Faith Leaders Work To Influence Policies at RNC and DNC

Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the United Church of Christ. (Karen Kasler / Statehouse Bureau)
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Loud and colorful protests have been getting a lot of attention at both the Democratic National Convention this week and the Republicans’ convention last week. But there was at least one low-key demonstration not aimed at any candidate, but targeted at the heart of the platforms that each party voted on at the start of their conventions. Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler has details.

About three dozen clergy from around the country walked in rows of three, singing down the streets of downtown Philadelphia. They marched from the Friends Center, run by Quakers, to the offices of the Democratic National Convention a few blocks away.

The group included clergy from Christian and Jewish groups, hoping to deliver what they call the “Higher Ground Moral Declaration” to Democratic leaders – a document they say was signed by 1200 faith leaders concerned about discrimination, access to health care, criminal justice reform, workers rights and other issues. 

“We are here because those who are on the margins must become the center of all our deliberations. We are here because those who are poor and those who are ostracized and those who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin or because of how they choose to operate in their faith or because of whom they choose to love can no longer wait on the sidelines for us to do what is right.”

That’s Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the United Church of Christ's Justice and Witness. She serves a church in Ferguson, Missouri – a town torn by riots after the 2014 shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, by police.

She’s also a pastor at a church in Cleveland, host of the Republican National Convention a week earlier.

“We made an intentional decision in Cleveland not to do an active protest there, but to be the church. Our national office was a block and a half from the convention center, and so what we decided to do was to use our space to open our doors for a welcoming place and a place for meditation and prayer for anyone who wanted to come in.”

And Blackmon says that decision to open the church up to anyone brought in a shoeless and disheveled young man named Tim, who said he only wanted some food, a pillow, a blanket and a Bible to take with him back out into the streets. 

“The reason I’m here, friends, is that there are more Tims than there are Trumps. There are more Tims than there are Clintons. There are more Tims than there are people arguing over policies when people’s very lives are on the line.”

The faith leaders were able to hand the signed document over to a representative from the DNC.

The group also tried to deliver their document to the RNC offices in Cleveland the week before, but when they were turned away, they emailed it in.

And that’s what the coalition also intends to do with this year’s candidates for governor and US Senate, including Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and his challenger, Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland.
 

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