A diverse group of religious leaders who are fed up with the government shutdown and the ongoing debate over the nation's debt ceiling coalesced near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to read aloud more than 2,000 Bible verses that focus on caring for the poor and hungry.
The pointed effort, dubbed "Faithful Filibuster," began at 2 p.m. ET at The United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. Aimed at chastising the government for the shutdown, those involved said they were using the opportunity to let leaders know that there are necessary social programs that deserve federal funding.
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"We all are here because we agree that protecting the poor has to be one of our highest national priorities," said National Association of Evangelicals Vice President Galen Carey, one of the individuals who helped put the event together.
Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis -- a familiar figure in the faith community's call for the preservation of government programs -- teamed up with Sojourners President the Rev. David Beckmann and Carey, among others, to implement the faux filibuster.
"Clergy and religious leaders undertake a 'Faithful Filibuster' to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people, and to call on Congress to pass a budget that cares for the poor and vulnerable," read a description of the event.
Rather than a one-time endeavor, the reading will take place at the beginning of each day's session of Congress, according to a press release from the Circle of Protection (CoP), a coalition of faith leaders that advocates for government programs that protect the poor.
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The infusion of religious voices in the ongoing federal stalemate comes as those involved in the CoP seek to educate lawmakers about the perceived impact that the shutdown and cuts have on society's most vulnerable.
Plans for the scripture-reading event were made public just days after 100 faith leaders -- many of whom will be involved in this initiative -- signed a proclamation condemning pro-life politicians for allegedly "taking food away from pregnant women and babies."
The full statement lambasting these leaders is below:
As Christians and citizens, we are appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families.
We especially challenge those Members of Congress who call themselves pro-life to cease their political posturing on Capitol Hill. Shutting down the government in a futile effort to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act will hurt low-income pregnant women and infants who receive vital nutrition support. The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will receive no additional funds during the shutdown.
There is nothing “pro-life” or Christian about taking food away from pregnant women and babies. It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference.
The shutdown hurts all Americans, including seniors who will see “Meals on Wheels” cut, preschoolers who will be turned away from Head Start, and public servants who will be locked out of their workplaces without pay as bills pile up. This failure of political leadership and responsible governance exposes our nation’s misplaced values.
Struggling families, seniors and pregnant women don’t deserve to be victims of a manufactured crisis in Washington.
These Christian leaders aren't the first voice anger at politicians. The Senate's own chaplain, Barry C. Black, has been delivering harsh rebukes during morning invocations since the government shutdown began.
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