to legislators and their staffs an understanding of Christian Science, maintaining a presence on Capitol Hill such that Christian Science is seen as having a legitimate and valuable contribution to make in conversations about health care.
Christian Scientists, then, have an important role in educating their representatives. As Allison put it, “You are the best ambassador for [educating Members about Christian Science]. You are a voter, you are in their district, you do make a difference to them. Your presence is very much appreciated on many levels, whether you’re aware of it in the immediate meeting or not.”