The Rev. Rob Hardies of All Souls Church in Washington, the Rev. Jennifer Brooks of Second Congregational Meeting House Society on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, and John McCarthy, a student at Harvard Divinity School were among 115 clergy and religious leaders arrested at the Cannon House Office Building and charged with blocking access to a public building. Those arrested were a part of a crowd of about 200 people from a broad range of denominations who had come from as far away as Florida and California. More than 100 clergy knelt on the marble steps in front of the Cannon building at the Capitol with some standing arm-in-arm in front of the door. Some led the group in prayer or song.
The protest was organized by the Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of Call to Renewal, a national network of churches, faith-based organizations, and individuals working to overcome poverty in America. At issue is a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds, and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators are trying to reach accord with senators who passed a more modest $35 billion bill that largely spares programs for the poor.
Arrested without conviction, the three UUs were detained for several hours and fined $50 each.
Brooks said it was important to her to stand among other people of faith and be counted: “It was such a powerful feeling being with other people committed to serving justice and who understand that poverty has to be a priority.”
Hardies said he was excited to engage in public witness with Evangelical Christians, whom he sees as potential allies on many social issues. “We need to be open to working with a broad spectrum of religious people,” he said. “I want to encourage people to be stretched like that.”