CT Interfaith Gathering Aims to Raise Voices of the Least
By Colleen Kopp
April 15, 2010
An interfaith gathering and conversation regarding a "moral" and "more just" Connecticut budget was held at Faith Congregational Church, 2030 Main St., Hartford, on Wednesday, April 14 at 7 p.m.
Faith leaders representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist congregations participated in "...a time to urge our elected officials, lobbyists and community leaders to remember the least, and the often left out people and parts of our communities in the budget discussions and decisions," according to the program for the gathering.
"Whether Muslim, Christian, Jew or Unitarian, religion at its core should be helping those who have no way to help themselves," said Stephen Camp, senior pastor of Faith Congregational Church. "The government has a major role to play to help citizens. The Church will do what it can, but the Church can't do it all."
"The important thing was to come together and pray for a new level of decision-making about the Connecticut state budget -- that government programs for those most in need do not get cut," Camp said.
The faith leaders released this report card on Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the General Assembly. They handed out this petition for attendees to sign.
"Cuts need to be made. But where do we make our cuts, who is going to be most affected and what kind of impact will be created?" asked State Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, who attended the gathering.
"If we do raise taxes on those who make more money," McCrory said, "will they trust that it will go to the people who need it? We as leaders need to come up with a plan, so we can to be sure those dollars get funneled back to the communities who need them."
McCory said he is not in favor of handout programs, but instead programs that provide opportunities and incentives -- the idea of investing in social programs that help those in need, with the purpose of getting them on their feet and making them self-sufficient.
"There's no question that this is a controversial topic, we just didn't see [controversy] last night," said Matt O'Connor, communication director for Conn. State Employees Association (CSEA/SEIU Local 2001), one of the groups in the Better Choices for Connecticut Coalition, the umbrella group the faith leaders have been meeting with since last fall.
CSEA/SEIU's role was to get the notice out about the event, and many attendees were union members, said O'Connor.
"The gathering was not talking about parties, or who to vote for or against. Instead, it was about civil engagement and a position on the budget that those hurting in Connecticut are getting the services and support they need," O'Connor said.
The event was attended by about 150 people, Camp said.
A moment from the evening that stood out to Camp was a testimony from a religious leader about the past censuses: "Around 30 years ago, Hartford was in the top 20 poorest cities per capita, in the next census it was in the top five, in the last census, it was in the top two."
Camp said those statistics indicated that "government choices are not in the right direction. We've got to start solving these problems."