Faith leaders arrested as major religious groups rally against the GOP tax reform bill

Faith leaders gather to protest the GOP tax reform bill at the U.S. Senate building. (CREDIT: Facebook/Sojourners)

Faith groups are rallying against the new GOP-led tax reform proposal currently making its way through the U.S. Senate, with some enduring arrest as they urge lawmakers to abandon a bill they say will primarily benefit the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable and low-income families.

On Wednesday, a group of more than 2,400 faith leaders hailing from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, and other faith traditions signed onto a letter addressed to Senate leadership decrying the bill. They listed a number of issues with the proposed legislation, such as how it would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, balloon the deficit, and eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate—a move that will increase the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million by 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust.”

“As people of faith, we view decisions about tax policy and the federal budget as moral decisions,” the letter reads in part. “Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust. If it becomes law, it will result in harmful consequences for those most needing support so as to the benefit high-income earners and big corporations.”

Signers included Simone Campbell, Catholic nun and head of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK; Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church; Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc Jewish Action; and Colin Christopher of the Islamic Society of North America, among many others.

“This bill is an assault on the poor and vulnerable we are sworn to protect.”

Faith advocates also hosted a demonstration at the U.S. Senate building Thursday morning to protest the legislation. Jim Wallis, head of Christian social justice group Sojourners, and Barbara Williams Skinner, of the National African American Clergy Network, joined a group of pastors as they prayed and read scripture that condemns unjust rulers.

“This bill is an assault on the poor and vulnerable we are sworn to protect,” Wallis said at the event.

He went on to recite from Isaiah 10 in the Bible, which reads, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”

After several others spoke, Wallis and others were detained, handcuffed, and escorted away by police while they prayed.

Groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches have also condemned the bill or expressed reservations about its rushed nature, as have the CEO of Catholic Charities USA, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and even President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“The tax bills currently before the US Congress are designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. These tax plans cannot be biblically defended,” the National Council of Churches said in a statement.

The effort is the latest in a wave of faith-based protests in Washington, D.C. against legislation backed by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump. Religious leaders from across the theological spectrum showed up in force to demonstrate against the GOP-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, for instance, and thousands descended on the nation’s capital to rally against racism and Trump. Faith groups also spoke out against the Trump administration’s various attempts at a Muslim ban, selections for cabinet positions, budget proposal, and the decision to phase out DACA.