Monday, March 3, 2014

Morals Mondays NYC Faith Leaders Call for End to Alms for the Rich: Demand That Budget Reflects Moral Values and Ends Tax Giveaways To Wealthy New York, NY-

The Moral Monday movement has mobilized activists across the South.  Watching thousands converge, some of us have been asking what we can do to create some of this energy in New York City? 

To this end,  faith based leaders have joined labor activists to create a Moral Mondays movement here.  Many argue that our the current state budget, which creates breaks for the rich and cuts on services for the poor, this is immoral.  Our target is Governor Cuomo. While we are not calling Cuomo "Governor 1%" as we did three years ago with Occupy, when the movement changed the policy conversation from one about austerity into a story about inequality, many still feel that way.

Members of the CUNY professional staff congress taking a bust at Cuomo's office in 2011. 

Those at Judson Memorial have taken a large part in this movement.   Donna Schaper, of Judson, recently penned an editorial about Moral Mondays.  Her point of course is that budgets are moral documents.  

"Morality is often confused as a finger wagging self-righteousness,” write Schaper. “Morality instead is a dream, a hope, a deep sense of how things are supposed to be. Both the many and the few are to eat. God's time comes when there is income equality and nobody's child goes to sleep bored while another's child goes to sleep hungry."

Earlier in the month, Schaper helped lead a prayer service at the state legislature. “We don’t want just morality on Mondays in New York. We want morality,” explained Schaper.  “This budget proposal misses that mark.”

The argument was the same for our New York City action.  

The scenario for the action was simple.  A pre action invitation declared.

JOIN us for the first of four weekly actions this coming Monday, March 3rd at the NYC office of Gov. Cuomo. 
*We’ll gather at 11 am* in The Hardin Room on the 11th floor of 777 UN Plaza, the Church Center for the UN (at the corner of 1st and 44th).
*Then proceed at 12 pm* to the governor’s office at 633 3rd Ave to protest and to pray. Bring a pillow for your knees!
At this first action, no civil disobedience is planned.

Inspired by the Moral Mondays protests in North Carolina, shocked by a city political system that governs on behalf of the wealthiest at the expense of the rest of us, we are called by conscience to mount a Moral Mondays campaign in New York City.
We are clergy, chaplains, and people of conscience—of many different faith traditions, and of none—who find our city in a crisis and ourselves on the front lines.
Monday, March 3rd we're turning our attention to the budget of New York. Unfortunately, New York State has abandoned its moral responsibilities to the poor in favor of policies that promote and preserve wealth for the few. 
We reject its tax breaks for the wealthiest among us that require teachers, healthcare workers, and librarians to live on less. We cannot accept a state that denies children the educational resources they need to succeed; that requires young people to go deeper into debt for college, and the elderly to live with less care. We cannot accept a state that denies the homeless and hungry in our state the services they need.
Please RSVP to join us on Monday, March 3rd to call out the injustice of the immoral New York State budget.
If you can't make it, please add your name to the petition in solidarity:

Taking Part
I joined friends from Labor and Judson for the action for a pre action meetnig at the UN. There, we
talked about why thousands come out for such actions in North Carolina and so few make it out for similar 
actions here.  The Cuomo balancing act is hard for many of the unions still looking to complete expired 
contracts. Others feel beaten down.

But for those of us there, some agnostic, others part of faith communities, it felt like we had history of 
righteousness on our side.

We walked over to Cuomo’s office, where I first heard people call him as Governor 1%  favoring the needs of the rich over those of working people.  Today, we were taking a narrower frame, pointing out that this 
budget immoral. Yet, unless he proves otherwise, I will still consider Cuomo Governor 1%.  After all, the
Koch Brothers do support him.   

Some brought pillows for kneeling at 633 Third Ave.  I sat with my legs crossed meditating on what it feels 
like on the concrete, what it feels like sleeping there, living there, surviving there.  Others prayed about what a fair budget could look like, while remembering those who have less, those who do not have homes or places to eat a warm meals tonight.  

Reverend Peter Heltzel lead the prayers.  

Others quoted from Amos 5:24  calling for justice to flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  

Brother Ron spoke about our students from CUNY, struggling to pay for their education, while 
apprehensively looking ahead to an uncertain future, where jobs no longer feel like a guarantee. 

I have taken part in countless forms of protest over the years.  Today, it felt powerful to sit and meditate on 
the idea that we really can do better.  We are connected into something much larger, together.  I hope we 
can create a politics in New York which supports the idea of a collective we, a collective us, favoring a we, rather than a me.  Hopefully, we can create a city which bridges all of our destinations, into a New York 
created by and for everybody.  

Judson's Donna Schaper set the tone.  Above. Below.  Peter Heltzel spoke about why were sitting at 633 Third Ave.  Photos by Paul Russell. 
A press release stated:
Braving the winter storm, faith leaders kneeled outside Governor Cuomo’s New York City office today praying that the proposed tax giveaways to New York’s wealthiest be removed to restore services for the poor. Inspired by the Moral Mondays that have been building in North Carolina, faith leaders committed to bearing Witness to the immorality in the current budget proposals every Monday in March.
With reference to the proposed $750 million estate tax reduction for inheritances, Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church exclaimed “To give hundreds of millions of dollars to the wealthiest 200 families in New York State, while tuition continues to rise, pensioners are being asked to live on less, and we have record homelessness in the city is morally indefensible. We are praying that elected leaders look into their hearts for guidance to justice.” The proposed budget will also eliminate the dedicated bank tax transferring an additional $350 million from the state coffers to Wall St.
“After foreclosing on thousands of New Yorkers futures and giving each other over $90 billion in bonuses, the state should not further rewarding Wall St. bankers but investing money in housing those still homeless on account of Wall St. greed,” said Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, Senior Minister, Fourth Unitarian Universalist Church The faith leaders also specifically pointed to the property tax freeze which would give revenue away wealthy homeowners and the governor’s refusal to allow New York to enact the millionaires tax to fund universal pre-kindergarten that New Yorkers voted for.
"Justice, Justice shall you pursue" we are commanded by the sacred words of our text. It is repeated to emphasize that both the means and the goals shall be just. A budget is a society's means and map. And this budget is not just." Declared Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. Taking their inspiration from people of faith in North Carolina, these faith leaders have committed to protesting every Monday until these proposals to taking money from the poorest to give to the wealthy are removed from the budget. “We as faith leaders call on all New Yorkers to join the Moral Monday Movement for Justice. While many clergy take Mondays off as a sabbath day, we are taking Mondays on a prophetic action day. We will not stop our prayerful protest until Governor Cuomo passes a Moral Budget!” exclaimed Rev. Peter Heltzel, Associate Professor of Theology, New York Theological Seminary.
We'll be at the same place next Monday at noon. Join us at 633 Third Ave.

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