Faith leaders arrested in the Capitol in fight against budget cuts
Eleven leaders of different faith groups were arrested recently in the Capitol Rotunda, where they staged a prayer sit-in protesting congressional budget cuts.
The 11 leaders of Jewish and Christian faiths joined hands and knelt down on the floor of the Capitol Rotunda, prayed and sang spiritual hymns recently.
The group prayed that the Obama administration, the Senate and the House make certain that they do not “balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” The Hill reported.
Others surrounded the group in support and said “Amen,” a witness told The Hill. Capitol Police warned the group to stop praying, but they were ignored.
The Capitol Police then cleared the area of tourists and media, and arrested the faith group for demonstrating inside the building. The room was open to the public again at about 1:30 p.m.
Those arrested included Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, Jim Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church; and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Philadelphia, who was in a wheelchair but was lifted out of it when he was arrested.
In a statement, the interfaith group said it is “frustrated that their pleas to the administration and Congress to protect funding for the nation’s most vulnerable are being ignored.”
Congress is paralyzed
“Congress is paralyzed,” Rev. Michael Livingston, former president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (USA) said in a statement, blaming this on “toxic partisan politics.”
Livingston said in the statement, “Our elected officials are protecting corporations and wealthy individuals while shredding the safety net for millions of the most vulnerable people in our nation and abroad. Our faith won’t allow us to passively watch this travesty unfold.”
Last July 26, two bishops, namely Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y. and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., in a statement said, “A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly,” NCR reported.
A letter was also sent last July 27 addressed to House Speaker John Boehner, from a group of Catholic priests, religious and lay people. The letter said, “You can heed the consistent moral calls from Catholic leaders who have urged lawmakers to decrease our debt fairly and protect the most vulnerable, or you can yield to growing political pressure from Tea Party Republicans willing to accept catastrophic default for the first time in our nation’s history,” NCR reported.
The letter continued, “This is a stark choice between responsible leadership that serves the common good and narrow ideology that makes tax cuts for the wealthy our most sacred national priority. … Now is the time to seek a compromise that reflects the Catholic values of solidarity with the most vulnerable and prudential judgment,” NCR reported.