Written by Anthony Moujaes
The Rev. Donna Schaper and members of her congregation, Judson Memorial Church in New York City, are part of a coalition borrowing a page from a popular North Carolina movement by living out their faith with a public rally.
The Moral Mondays movement in New York begins on Feb. 10, with the first public prayer and demonstration at the offices of state representatives in Albany, N.Y. The rally brings Judson Memorial Church together with interfaith partners Join Faith for a Fair N.Y., Occupy Faith and other allies from around the state. Together they will call on the governor and the state legislature to pass a faithful budget that places a focus on jobs, schools, essential local services, and reduces poverty and hunger.
"The newly formed coalition of ‘Moral Mondays in New York’ will address the state budget hearings on Monday and say that the budget is sinful," Schaper said. "Sin is missing the mark of our true humanity. Sin is being distant from God and creation’s intention. Sin is 'incuvatus in se,' being curved in on yourself in a frightful and fearful way. The rich suffer moral poverty when they protect their money while crushing the face of the poor. This budget has a serious moral poverty, is sinful and crushes the face of the poor."
In North Carolina, the Moral Mondays movement drew thousands to the statehouse in Raleigh in 2013 to rally for change to the laws the public claims are immoral and unfair on the average citizen. It’s that movement that Schaper and the New York alliance hopes to bring to the Empire State.
"The current North Carolina legislature doesn’t have a chance of keeping their stingy seats. Moral fervor has created political success," Schaper said, adding that "We don’t want just morality on Mondays in New York. We want morality. This budget proposal misses that mark."
Their issues with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal are more than $2 billion in tax cuts that UCC activists and other interfaith partners claim will favor the wealthy and major corporations. About $1 billion a year in tax breaks would go to the wealthy and Wall Street, with $750 million reduced annually in inheritance taxes and another $350 million eliminated from the state’s dedicated Bank Tax.
On top of that, there are tax cuts to essential public services, including public and secondary education, local government services and social programs. The Fiscal Policy Institute, a non-profit economic think tank in New York, has gone on record saying the budget plan is misguided.
This is more than a rally for a faithful budget in some ways, since a budget represents a policy priority for an administration.
"The direction is what bothers us. It’s a trickle down thing," Schaper said. "It’s a good launching place for a Moral Monday in New York. It’s fun to see New York following North Carolina."