Wisconsin Religious Voices Witness Against Scott Walker

Below the fold is the text of a join press release from Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice and Madison Urban Ministry, two Wisconsin religious groups who have been active in leading protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda.

I am mostly passing this on to note that there are religious voices involved in this fight. I have yet to see any faith groups take up Walker’s side, but perhaps I’ve just missed them.

Two comments on the press release: one, where are the Catholics? We’ve got some mainline Protestants and some Jews, and there are no doubt other groups represented at the Interfaith gatherings. But no Catholics. That’s odd.

Two: while I think what we have here is bang-up, I do believe that it could be even stronger by reframing it as an issue of justice, rather than morality. The latter is a very weak frame that creates a “dog bites man” storyline. The former, especially if it’s pitched in terms of God coming down on the side of the working people (see: Exodus), is much stronger and creates the opposite storyline. When was the last time any religious leaders on the left had the chutzpah to tell a sitting governor he was going up against God herself?

FAITH COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT GOVERNOR WALKER’S ACTIONS: AFFRONT TO HUMAN DIGNITY OF WORKERS AND THE POOR

In a tremendous show of opposition against Governor Walker and the State Republicans’ recent actions to strip public sector workers of their right to collective bargaining – and to his proposed budget – which will have drastic effects on the health of local communities, schools, and the poor – Madison’s religious communities have become increasingly vocal in the fight against the Governor’s devastating legislation.

NIGHTLY VIGILS SPONSORED BY FAITH COMMUNITIES The Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice (ICWJ) and Madison Urban Ministry (MUM) are organizing ongoing nightly vigils sponsored by different faith communities at the State Capitol.  Each night a different religious denomination or community will sponsor the vigil, drawing members from far and wide. 

Vigils Planned thus far include:

  • Mondays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Jewish Community, King Street entrance to Capitol
  • Tuesdays 7:00 p.m. Unitarian Faith Community, begins with march from First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, along Old University Avenue up to Capitol.
  • Wednesdays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Episcopal faith community, State Street Entrance to Capitol
  • Thursdays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: United Church of Christ and Lutheran ELCA faith communities, State Street Entrance to Capitol
  • Fridays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Presbyterian faith community, State Street Entrance to Capitol
  • Saturdays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Interfaith gathering hosted by MUM, State Street Entrance to Capitol
  • Sundays 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Methodist faith community, State Street Entrance to Capitol

The Rev. Leah Lonsbury, of Memorial United Church of Christ, points out that this is a religious issue: “This struggle is about justice, about how we care for those who are vulnerable, how we value human beings and the gifts they bring, the kind of future we want to shape for our children, and the kind of life we feel called to live together.  This is the heart of our faith unfolding right here on the Capitol square and throughout Wisconsin.  That faith communities and leaders would walk, act, and call for legislation that will serve and protect the people instead of doing them harm is a natural extension of that heart.”

SIT-IN AND STUDY, SING, AND PRAY IN FRONT OF THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

Several leaders of the faith community have requested meetings with Governor Walker’s office, but they have not heard a response from his staff.  Therefore, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice has decided to sit in front of his office each day, organizing its members to study religious texts on worker justice, sing songs from our religious traditions, and join in prayer for justice for the people of the State of Wisconsin. 

As ICWJ faith co-chair, ELCA Rev. Jerry Folk, remarks, “Many religious leaders in Wisconsin are disturbed by the Governor’s proposed budget because it will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots of society by taking resources away from the middle class and the poor and giving them to the wealthiest among us.”

He continues: “This is a serious moral problem for religious people, because our sacred scriptures teach that the government has a responsibility to do the opposite – to prevent this gap from becoming too wide. We have therefore asked for a meeting with the Governor to discuss these moral concerns with him.”

Members of the faith community are well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good. Their congregations and communities have not been immune to the effects of the tough economic times our nation currently faces.  However, they believe strongly that hard times do not nullify the moral obligation their government has to respect the sacred worth of each human being.

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