Lead by an interfaith coalition more than 500 residents poured out of Stamford High School Sunday and walked across the street to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s Strawberry Hill Avenue home.
Outside clergy from all denominations informed the junior senator that he no longer holds the moral high ground when it comes to the national health care debate.
“Health care is a fundamental human right,” Rev. Josh Pawelek of the Unitarian Universalist Society said. “This is bigger than Joe Lieberman.”
Rabbi Ron Fish of Congregation Beth El in Norwalk said he has avoided entering into political conversation for many years, however, when Lieberman spoke about his conscience impelling him to stop even a vote on health care “my conscience could not allow me to be silent.” So Fish authored a letter titled “We are not politicians.”
“For us this is not an intellectual exercise,” Fish said reading from the letter which was signed by more than 70 clergy. “We work in our communities among the sick and scared who face not only illness, but financial ruin when disease strikes.”
“The moral imperative for our time is clear. Anyone whose guide in public policy is conscience, anyone who argues that faith and religious traditions should direct our actions, such a person must stand for universal health care in America,” Fish concluded. “It happens we are all also citizens of Connecticut. That fact leads us to ask you Senator Lieberman, what is it that you stand for?”
Several messages were left with Lieberman’s staff seeking comment.
Last week on Fox News Sunday, Lieberman told Chris Wallace, “If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.”
The statement did not sit well with members of Lieberman’s own faith.
“You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbors,” Rabbi Stephen Fuchs said quoting scripture. “It is with a heavy heart that I proclaim to you Senator Lieberman that that is exactly what you seem to be doing at this time.”
Standing with candles outside Lieberman’s building members from a number of faith traditions prayed for Lieberman as neighbors from his complex watched from their balconies or joined in the prayer session.
When Rabbi Fuchs and Pastor Abraham Hernandez went to deliver the prayers which had been written down on paper to the doorman of the building they were told they would not be accepted. The group then began to shout “take our prayers,” but the policeman said it was not the doorman’s choice. He said he was just doing what he was told.
After the chant went on for at least a minute, Shirley Binin, one of Lieberman’s neighbors stepped forward from the group and said she would take the prayers and deliver them to the senator.
Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the prayer vigil is just further evidence that a lot of people are really upset with Lieberman’s “arrogance” about his vote on health care. He said the clergy were the perfect people to deliver that message to him.
Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy said it was significant that the group decided to start the event at Stamford High School. It’s where Lieberman received his high school education. It’s the place he visited when he was selected as a vice presidential nominee and where he first announced his intentions to run for president.
“We know for the people of America to be successful in this struggle full debate must be had on this issue without the threat of filibuster or denial,” Malloy said.
He said those who oppose health care reform should be able to make their case in a floor debate, but ultimately democracy should be allowed to move forward.