On Tuesday, October 15, more than 30 national faith-based organizations, including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC), endorsed a statement directed to the U.S. Congress, urging the legislative body "to place shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government, raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good."
MOGC staff members were among dozens of people, including low-wage workers who have been locked out of their jobs in federal agencies, who participated in a "pilgrimage for courage and the common good." As the group walked the hallways of the House of Representatives' buildings this morning, they sang "Amazing Grace" and other hymns and visited the offices of members of the leadership team. As small delegations entered the offices to engage the staff in conversation, others in the group remained praying in the hallway.
Following is a press release about today's "pilgrimage" and the statement that was delivered to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 2013
CONTACT: Michael McGovern – 202.499.4084, firstname.lastname@example.org
70 prominent faith leaders and locked-out workers march on House GOP Offices, pray for end to shutdown
Pilgrimage with poor workers ratchets up moral pressure as shutdown harms low-income families, seniors, and veterans.
Washington, DC – Today, over 70 prominent religious leaders joined with locked-out federal workers in a pilgrimage, marched on key House GOP offices – including Leadership – and urged an immediate end to the government shutdown. At each office, the group prayed for the Member to do what is right and vote to immediately end the shutdown with a clean and unconditional continuing resolution and to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.
During the Pilgrimage, faith leaders invited moderate Republicans to join them in challenging their colleagues who are putting political agendas ahead of the common good.
An extreme faction of Congress is recklessly playing politics with the lives of countless Americans: seniors seeing “Meals on Wheels” cut, pregnant women and infants losing vital nutrition support, workers locked out of their jobs as bills pile up, veterans facing benefit cuts, and communities put in peril by the suspension of crucial environmental protection efforts.
“It’s time for irresponsible factions in Congress to stop this reckless behavior and end this shutdown immediately,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby. “There is no moral justification for holding struggling families, pregnant women and seniors hostage.”
The marchers also included low-wage workers locked out of their jobs by the shutdown.
“Before the shutdown, I was struggling to support my unemployed father and little sister,” said Alex Vesquez, a contract food worker at the Smithsonian. “Now I’ve gone from low wages to no wages. Tea Party Republicans need to stop these political games and let me get back to work.”
At each office the group prayed for the Member and left a letter endorsed by religious organizations, saying "As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government, raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.”
Faith leaders had a clear moral message for the Congressmen responsible.
“Locking low-income workers out of their jobs and holding them for ransom is simply un-Christian. This inflicts needless pain on families already struggling to make ends meet,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, Policy Director at Interfaith Worker Justice. “We’re urging the members of Congress responsible for this hardship to vote now to put these workers back in their jobs.”
Simultaneously, people of faith delivered over 32,000 petitions to Congressional offices around the country calling on House Members to end the government shutdown. The petition signers are members of Faithful America — a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice.
This statement, which was also signed by more than 150 clergy and theologians, sharply rebuked irresponsible elected officials for pursuing an “extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” by shutting down the federal government.
Calling the government back to work
Dear Member of Congress:
As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government, raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.
Shuttering the federal government and propelling the United States into financial default to achieve narrow political objectives is short-sighted and self-destructive. The danger for all who value democracy – regardless of party affiliation – is apparent. One only needs to consider this precedent being applied to other policy concerns of a minority in Congress who are powerful within their own party but unable to create legislative change within the bounds of due process. Blocking routine but essential functions of government to extract specific policy concessions could destroy America’s democratic process.
To take such rash and destructive action in order to prevent further implementation of the Affordable Care Act – which addresses the needs of 50 million people without health insurance -- is a grave moral failure. While the ACA has its limitations, it implements a market-based model with a history of bi-partisan support. Repealing or defunding it will hurt millions of people and many small businesses. We urge all members of Congress to stand up for our democracy and reject this futile and harmful effort.
Additional damage accrues each day the government remains in partial shutdown:
Federal funding for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program may not be able to cover all benefits. Some states have already closed WIC offices, and many participants are terrified that they won’t be able to find nourishment for themselves or their infants and toddlers.
An estimated 19,000 impoverished children are without preschool because of the shutdown, which left more than 20 programs across 11 states without funding on the heels of devastating sequester cuts. Those previous cuts had already shut out 57,000 at-risk children who lost their Head Start slots.
Many low-wage workers are losing their paychecks or seeing their earnings dwindle even further. Examples include government mailroom clerks, many of whom are people with disabilities, who work for government contractors. Even if furloughed federal employees are eventually paid, many others who work for contractors have no such assurance.
The Administration for Children and Families, which cares for children in abusive and violent family situations, announced that certain child welfare programs will not be funded during the shutdown.
Our environmental wellbeing is suffering and our citizens are at risk as health inspectors, EPA inspectors and a myriad others who enforce important laws are unable to do their jobs.
In addition, a failure to raise the debt limit on spending that Congress has already approved will undermine our still fragile economy and harm the global economy, especially the most vulnerable.
You hold a key to doing what is right for the American people, and we pray for you to act in the best interest of our nation. Once this unnecessary and dangerous stalemate is over, we count on you to act on behalf of all of our people and enact a Faithful Budget. Stop the partisan paralysis and uphold what our Constitution refers to as the “general welfare” – the common good of all.
With hope and a belief in the ultimate goodwill and good sense of Members of Congress, we hold you in our hearts and prayers.
Am Kolel Jewish Jewish Renewal Community (MD, DC, VA)
American Friends Service Committee
Center of Concern
Center on Conscience and War
Church of the Brethren
Church Women United
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Moral Action of Climate
Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
The National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
The Shalom Center
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Institute Leadership Team
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Women