SANTA FE — Today, thirty-three New Mexico legislators sent a letter to Archbishop John C. Wester demanding his response to recent comments made by Allen Sanchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In his remarks, Sanchez claimed that a proposal to increase expenditures from New Mexico's Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for early childhood programs failed to pass because of "an element of racism" among its opponents. Sanchez further asserted that "opposition came from people with power and wealth."
In their letter to the Archbishop, legislators wrote, "we are deeply troubled by recent comments made by Allen Sanchez, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since his comments were delivered as a representative and spokesperson of the Roman Catholic Church in New Mexico, we feel compelled to ask you to confirm that his statement reflects the views of you and your fellow bishops in New Mexico."
Legislators observed that opposition to the proposal, House Joint Resolution 1, crossed all political, ethnic, religious, and demographic lines, and opponents hailed from every region of New Mexico. They also noted that state leaders have worked diligently to increase support for early childhood programs, and since 2012, funding for these programs has more than doubled to $270 million annually.
"The political debate is divisive enough in this country and this state without unwarranted accusations of racism being thrown about without evidence. The fact that this accusation was levied by a representative of the Catholic Church only makes it more troubling," legislators wrote. "We the undersigned seek to know if Mr. Sanchez was indeed accurately relaying your position on this matter with his remarks. If he was not, we wish to express our request that strong disciplinary action be made against Mr. Sanchez and that he no longer serve as a spokesman for the Conference of Catholic Bishops in New Mexico."
A signed copy of the letter is below.