Interfaith advocates organize budget prayer rallies
Written by Wire Reports and Gregg Brekke
November 18, 2011

The Rev. Paul Sherry (standing), former UCC president, leads the 'Rotunda 11' in prayer at the U.S. Capitol prior to their arrests. (Photo provided)

As members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the so-called "Super Committee", struggle to foster an agreement before their congressionally mandated deadline next week, faith groups across the country are joining forces to encourage the Super Committee not to reduce the deficit by placing an undue burden on the poor while shielding the wealthiest from additional sacrifice.

Nearly 1,000 people are expected to attend a prayer rally at Lafayette Park on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 3pm EST to pray and encourage Super Committee members to preserve funding for programs that assist the most at-risk families and children in the United States and around the world.

In addition to the D.C. prayer rally, numerous churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship across the country are holding similar prayer gatherings this weekend outside of the district offices of members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and congressional leadership.

"Even as we approach the 11th hour to the deadline for the congressional Super Committee to issue its recommendations for federal deficit reduction to the full Congress, it appears that many members of Congress continue to place political posturing ahead of the difficult task of governance and moving the country forward," said Sandy Sorenson, director of the UCC's Washington, D.C., office.

"The federal deficit cannot and should not be addressed solely by draconian cuts to federal programs, especially at a time when those on the economic margins risk falling even further into poverty" said Sorenson. "Tax cuts and military spending are the greatest contributors to the current deficit, and they must be included in any plan for deficit reduction."

Sunday's prayer rallies in D.C. and across the country have been spearheaded by a coalition of leading Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations affiliated with many of the major religious denominational movements, including the Church of the Brethren; Church World Service; Franciscan Action Network; Islamic Society of North America; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; National Council of Churches; NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Presbyterian Church (USA); United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Church.

The prayer rallies 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 while praying in the Capitol Rotunda 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.

"If ever there was a time for moral imagination and courageous leadership, it is now.  It is all too easy to focus on individual interests and quick fixes. It is all too easy to pretend that we may not be affected by distant budget cuts that seem to have no relation to our own lives. But Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right: we are all 'caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.'"

The prayer vigil follows the UCC's Mission:1 campaign where the denomination's 5,300 congregations and 1.1 million members were asked to help collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. As of Nov. 18, more than 1.37 million items of food had been collected and 36,000 letters written to Congress. The financial goals have both topped $100,000 and are expected to far exceed their $111,111 goals once all churches have reported.