Religious, civic leaders arrested in civil disobedience protest at US Capitol

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause President Bob Edgar among arrested protesting proposed budget cuts

Common Cause President Bob Edgar was among a group of religious and civic leaders arrested today in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol as they called on Congress to craft a budget that protects working Americans and requires millionaires and corporations to bear their fair share of the nation’s tax burden.

“Budgets reflect the priorities of a nation, and we are not a nation that puts its biggest burdens on the backs of those who have the least,” Edgar said. “We believe Congress has a moral obligation to stand strong against cuts to our most needy and to assure that corporations and billionaires pay their fair share. Congress must revive the American dream.”

Most Americans, Edgar said, favor a budget plan that recognizes the challenges facing middle class families and Social Security and Medicare recipients as well as the importance of putting the nation’s finances on a firm footing.

“Spending has to be controlled, long-term, but a great nation does not turn its back on its obligations,” Edgar said. “And, we have made promises — to care for those who cannot care for themselves, to offer a hand up and a fair shake to those willing to work to improve themselves and their communities. We must keep our word to them, and to ourselves.”

The coalition of leaders convened to highlight the moral and ethical dimensions of the Congressional debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“We agree with those who say that America must live within its means,” Edgar said. “And in a nation where government is ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ living within our means requires that everyone pay his or her fair share of government’s costs.

“The spending plans put forward by Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid do not meet this requirement. They force the middle class to shoulder America’s burdens and give up the American Dream, while a wealthy few who’ve already achieved that dream exploit tax loopholes and enjoy historically low tax rates.”

The interfaith group went to the Rotunda to pray following a midday rally outside the Capitol that attracted hundreds of people in support of spending plans that would keep the federal debt manageable by calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay a larger share – their fair share – of the nation’s bills.

In addition to Edgar, those arrested included: the Rev. Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS); Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia; Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith and Public Life; the Rev. Paul Sherry, director of public policy for Interfaith Worker Justice; Martin Shupack, director of advocacy, Church World Service; Sandy Sorensen, director, Washington Office, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries and Jean Stokan, director, Institute Justice Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and policy advisor, Pax Christi USA.