Religious Americans Unite for "Super Vigil" to Fight for Federal Aid for the Poor

November 20, 2011

For Immediate Release
Sunday, November 20, 2011

WASHINGTON – Religious Americans sent a clear message to members of the so-called Congressional Super Committee this weekend, and to all members of Congress and the Administration, that cuts to programs that assist the most at-risk families and children in the United States and abroad will not be tolerated on their watch.

Throughout the weekend, thousands of Americans of all faiths united in prayer for a “Super Vigil” at public rallies in Washington, D.C. and across the country calling on members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to not reduce the deficit by placing an undue burden on the poor while shielding the wealthiest from additional sacrifice.

“All across our country, people of faith are raising their moral voice for justice concerning the global economy, livelihood and our national priorities. These issues are not yet settled and people of faith will continue to pray and mobilize so that Congress and the Administration hear our call to preserve goverment programs that serve people living in poverty and protect our environment — and as we prepare to bring 1,000 Christian activists to Capitol Hill, March 23-26, 2012 for EAD’s 10th Anniversary conference, ‘Is THIS the Fast I Seek?,'” said Douglas G. Grace, M.Div., S.T.M., Director of Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice.

In D.C., the prayer rally was held across the street from the White House at Lafayette Park. A large crowd was on hand to hear numerous national religious figures from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths impart their moral perspective on protecting the most vulnerable among us.

Inspired by a common spiritual conviction that God has called on all Americans to protect the vulnerable and promote the dignity of all individuals, the religious community has worked beside the U.S. government for decades to protect those struggling to overcome poverty. Without a sustained federal commitment to these programs, the religious community fears that Houses of Worship will be unable to solely support the country’s most vulnerable in their time of need.

The Super Vigil is part of an ongoing Faithful Budget Campaign to urge the Deficit Super Committee, Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the United States and abroad from budget cuts. Through the campaign, people of faith are urging political leaders to look with fairness at potential avenues toward fiscal health, with a focus on job creation, revenue increases, and reducing unnecessary and duplicative military spending, and not at the expense of those who can least afford additional cuts to their life necessities.

In addition to the D.C. prayer rally, religious Americans gathered this weekend for prayer demonstrations and other acts of religious activism in Richmond, VA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; and Philadelphia, PA as well as in Dallas, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Cincinnati, OH, and Sarasota, FL. Prayer vigils were also held in Midland, TX and Seattle, WA.

Also, in Los Angeles, CA, the Sisters of Social Service are celebrating their 85th anniversary as a congregation and are holding a Super Vigil as part of their basic mission to respond to the social needs of our society and in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching. In Juneau, AK, the faithful who serve their homeless neighbors each day are coming together this week to pray that federal cuts do not drastically impact their ability to serve all those in need. In Ft. Benning, GA, nearly 10,000 religious activits participating in the SOA Watch also joined in prayer for a fair, compassionate and just outcome to the ongoing federal budget/deficit reduction debate.

The prayer rallies in D.C. and across the country are a continuation of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an effort launched by the religious community in July to lift up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable in order to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty assistance programs.

In July, the campaign organized high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of top religious leaders, daily prayer vigils near the U.S. Capitol Building and culminated with the arrest of 11 faith leaders in the Capitol Rotunda for refusing to stop praying for the nation’s most vulnerable just days before Congress passed the debt ceiling compromise.

Over the past six weeks, the Faithful Budget Campaign has tapped into its network of religious worshipers – flooding congressional offices with telephone calls and letters encouraging them to support the nation’s most vulnerable.
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Statements from religious figures participating in the D.C. Super Vigil prayer rally on Sunday, November 20th at Lafayette Park, Washington, DC

“The 37 denominations that make up the National Council of Churches agree on a simple message for this nation’s political leaders: Do not try to solve America’s budget problems by taking away from those who have least to give. That’s why we are part of the Faithful Budget Campaign, and why we are taking part in Sunday’s interfaith “Super Vigil”, asking God to move the hearts of policy makers in order that fairness and compassion will guide their decisions,” said Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

“We are witnessing through the Faithful Budget Campaign, growing numbers of persons of faith who declare that our Creator has something to say about political leaders using people in poverty as political pawns in their fight over the federal budget. I am glad to witness people of faith across this country pray, write, email, call, visit district offices and even come to Capitol Hill in order to visit their Congress persons while declaring that God’s truth will not be silenced in this federal budget debate,” said Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“When the Torah tells us that “the poor will never cease from the land,” we are not to read those words as an excuse for neglect. Throughout the history of the Jews, whether in their own land or on distant shores, the commandment to lift our neighbors from a life of want to a place of security has animated our engagement with government and community,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy, The Rabbinical Assembly.

“I know what it’s like to be fired and out on the street. It happened to me in 2008. And it’s a tough place to be. But it’s made all the worse by members of Congress who give their ear and votes to wealthy contributors. They’re listening to the top 1 percent of Americans who take home 25 percent of all household income. They’re listening to Wall Street bankers and the Tea Party, bankrolled by billionaires, who want their tax cuts. Like Old Testament prophets, we stand here today to say that any political leader or system that pursues profits and power at the expense of the common good stands under divine judgment. God will not be mocked. Greed will not go unpunished. Justice for the common man is our cry. So, let’s fund not tax cuts for the wealthy but our nation’s future competitiveness. That means funding programs that build skills and productivity. That’s called investing in people. It’s called being smart and being moral. If we do this we can be optimistic we’re doing the right thing, by God and man. So God help us in this hour to do exactly that,” said Rev. Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

“As a pastor I cannot stand idly by as more and more families struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. And I cannot remain silent as misguided politicians push an immoral agenda that punishes these people to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” said Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life.

“God in His infinite mercy has given us stewardship of His worldly resources, and we pray that He may guide our leaders to make the right choices with those resources. The federal budget reflects the moral conscience of the American people and so it must reflect our moral commitment to protect those who are poor and vulnerable here in America and around the world,” said Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim institutions and faith-based organizations united by shared beliefs to lift up the nation’s most vulnerable, are mobilizing across the country to impact the national budget dialogue by demonstrating that America is a better nation when we follow our faiths’ imperative to promote the general welfare of all individuals.

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