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article imageFaith leaders arrested at US Capitol during budget protest

By Kim I. Hartman     Jul 29, 2011 in Politics
Washington - Eleven people, including faith leaders from multiple denominations were arrested inside the Capitol while staging a protest calling on Congress to create a budget that protected working Americans and guaranteed the rich paid their fair share of taxes.
The interfaith group, led by former Congressman Bob Edgar, D-Penn, president of Common Dreams, was arrested yesterday inside the Capitol Rotunda as they knelt on the floor in prayer. The small group prayed together and sang gospel hymns before they were taken into custody, reports ABC News.
The group, which may have been answering President Barack Obama's Monday night call to "make their voices heard" on the budget crises, showed up at the Capitol this week to speak to their Representatives and share their opinions on budget reform.
The multi-denominational group were asked to end their public prayer for Congress and to vacate the Capitol but refused to comply and continued with their small, peaceful prayer meeting protest. The eleven member strong group occupied the Rotunda for over a half hour before they were lead away one-by-one.
Michael Livingston, director of the National Council of Churches (NCC) poverty initiative, who was arrested at the protest said, “Congress is paralyzed by toxic partisan politics while people suffer. 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. We've written letters, talked with and prayed for our elected officials, and prayed together daily in inter-religious community. Today, we 'offer our bodies as a living sacrifice' to say to congress 'Raise revenue, protect the vulnerable and those living in poverty," reports the NCC.
The coalition of leaders can be seen on videotape as they are searched by Capitol Police during their arrest. Police then secured their hands behind their backs with plastic ties and escorted them from the building. One member of the group, identified by ABC as Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, was helped out of his wheelchair by officers and then arrested.
Edgar, who was also arrested, said in a public statement: "Budgets reflect the priorities of a nation, and we are not a nation that puts its biggest burdens on the backs of those who have the least. Most Americans favor a budget plan that recognizes the challenges facing middle class families and Social Security and Medicare recipients as well as the importance of putting the nation's finances on a firm footing. Spending has to be controlled, long-term, but a great nation does not turn its back on its obligations."
In addition to Rabbi Waskow, Livingston and Edgar, Common Dreams said those arrested included: "the Rev. Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society (GBCS); Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith and Public Life; the Rev. Paul Sherry, director of public policy for Interfaith Worker Justice; Jordan Blevins, director of peace witness for the Church of the Brethren and the NCC; Martin Shupack, director of advocacy, Church World Service; Sandy Sorensen, director, Washington Office, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries and Jean Stokan, director, Institute Justice Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and policy advisor, Pax Christi USA."
The People of the United Methodist Church website said the group, along with other religious leaders, have been "holding daily prayer vigils on the lawn of the building since July 11 to pray for a faithful budget."
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