Interfaith Leaders, Jobless Workers Hold Flower Prayer Vigil on Capitol Hill to Call on Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits

December 7, 2011, 12:02 pm | Posted by

Community members, jobless workers from around the country, and interfaith clergy leaders will hold a flower prayer vigil at Upper Senate Park on December 8 at 11 a.m. to call for justice for the jobless.

Millions of jobless workers and their families are at risk of losing their unemployment insurance lifeline if Congress fails to pass an extension by the end of the month. The prayer service will include stories from jobless workers and an action with thousands of white carnations that symbolize jobless Americans. It will lead into a day of lobbying Congress to extend unemployment benefits immediately.

The vigil on the Hill is one of many taking place across the country for a national day of mobilization to urge Congressional leaders in D.C. and in their districts to pass the extension of unemployment benefits.

WHO: Unemployed workers and interfaith clergy leaders including:
Rev. Paul Sherry—Director, DC Office, Interfaith Worker Justice and Coordinator, Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign
Rabbi Elizabeth Richman—Jews United for Justicee
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik—Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Rev. Jennifer Butler—Executive Director, Faith in Public Life
Rev. Michael Livingston—Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church

WHAT: Interfaith prayer vigil for unemployed workers

WHEN: Thursday, December 8 at 11:00 A.M.

WHERE:    Upper Senate Park
New Jersey Ave and Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C.

Reporters interested in attending please contact: Amaya Tune: atune@aflcio.org

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Super Committee Stands in the Need of Prayer

November 22, 2011, 2:47 pm | Posted by

On Sunday, as the Super Committee was in the final stages of its ultimately fruitless negotiations, faith leaders in DC and around the country held prayer vigils warning committee members against striking a deal that made harmful budget cuts to programs protecting the poor while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

The DC “Super Vigil” was the latest component of an interfaith “Faithful Budget” campaign that has featured daily prayer vigils near the Capitol, education about the people and programs affected by cuts, and actions highlighting the connection between policy debates and values.

Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, opened the vigil by praying, “We gather this time with an audacious purpose and that is to ask God …to move the hearts of policy makers that they will act and make decisions with compassion and fairness.”

On Monday, the committee confirmed its failure to reach a deal. While Democrats were willing to entertain changes to Medicare and Social Security, Republicans doomed the negotiations by refusing to consider increased taxes on the wealthy.

The religious community has made clear that no matter how many times Congress plays politics with vulnerable Americans, they’ll be there to speak out for the moral principles that should guide these decisions.

Photo credit: Justice and Witness Ministries, Flickr

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Faith Leaders Visit Akin’s Office: Not Satisfied with Congressman’s “Apology”

June 29, 2011, 1:54 pm | Posted by

In response to Rep. Todd Akin’s recent, insensitive comment that “at the heart of liberalism is a hatred for God,” a group of clergy from Akin’s district visited his office today. In light of his failed attempts to justify his statement yesterday, the group of faith leaders sought a real apology from their Congressman for the disrespect his remarks showed towards their religious commitments. Instead, the Congressman sent a staff person to meet the group, while refusing to address the substance of his offensive remarks.

Rev. Kevin Cameron, senior pastor of Parkway United Church of Christ in St. Louis, described his disappointment with his own Congressman’s remarks:

“Congressman Akin continues to insist that liberalism is anti-religion. As a pastor and a constituent of his, I find this deeply offensive. I hold my liberal political views because of my faith.”

While Akin’s remarks were in reference to a decision by NBC to remove “under god” from a video of people saying the pledge, Rev. Krista Taves, minister of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, noted that the substance of faith is more than just symbolic displays of belief:

“Congressman Akin needs to understand that there’s more to faith in the public square than mentioning ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. Akin recently voted for a federal budget that would deprive the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable of healthcare while giving tax giveaways to millionaires. Mainstream people of faith reject these immoral priorities.”

Akin’s comments demonstrate a real lack of understanding of liberal people of faith, including many his constituents. Rev. Jeffrey Whitman, Conference Minister for the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ stated:

“Congressman Akin is dealing in political stereotypes that malign his liberal religious constituents. As a liberal and a person of faith, I’m quite certain that the Congressman is mistaken when he says liberalism is anti-religion.”

The delegation of faith leaders delivered the letter from local clergy expressing concerns about his comments, as well as 200 petition signatures from Missouri members of Faithful America, an online community of people of faith standing up for social justice and the common good.

UPDATE: Progress Missouri has video of the delivery and subsequent press conference here:

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Collegiate Faith Gets Better

April 19, 2011, 3:10 pm | Posted by

This past October, we collected and published messages from faith leaders as part of our “Faith Gets Better” project. Faith leaders spoke directly to LGBT youth, reassuring them that they are accepted and have a place in faith communities. Today in the New York Times, Erik Eckholm looks at faith leaders at Bible colleges who are doing the opposite:

…[G]ay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni. Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.

“It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object,” said Adam R. Short, a freshman engineering student at Baylor University who is openly gay and has fought, without success, for campus recognition of a club to discuss sexuality and fight homophobia.

While it’s disheartening to see some religious institutions openly target LGBT students through expulsion and denial of students’ freedom of association, the Times editors who formulated the story’s headline “Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity,” went too far in generalizing about Christian colleges. Eckholm, highlighting the diversity of religious schools, profiles one seminarian who left a discriminatory school for a welcoming one:

David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men. He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”

Mr. Coleman, 28, is now enrolled at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn., which is run by the more accepting United Church of Christ. He still dreams of becoming a pastor. “I have a calling,” he said.

Coleman’s story uncovers the choice faith leaders in academia have: exclude students on the basis of sexual orientation, or welcome all who feel called into ministry. As more colleges and denominations choose to embrace all people, we can see collegiate faith getting better.

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Faith Leaders Offer Sanctuary to Wisconsin State Senators

February 18, 2011, 4:00 pm | Posted by

notre dame.jpgLast Friday, in response to his state’s budget deficit, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed to raid the pension funds of public employees and strip them of their collective bargaining rights. These extremist proposals have been met by massive protests, with over 30,000 workers and allies rallying at the state capitol.

This week, local faith leaders joined the efforts. Inspired by the moral clarity of their faith traditions on the rights of workers, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and Bishop Linda Lee of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church stood for unions and collective bargaining, and over 50 faith leaders sent a letter to Governor Walker yesterday opposing his proposal.

Now, religious leaders from the surrounding area are joining in. In response to the news that 14 State Senators have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote, area clergy are offering them sanctuary–inviting them to places of worship for hospitality and support until the state can find a fairer solution to their budgetary woes.

Listen to the faith leaders on a press teleconference call talk about their offer here:

Participants on the call:

  • Rabbi Renee Bauer, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin
  • Reverend Kurt Anderson, Pastor, First Congregational Church, Madison, WI
  • Father G. Simon Harak, S.J., Director, Center for Peacemaking, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
  • Reverend Amanda Stein, Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Madison, WI
  • Rabbi Bruce Elder, Congregation Hafaka, Glencoe, IL
  • Reverend Jason Coulter, Pastor, Ravenswood United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL

State workers across the country engage in work serving humanity, teaching children, guarding prisons, caring for the mentally ill, and other essential services. A moral budget must not be balanced at their expense, and deficits should not be used as a pretext to take away workers’ rights to negotiate for fair wages and working conditions.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons contributed to this post.

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