Poor People's Campaign

April 6, 2021

Faith leaders from across the nation gathered online and in person for Moral Monday: Make Holy Trouble as they stood against the immorality of the filibuster and its racist history. 

Representing religions across the board, the faith leaders participated Monday in the Poor People’s Campaign program that took place on the steps of National City Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and online. 

“It is time for the Senate to have an honest, open, floor debate on the issues of our day,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “We don’t need any more to have living wages blocked.  Healthcare to be blocked. And infrastructure that lifts from the bottom up to be blocked.  And money for public education to be blocked. And any, and those things that would make this democracy better. This is not about left or right.  It’s not about conservative versus liberal.  It is about right versus wrong. And so today, we commit to create holy trouble.  We’re gonna trouble the walls and trouble the Senate. We’re gonna trouble the senators.  We’re gonna call them. We’re gonna organize voters. “

While people best know that the Senate has used the filibuster to block civil rights legislation, the rule also has been used to block many more bills that would lift from the bottom, Bishop Barber said, including women’s suffrage, labor rights and the creation of a consumer protection agency. Now the threat of the filibuster hangs over $15/hour and voting rights. 

“We’re questioning the fairness and the justice of the filibuster,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “The fairness and the justice of being able to deny voting rights and living wages and expanded healthcare to people in a nation when the vast majority of people support these things, when we say we’re a nation that is built to pursue happiness and to defend this democracy and to give everybody a chance to thrive.  So we indeed also call this nation in this moment, in this holy season that we must make holy disruption, holy trouble, and we must make sure that everybody, everybody, everybody across this country has the right to live.  Has the right to thrive, has the right to be able to express their vote and be a part of this democracy.  And that we cannot do that with the filibuster intact.” 

The faith leaders also read a portion of a group statement that they will send to senators: 

“We recognize that our vote, our wages, our healthcare, our infrastructure, and our voice are being blocked by an immoral filibuster,” the statement reads in part. “And we are not the first generation to have fundamental human rights fall victim to this Jim Crow relic used by reactionary forces through history. The filibuster has been used to block civil rights, labor rights, voting rights, living wages, healthcare access, especially for poor and low-wealth Black, Brown, White, Asian and Indigenous people. The filibuster continues to facilitate idolatrous policy platforms about who deserves to thrive and who does not. The filibuster is being used to block our very democracy, and we join together to say, “DON’T FILIBUSTER DEMOCRACY!”

OTHER COMMENTS: 

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C.: 

“And so, what we’re here today about is standing up as people of goodwill, people of conscience, and people of faith saying that we are called to enlarge democracy.  And this tactic of the filibuster basically tries to silence democracy.  And so we’re not interested in being silenced!  We’re interested in having the most important vital and economic and sociological and ecological issues debated, discussed in our time and lifted up to paramount importance.  So we’re not about the shrinkage of democracy.  But we’re about, it’s enlargement.  It’s increased — that voices might be heard. … one of the things that we’re battling against is that continued spirit of fascism.  Fascism that does not want to be held accountable.  Fascism that does not want people to participate in the political process, fascism that does not want to have us debate the kinds of issues that are important for life, for liberty, and for hope.  So today, we stand.  Immoral filibuster cannot block democracy.”

Jim Winkler, president and secretary general of the National Council of Churches: 

“The filibuster was long used by avowed racists who wield it as a weapon over and over again to kill any progress to secure voting rights and civil rights for people of color in this nation. The filibuster is a symbol and tool of White supremacy. It must never again be used to block even the opening of debate on a bill. It must never ag in ain be used to obstruct the final vote on the Senate floor. The filibuster must never again be used as a threat in order to kill legislation.  It is a cowardly tactic, designed to forestall progress for the good of the nation.  Limiting debate to a reasonable period is common sense.  We elect our senators to exercise common sense.  We elect our senators to play a constructive role in addressing the needs of our people and of our nation.  The filibuster is used to expressly stop their consideration of critical legislation. 

Imam Khalid Griggs, vice president of the Islamic Circle of North America: 

What are we using our time for? It could be used for good or for bad. This filibuster, historically and as long as it exists continues to be used for bad. To be used for that which is not beneficial to humanity nor pleasing to our Lord.  So the Muslim community joins with everyone in calling for an end to this indecent use of words and expressions “ called the filibuster.”

Rose Gudiel Escobar, co-chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign and member leader of SEIU Local 1000: 

“One of our biggest wins in our last contract was having no employee make less than $15 an hour. We know the importance but we know that it’s not enough.  That in order for us as people to have a true living wage, we would have to be closer to what inflation has brought us up to, to, like, $23 an hour. And we’re not even there.  We know that this is the moment that we could make this a reality — the same way that we made a reality of what happened in Georgia, the same way that we made a reality of how we changed our current administration to putting folks there that claim they will be there for us and will do things to support us.  But we know history, we know that the history tells us that once we get to this point, we get to this Third Reconstruction which is where we’re at, those that are threatened by us poor and low-income people that flex their power and actually voted, that takes us into the same tactics that they’ve used years and years and years and that is about using the filibuster and the voter suppression.” 

Moses Hernandez McGavin with the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign: 

“We see you, senators. Those who filibuster, hiding behind the wicked power of the empire, and we will remember your names, just as we remember the names of those who filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 140 million poor and dispossessed strong will remember your ties to the empire. Your wicked commitment to profit over people and your undying commitment to unjust laws and oppressive decrees. The 99% will not forget. And neither will God. Which side are you on?” 

Dr. Wendsler Nosie, founder of the Apache Stronghold and former chair of the San Carlos Apache Tribe: 

“Today, I’m hated because of protecting the holy and sacred place (Oak Flats, Arizona) from the United States given to a foreign mining company, Resolution Copper and my life is threatened today and I have to be protected today to live every day to continue this fight. And that’s because of colonization and capitalism.  The very thing you all speak of, of the fight that we’re fighting to change the narrative, to change it to the way it should be.  And to redo the first chapter because the chapter’s where all the sins have created what we call America to what it is today.” 

Hari Venkatachalam,  board member of Sadhana, Coalition of Progressive Hindus: 

“We call on our senators to act not to shirk their responsibilities through inaction.  We call on them to act on legislation, to empower the poor of our nation.  Provide them health. Shelter, food, everything we deserve just simply because we are human.” 

Rabbi Michael Pollack from the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign and March on Harrisburg: 

“Democracy is when we come together in a perpetual encounter to solve our problems and create a better world. Democracy is an all inclusive covenantal relationship where we hear each other and honor the dignity of every voice and every vote. Anti-voter laws are an attack on the spark of the divine that resides in every human heart. They make our democracy a cruel members only country club where the basic needs of the workers are not heard.”

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C:

… we call for a constitutional amendment to guarantee every American citizen the right to vote and voter registration, voting by mail, early voting, strengthening absentee voting, greater accessibility for the disabled and minority language voters.  To create a national paid holiday for voting.  Enforcement of the voting rights act, rejection of the voter I.D. requirements.  We are here.  As a people.  As a denomination.  As people of faith.  To stand with the Poor People’s Campaign in this fight to make America the country God intends it to be, a place where people are paid fairly and allowed to vote justly.” 

Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson, co-chair Unitarian Universalist Association, Poor People’s Campaign Leadership Council: 

“Love calls us to reform a system of filibuster designed to obstruct just, immoral policies.  We will not let up.  Love calls us to show up, to speak up for living wages.  We cannot rest while our siblings toil in the system designed to foster income inequality.  We will not let up.  In this interdependent web, none of us is free unless all of us are free.” 

Rabbi Sharon Brous, senior and founding member of IKAR: 

We have the opportunity, the moral obligation amidst the rupture of our time to imagine and then to build a society that truly centers justice, equity, and human dignity.  One that refuses to cower behind the filibuster and gerrymandering and other relics of Jim Crow and other manipulations that are cynically playing themselves out in this country in order to maintain power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.”

Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, chief operating officer of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church: 

“ … For us then, three things:  First, the social creed speaks directly to our working for betterment, for economic life, wages, and working conditions.  Second, by our actions in support of get out the vote campaigns.  We’ve shown that we’re in support of voting rights including restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated persons whose sentences are ended.  And third, we are aware of how the filibuster has been used by racist and others in the nation’s history to frustrate and negate the push for actions which work for equality and with that awareness, the CME church’s College Of Bishops supports the Moral Monday movement being led by Bishop Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign.”

Rev. Carolyn Foster, ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and tri-chair of the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign: 

“I wonder, what is wrong with our elected leaders when they refuse to see or even acknowledge the pain and suffering of people they were elected to serve?  Why do they turn their faces away when confronted with poverty realities facing 140 million people in this country?  Why do they distort the truth?  Mislead the multitude?  And blame the poor for their troubles?  This country is in a moral crisis.  When over 253 bills in states right now are proposed to restrict voting rights and accessibility, when ensuring that a working person can make a living wage becomes an issue of contention, when tactics like a filibuster obstruct and stonewall critical issues that are vital to the well-being of people who are poor and low wealth, it becomes necessary for people of faith and moral conscience to come together, raise our collective voices, and make some holy trouble.  We must by word and example bring our moral power to bear.” 

Rev. Terri Hord Owens, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):

“When our citizenship is being threatened by bills that suppress the freedom of the people to cast their votes, and when our elected officials, our elected senators institute rules like the filibuster that keep those very elected officials accountable to us, accountable to the people from presenting any case for the passage of just laws, our humanity is insulted, and our democracy is compromised.  The filibuster is a tool that is used to obstruct debate for the deliberation of and the dismantling of systemic injustice in this country.  We cannot solve our problems unless we can understand and openly discuss the right paths to solving those problems.  And so we have to demand our elected officials, our senators enact the dignity of all citizens by hearing every voice and letting every case be presented on the floor.”


CONTACT: Martha Waggoner | mwaggoner@breachrepairers.org  | 919-295-0802