October 14, 2013

CWS Joining Tuesday Action to Protest Government Shutdown

Capital Building
Photo: Carol Fouke/CWS

Washington, DC -– Church World Service is joining a coalition of faith-based groups whose representatives will march to key Republican House offices on Tuesday, Oct. 15, demanding that the government shutdown end because of its effects on workers and the poor.

The event will begin at 10:15 am, Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Cannon House Office Building rotunda.

The shutdown is affecting seniors who depend on "Meals on Wheels" programs; pregnant women and infants who are losing vital nutrition support; workers locked out of their jobs as bills pile up; veterans facing benefit cuts; and communities put in peril by the suspension of crucial environmental protection efforts.

"Shuttering the federal government and propelling the United States into financial default to achieve narrow political objectives is short-sighted and self-destructive," the coalition said in a statement.  (See Full Statement Below)

"The danger for all who value democracy – regardless of party affiliation – is apparent.  One only needs to consider this precedent being applied to other policy concerns of a minority in Congress who are powerful within their own party but unable to create legislative change within the bounds of due process.  Blocking routine but essential functions of government to extract specific policy concessions could destroy America’s democratic process."

At each of the planned office visits – which will include the House leadership offices --  representatives of the faith groups and families of government workers will pray and ask that the House members end the stalemate that has resulted in the government shutdown.

Specifically, the representatives will ask that members immediately end the shutdown with an unconditional continuing resolution and raise the nation's debt ceiling without preconditions. Simultaneously, faith leaders will deliver nearly 30,000 petition signatures to congressional district offices across the country calling on House members to end the government shutdown. The petition signers are members of Faithful America — a fast-growing online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice.

This statement, which was also signed by more than 150 clergy and theologians, sharply rebuked irresponsible elected officials for pursuing an “extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” by shutting down the federal government.

"What we are saying is, stop doing this on the backs of the poor," said Martin Shupack, director of advocacy for CWS, who will be among those participating. He and others are taking the action "out of extreme frustration" because of the ways the shutdown is affecting programs that assist the poor.

Others participating include:

Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social; Justice Lobby; Rev. Michael Livingston, Policy Director, Interfaith Worker Justice;

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph.D., Director, The Shalom Center; Rev.  Ann Tiemeyer, Interim Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches; Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life; Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II,  Director for Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Rev. Brian Adams, Minister for Economic Justice, Disciples Center for Public Witness.

In all, participants will include leaders from NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; The Salvation Army, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),  Interfaith Worker Justice, National Council of Churches, The Shalom Center, Faith in Public Life, Church World Service, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ), Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ), Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

More than 32 faith leaders and other participants are expected to be involved in the Tuesday action.

Text of Statement:

Calling the Government Back to Work

Dear Member of Congress:

As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place  shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government,  raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.

Shuttering the federal government and propelling the United States into financial default to achieve narrow political objectives is short-sighted and self-destructive. The danger for all who value democracy – regardless of party affiliation – is apparent.  One only needs to consider this precedent being applied to other policy concerns of a minority in Congress who are powerful within their own party but unable to create legislative change within the bounds of due process.  Blocking routine but essential functions of government to extract specific policy concessions could destroy America’s democratic process.

To take such rash and destructive action in order to prevent further implementation of the Affordable Care Act – which addresses the needs of 50 million people without health insurance -- is a grave moral failure. While the ACA has its limitations, it implements a market-based model with a history of bi-partisan support. Repealing or defunding it will hurt millions of people and many small businesses. We urge all members of Congress to stand up for our democracy and reject this futile and harmful effort.

Additional damage accrues each day the government remains in partial shutdown:

  • Federal funding for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program may not be able to cover all benefits. Some states have already closed WIC offices, and many participants are terrified that they won’t be able to find nourishment for themselves or their infants and toddlers.
  • An estimated 19,000 impoverished children are without preschool because of the shutdown, which left more than 20 programs across 11 states without funding on the heels of devastating sequester cuts. Those previous cuts had already shut out 57,000 at-risk children who lost their Head Start slots.
  • Many low-wage workers are losing their paychecks or seeing their earnings dwindle even further. Examples include government mailroom clerks, many of whom are people with disabilities, who work for government contractors. Even if furloughed federal employees are eventually paid, many others who work for contractors have no such assurance.
  • The Administration for Children and Families, which cares for children in abusive and violent family situations, announced that certain child welfare programs will not be funded during the shutdown.
  • Our environmental wellbeing is suffering and our citizens are at risk as health inspectors, EPA inspectors and a myriad others who enforce important laws are unable to do their jobs.
  • In addition, a failure to raise the debt limit on spending that Congress has already approved will undermine our still fragile economy and harm the global economy, especially the most vulnerable.

You hold a key to doing what is right for the American people, and we pray for you to act in the best interest of our nation. Once this unnecessary and dangerous stalemate is over, we count on you to act on behalf of all of our people and enact a Faithful Budget. Stop the partisan paralysis and uphold what our Constitution refers to as the “general welfare” – the common good of all.

With hope and a belief in the ultimate goodwill and good sense of Members of Congress, we hold you in our hearts and prayers.

[ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS]

Am Kolel Jewish Jewish Renewal Community (Md, DC, Va)

American Friends Service Committee

Center of Concern

Center on Conscience and War

Church of the Brethren

Church Women United

Church World Service

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Conference of Major Superiors of Men    

Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Moral Action of Climate

Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good  Shepherd

The National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA

NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Pax Christi USA

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

The Shalom Center

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Institute   Leadership Team

Unitarian Universalist Association

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

United Methodist Women