COLUMBUS -- Clergy representing different faith groups kicked off a week of daily prayer sessions at the Statehouse Thursday, with hopes of reversing what organizers described as a "flood of divisive legislation" enacted by state lawmakers.
"When we see those who have no roofs over their heads or no clothes to wear, can't afford to go to the grocery store, where they see that their pensions are being cut, they're being tossed from one side to the other and we do nothing, it should let us know that our moral compass is off," said Pastor Charles Tatum from Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Columbus. "So today it is my prayer that those who find themselves in positions of power and leadership, that God might open up their ear, touch their hearts, that they might be able to see what they have missed for so long, hear the cries that have gone unheard for so long."
Prayers are planned daily through next Thursday from noon-12:30 p.m. in the Statehouse room that honors Ohio first black lawmaker. Each day will focus on a different issue -- labor rights, education, women's rights and Medicaid expansion, for example.
"... We have moral bottom lines in this country," said Rev. Linda Smith, Universal Unitarians in Columbus.
She added, "When we think about, in some prisons, the prisoners are being served maggots, when we think about the persecution of the homeless, when we think about the scandals in our schools, when we think about the tax cuts for the wealthy but increasing higher taxes for working-class people, when we think about the excessive student debt that college students carry after they graduate, when we think about the pollution of our lakes and rivers... we have to question our moral grounding, and that is part of the reason that we are here today."
A prayer rally is planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside the Statehouse to cap the week's activities.
"... What are the motivations of those who are making policy decisions in the state of Ohio?" said Rev. Mark Diemer, from Grace of God Lutheran Church in Columbus. "Again, many of those decisions end up benefiting those who are already privileged in the state, and what were asking our elected leaders to do -- and praying for them to do and inviting them to pray about -- is to have that moral compass that says wait a minute, who are we serving here and who are we missing and who's falling through the cracks."