August 17, 2012
Nuns rally for federal support of poor
Religious leaders come out against Ryan’s federal budget proposal
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Gary Smith, executive director of Moving in Congregation Acting in Hope of Cortland, speaks on Thursday during the Nuns on the Bus program at Grace Episcopal and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.
The “Nuns on the Bus” came to the city by van Thursday in hopes of getting local political leaders to join the fight for what the group says is an unfair Republican federal budget proposal aimed at helping the rich and hurting the poor, all in the name of reducing the deficit.
The group made the stop on its Central New York tour at noon in front of the Grace Episcopal and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church loaded with a microphone, quotes from the Bible and a spinning “Wheel of Misfortune.”
They are in Cortland protesting vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget, one which was passed twice in the House, which is controlled by Republicans.
Mary Clark, a member of Citizen Action of New York, spearheaded the idea to get Nuns on the Bus to the area. Initially, the nuns did a national tour, hitting nine states.
“Ryan’s budget has an adverse affect on the poor, disabled and all types of afflicted people,” Clark said. “We are aiming to make everyone aware of this and get people to help propose the ‘Faithful Budget.’”
The “Faithful Budget” is a proposal for local members of Congress to consider as an alternative to Ryan’s idea, with a focus on compassion to help the needy rather than giving the rich more tax breaks.
The idea, Clark said, is to gain local support.
The Rev. Peter Williams, of the church where the event was held, was the first guest to speak.
He spun the wheel, which was divided into eight slices — food stamps, Pell grants, local education cuts, Medicaid health jobs, Headstart of New York, New York Veteran Services, Medicare private vouchers and blocking grant Medicaid.
Before the wheel stopped, Williams began addressing the crowd of about 60 people on God’s ideas and what they should do to support them.
“God calls on the church and its believers to promote health and ensure equal care for everyone,” he said, prompting a short applause. “We need everyone to join in these efforts for change. The ‘Path to Prosperity’ budget that Paul has drafted tears at the heart of Christian ethics.”
Ryan’s budget will tax the poor more and the wealthy less, Medicaid would be slashed by about a third and most government functions would be cut in some way.
Ryan has said he hopes to cut deeply into the nation’s deficit with the plan.
While Ryan is Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, Romney, according to the media reports, has said he’s running on his own budget ideas.
Rev. Dr. Janet Adair Hansen, of the Christ Community Church of Cortland, talked about how the local faith community needs to band together to get anything done because her church does not have enough resources to make a significant impact on the local level.
“If we all band together, we can double what we can do,” she told the crowd.
She then shifted to health care: “I know so many people who delay care, or receive inadequate care, because of the cost. We can’t allow this.”
The debate comes down to public priorities, she said.
“The government shouldn’t be able to favor private interest over public good,” she said.
As a show of togetherness, Sheila Cohen, secretary of Temple B’rith Shalom, talked about how people of all faiths need to come together to fight “surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.”
“Slashing taxes for the rich only hurts the needy,” she said.
When all the speakers were done, Clark banded the group, clad with yellow signs in hand showing their cause, to march to U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna’s (R-Barneveld) office on Tompkins Street.
About half the crowd followed, only to find a locked door. Hanna rarely works from the satellite office in Cortland and he usually works at his other offices.
“That’s our congress in action,” Clark said before hanging a sign on the front door that read “Hand off our Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”
A representative for Hanna responded on his behalf.
“Rep. Hanna looks forward to reviewing the materials that were left at the office,” the email stated. “While he doesn’t agree with every provision in it, Rep. Hanna voted for the budget resolution to begin a much-needed serious conversation about our long-term fiscal future. As always, he remains open to taking the best ideas — regardless of where they come from — and moving forward.”
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