Will civil disobedience get attention?

July 29, 2011

As
political leaders fight about the federal budget and the debt ceiling, some
religious leaders are certain that the poor are in peril from funding cuts.
They've signed petitions, held vigils and sought audiences with legislators.
One group took the next step yesterday to get attention--a sit-down protest in
the Capitol rotunda.

Eleven
advocates, including several mainline Protestant clergy, refused to disperse or
to stop singing and praying despite repeated warnings from the U.S. Capitol
Police. The midday
demonstration no doubt grew out of the group's frustration at being just one of
many voices rallying for specific interests amid the showdown in Washington.

The
U.S. Catholic bishops, representing the largest church body, have urged
lawmakers
to protect those likeliest to suffer under major cuts. Various
religious leaders have tried petitions and joint statements. Will these efforts
encourage like-minded Democrats or Republicans to stand their ground for moral
integrity?

A
broad delegation of Christian leaders met
with President Obama
last week, asking him to form a "circle of protection"
around programs for those in need. Those attending abided by the request not to
quote the president, but they said Obama did cite Jesus' directive to serve
"the least of these."

The
Thursday protest drew some media attention. As the arrests were made, Rep. Chellie
Pingree (D., Maine) announced on the floor of the House of Representatives that
religious leaders were being arrested for standing up for persons in poverty, according to the NCC.

Declaring
that many lawmakers are compromised by political self-interest and the
seduction of power, J. Herbert Nelson, director of PCUSA's public witness, said
this before he was arrested: "Faith leaders cannot stand idly by and watch
while the mandate of the gospel to love our neighbors is violated in the halls
of Congress."