Religious leaders offer sanctuary to senators

2011-02-19T00:05:00Z 2011-03-01T14:03:26Z Religious leaders offer sanctuary to senatorsChris Hubbuch | La Crosse Tribune

Two Illinois clergymen offered sanctuary Friday to Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin in an effort to stop an anti-union bill.

But neither said any renegade lawmakers had taken them up on their offer of hospitality.

The Rev. Jason Coulter, pastor of Ravenswood United Church of Christ in Chicago, and Rabbi Bruce Elder of Congregation Hafaka in Glencoe joined several Wisconsin faith leaders in speaking out on the behalf of workers' rights to collective bargaining and praising the missing Democrats.

"The right to organize is a moral right," said Rabbi Renee Bauer of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin.

Rev. Curt Anderson of the First Congregational Church in Madison called on Walker to negotiate with state workers, who stand to lose their rights to collective bargaining under the budget bill before the Legislature.

"It is a moral issue to support workers," he said. "They have the right to negotiate issues which affect their lives."

Fourteen Democrats absconded Thursday, effectively shutting down the GOP-controlled Senate before a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill.

Republicans say they have the 17 votes needed to pass the bill but need at least one Democrat present for a quorum. Among them was Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who told The Associated Press on Friday from Chicago that the group was prepared to be away for weeks.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma did not immediately return a message left at her home Friday. She said Thursday from an "undisclosed location" out of the state that she left because the bill was being pushed through at an "unacceptable" pace.

Walker called Friday for the missing Democrats to "come home."

More than 50 religious leaders have signed a letter in opposition to Walker's plan. Earlier this week Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki called on lawmakers to "carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good."

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