By Christopher J. Hale
June 12, 2015
IDEAS
Hale is a Democratic politician from Tennessee; he has been a Catholic nonprofit executive and helped lead faith outreach for President Barack Obama.

President Obama’s signature Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was dealt a surprise defeat in the House this afternoon. While the media has often framed the TPP debate as a battle between the Obama Administration and labor groups, the coalition against this controversial legislation is actually much larger.

A diverse coalition of faith groups have taken a particularly large role in opposing fast-tracking this legislation. 35 faith groups signed onto a letter in February calling on Congress to stop the fast-tracking process. One rabbi said bluntly: “fast tracking is the method of despots not democracies.”

Famed social justice priest Father Gerry McCreedon put it this way:

A photo of Representative Marcy Kaptur trying to review the secret text of the TPP bill captured this troublesome situation well. Kaptur and her colleagues were only allowed to review the 1000 page TPP legislation in a locked room in the basement of the Capitol. According to her office, she wasn’t allowed to bring any staff members with her or take any notes, photos, or copies of the text.

“Not good,” Kaptur said.

She’s absolutely right. This secretive process undermines Americans’ right to participate meaningfully in the governance of our nation: a right that isn’t just enshrined in the Constitution, but guaranteed to us as children of God.

An agreement as big and complex as the TPP deserves to be fully vetted by the public to ensure it promotes the common good. But to date, there has been zero public review.

It’s an affront to the dignity of the American people, and that’s why faith groups have stood up in a big way to fight back. Quoting Pope Francis, a group of Catholic leaders wrote on Ash Wednesday that if “elected officials are willing to take a step of courage against fast tracking this legislation, they will have a Church that will walk with them the entire way.”

Though the debate is long from over, it looks like on Friday Congress got the memo and delivered a big victory for the American people.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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