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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Good mix: Faith and politics

Barbara Hafer never felt a conflict between her role as a politician and her life as a Christian. In fact, if not for her faith, it's unlikely that she would have become Pennsylvania's state treasurer, nor would she have the desire to run for governor next year.

"My faith has always guided me, and I don't think I would have been [elected treasurer] without it," she says.

Hafer, a registered nurse working in the Pittsburgh area, was appalled by how hospitals didn't aid victims of domestic abuse by helping gather information and evidence to help prosecute the cases.

"It's hard to believe today that there was a time when victims of violence weren't welcome in a hospital, but it's true," said Hafer, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hummelstown, Pa.

To combat this problem, Hafer in 1973 founded the Allegheny County Center for Victims of Violent Crime, which she said has been used as a model for other national programs.

"That's when I became politically involved. I realized how much elected officials made decisions about funding," she said.

In 1984, Hafer became the first woman elected to the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners. She became state auditor general in 1988 and was re-elected in 1992. She took office as treasurer in 1997 and served on a five-member national committee to monitor the progress of Swiss banks in returning money belonging to Holocaust victims and their families.

That work led the State of Israel Bonds to present Hafer with a Pursuit of Justice Award, recognizing her "compassion and dedication in leading settlement efforts."

In her political career, Hafer said she has never had to vote against her conscience, nor would she. "I'm the custodian of $100 billion, and you would not believe how many people want $100 million of that. But I have made it clear that no one had better bring me a bad deal because it's not going to be accepted."


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