Thursday, October 20, 2011

Religious leaders arrested in Rotunda in July have day in court.

The 11 religious leaders arrested on July 28 while praying in the Capitol Rotunda on behalf of the nation's most vulnerable were in court on Oct. 11 to discuss the misdemeanor charge against them. In the group was Jordan Blevins, advocacy officer and peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches (NCC). Those arrested also included Michael Livingston, past president of the NCC and director of its Poverty Initiative, and Martin Shupack, director of advocacy for Church World Service, along with United Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ leaders, among others.

The United States Attorney agreed to dismiss the charges of intention to disrupt Congress if each religious official stays out of the Capitol Building for the next six months.

The civil disobedience was the highlight of a "Faithful Budget Campaign" encouraging the administration and Congress to maintain commitment to domestic and international poverty programs by lifting up faithful voices on behalf of the nation's most vulnerable. In July, the campaign organized high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders, daily prayer vigils near the Capitol, culminating with the arrest of the 11 faith leaders after praying for 90 minutes and refusing to leave the Rotunda after repeated requests from police. The arrests came just days before Congress passed the debt ceiling compromise.

Since then the Faithful Budget Campaign has expanded into the hometowns of the Deficit "Super Committee" members. As a result, numerous churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship in the states and districts of members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, as well as congressional leaders, are hosting prayer vigils and other demonstrations to encourage Super Committee members to recommend a fair deficit reduction plan that exempts programs from budget cuts that assist the most at-risk families and children in the US and abroad.

The faith community has worked alongside the US government for decades to protect those struggling to overcome poverty. Without a sustained federal commitment, houses of worship will not be able to solely support the country's most vulnerable. More about the campaign is at

-- Philip E. Jenks is communications staff for the National Council of Churches.

Source:10/20/2011 Newsline

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