Religious Leaders Keep Getting Arrested At the Nation’s Capitol — And It Is Glorious

By Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Religious leaders from across the country descended on the U.S. Capitol again to lift up a moral vision for our nation and demand that legislators do their job to serve all of the American people – not just the wealthiest among us.

And, again, for their witness and their faithful commitments, many of them got arrested.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, who was arrested last week for protesting at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office, made plain why these issues are so pressing for religious leaders at a press conference organized by the National African American Clergy on the grounds of the Capitol:  

“Preachers are going to have to bury folks who weren’t called home by God, but by Senators who took healthcare. When you put children, the disabled, and veterans at risk, we know we will be the ones to bury them.”

Rep. Maxine Waters who also addressed the group assured the assembled clergy: “We need your presence here in DC.”  The Congresswoman explained:  

“Instead of supporting working families and the most vulnerable, Trump’s budget is a big tax cut for the wealthy and a full on assault on our country’s safety net, our education system, and affordable housing.”

One passerby who observed the gathering yelled out: “This sounds like real church!”

From the press conference, leaders from Red Letter Christians and Repairers of the Breach as well as Faith in Public Life and Auburn Seminary joined in a procession back to Senator Mitch McConnell’s office for an interfaith protest, including Auburn Senior Fellows Rabbi Sharon Brous, Buddhist leader Rev. angel Kyodo williams, the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Lisa Sharon Harper, the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Butler and the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, all of whom condemned the immoral legislation that targeted the most vulnerable in service of tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis told a personal story to emphasize what is at stake:

“I have just one question for all the Christians  in the house. What would Jesus do? He would not take from the poor and give to the rich. My momma just died seven years after a cancer diagnosis.  Were it not for the Affordable Care Act, were it not for Medicaid and Medicare, instead of surviving for seven years she would’ve died in six months. Someone else’s momma needs health care.  Someone else’s baby needs health care.”

Even as the police began to use their bullhorns to inform the venerable clergy that they were “in violation of the law,” the religious leaders continued to demand the justice of a higher law and proclaim their faith as 11 were arrested.

In a nearby cafeteria, a lady checking out one of the leaders buying sandwiches asked what they were for. When told that the sandwiches were for faith leaders protesting “greedcare,” who were getting out of jail, the employee said: “Honey, go grab a bunch of cookies for them, on me. I have lupus and won’t have my meds if Trump gets his way. Thank you for what y’all doing”

The day was capped with Black religious leaders kneeling in prayer, singing “We who believe in freedom will not rest, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” Eventually the kneeling group was also arrested, a powerful visual reminder that the moral and prophetic voices of America will not be silenced, and are rising up in this moment.   

These faith leaders understand that, even as some are celebrating after the apparent collapse of the GOP Healthcare Bill, this is just one day in a long campaign connecting many different issues that include health care, voter suppression and the proposed budget. The Rev. William Barber, speaking from outside the office of Mitch McConnell explained:

“Some of us were here last week, some of us are here this week. We are not here as Democrats, we are not here as Republicans, we are here as prophetic voices standing on the shoulders of those before us, and we will not stand down. We’re not going anywhere.”  

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President at Auburn Seminary and Editor of Voices


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