On Dec. 7, 2017, nine faith leaders were handcuffed and arrested at Sen. Susan Collins’ office here in Portland. Our civil disobedience was a witness against the ill-conceived and mean-spirited tax bill that was then before the U.S. Congress.

Our action was part of a wider protest, spreading across Maine and across the nation – a protest rising from the depths of our faith – a protest on behalf of God’s beloved children who have been denied their share of the Earth’s bounty.

At the time, we predicted that once that bill was passed, corporate profits would rise, but wages would not; that the deficit would enlarge but the social safety net diminish; and that those whose tables were already obscenely laden would get more but those whose tables were nearly bare would get less. Today, with the current Farm Bill being considered in the Congress, those predictions are coming true.

Bemoaning a deficit crisis that they created by giving tax breaks to corporations and millionaires, Republicans in the House of Representatives now want to try to fix that deficit by reducing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, cutting out more than 2 million people, including Mainers, just when they most need help to feed their families.

And, what is threatened next after food stamps? Medicaid? Medicare? Social Security? Who can call this fair? Who can call this right? Who can call this compassionate? As their cold-hearted bill nears a vote, these legislators should hear the words of the prophet Isaiah thundering in their ears and pleading with their consciences:

“Woe to (you) who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right …”

In the name of God, we faith leaders here gathered say to our brothers and sisters who are struggling just to have enough to eat: “We hear your cries. We stand with you. We will not rest until you have what you need and deserve.”

We say “no” to this Farm Bill – and we say “yes” to the notion that we are all responsible for one another, and especially for the most vulnerable. We say “yes” to the notion that there is plenty for all, if we will only share justly. We say, “Thank you” to Rep. Chellie Pingree for her opposition to the cuts, and we say to Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who supports them: “Do not take food from the mouths of hungry children. You can be better than this. You can stand up and do the right thing.”

So, today we call on all lawmakers, Republican and Democratic, to have their minds turned toward justice and their hearts warmed with compassion. From mosque, synagogue and church alike, let the word go forth: “The Earth is God’s and the fullness thereof … and the bounty of the Earth, the food that the good Earth provides, belongs – equally – to all of God’s children.”

The Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian

Cumberland Foreside

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