Testimony on the NH state budget proposal: HB2

The Executive Director, Rev. Jason Wells, offered this testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, May 5, 2021 during their hearing on the proposed state budget in House Bills 1 & 2.

The NH Council of Churches is made up of nine diverse traditions, including Protestant, Unitarian Universalist and Orthodox bodies. Together, there are about 380 individual congregations across our state. These churches came together to support unanimously a Joint Statement on State Budgeting. This statement affirms the Biblical maxim that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21), recognizing that “adopting a budget is essentially a moral and value-based process, rather than a strictly fiduciary one.”

Because of this Joint Statement, Episcopal Bishop Rob Hirschfeld urged the removal the School Voucher language. While he is responsible to church-affiliated schools that could benefit from this policy, he recognizes that our budget must prioritize public education for all.

Because of this Joint Statement, the Council of Churches along with other faith partners affirms the priorities in the Demands for a NH People’s Budget, which I sent to the Committee members earlier. These investment priorities put people first, the neighbors God commands us to love.

Additionally, I urge you to remove the “divisive concepts” clauses in H.B. 2 from the Senate version of the budget.

The sins of racism, sexism, genocide and more continue to wound our nation. When seeking the national healing that God can provide, Christians often refer to 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people…humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will…forgive their sin and heal their land.”

These so-called divisive concepts provisions will have a chilling effect on the humbling, honest conversations the God expects of us. Many of our churches are already having the needed conversations on racism, sexism, genocide and other difficult topics. For example:

  1. Last year we supported a bill requiring Holocaust and Genocide Education in our public schools. Churches continue to participate in this work so that all understand the cost of silent complicity with atrocities at home and around the world. The vague language around “divisive concepts” jeopardizes this important work.
  2. The newly-formed NH Interfaith Collaborative is offering webinars to train faith communities on how to have difficult conversations in a healthy way. This group recently invited members of the Governor’s COVID-19 Equity Response Team to speak honestly about racial inequities uncovered in the pandemic.
  3. Denominational bodies and local churches have partnered with the Black Heritage Trail to understand better how their historic congregations supported and benefited from trafficking in enslaved people brought here from Africa to our home state.

These are only a few ways that our churches are doing the work that can heal our nation as God intends. Our public schools, workplaces and all of us should know that these conversations are nothing to fear and move us toward healing. When it comes time to vote on our budget, stand with our courageous faith communities and strike this “divisive concepts” language.