[HCCN] Religious Leaders Arrested in Capitol Protest

Judith Robbins jprobbins at myfairpoint.net
Mon Aug 15 18:54:35 EDT 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011
Religious Leaders Arrested In Capitol Protest
The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson is arrested in protest over debt ceiling

Washington, DC, July 28, 2011 ­ The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director
of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, together with
nearly a dozen other religious leaders, was arrested this afternoon in the
U.S. Capitol Building while engaging in prayer and civil disobedience.  
Frustrated that their pleas to the Administration and Congress to protect
funding for the nation¹s most vulnerable people are being ignored, the
leaders refused to end their public prayers for an equitable resolution to
the debt ceiling debate, despite repeated warnings from the U.S. Capitol

As the August 2nd deadline approaches, negotiations to raise the federal
debt ceiling seem to have reached a stalemate.  The PC(USA) Office of Public
Witness, along with interfaith partners in ministry, is indignant that, in
order to break that stalemate, spending cuts to programs that serve the most
vulnerable in the U.S. and around the world will likely be included with an
increase in the nation¹s credit limit.  The PC(USA) has expressed grave
concern about the nation¹s mounting debt and deficits.  The PC(USA) General
Assembly shares elected officials¹ concern at leaving to the next generation
a legacy of debt, but neither does the PC(USA) support leaving behind a
legacy of poverty, neglect, and underinvestment. 

After Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, accompanied by Reverend Nelson, met with
Congressional leadership and staff earlier this week, it became clear that
Members of Congress themselves have little hope and do not know how this
impasse will come to an end.  But both possible scenarios present dire

On the one hand, Members of Congress may come to an agreement to increase
the debt ceiling, but it will certainly include severe spending cuts to the
programs and services that support the poorest and most vulnerable people
living in the U.S. and around the world.  On the other hand, Members of
Congress may not come to an agreement by next Tuesday, at which point the
U.S. will begin to default on its financial commitments for the first time
in its history, resulting in increased hardship for the poor and untold
national and global economic consequences.  In either case, the poor and
vulnerable will bear the overwhelming and disproportionate burden while
those who can afford to pay more escape additional sacrifice.

Joined by Presbyterian ministers Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of
Faith and Public Life, and Michael Livingston, past-President of the
National Council of Churches, Reverend Nelson led religious leaders in
prayerful civil disobedience, kneeling down in the Capitol Rotunda to pray
for a debt ceiling deal that does not sacrifice the poor on the altar of
political ideology.  His participation was a matter of personal conscience
and public witness.  He said, ³We are in a political quagmire. Due to the
inability of the Congress to work together, the good of people across the
globe is being compromised by the self interest of our political leaders. I
am convinced that this is not the fault of Republicans, Democrats or Tea
Party members alone. Too many Congresspersons of all parties are trapped in
a space where commitment to the common good is diminished for the sake of
personal gain and the seduction of power. In this process, the American
people and others all over the world are left to suffer.  Our denomination
cannot stand idly by and watch while the mandate of the gospel to love our
neighbors is violated in the halls of Congress.²

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