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Prosecutor agrees to drop charges against prayer vigil leaders

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (PNS) A city court in Washington has agreed to dismiss charges against 11 religious leaders, including three Presbyterians, who took part in a prayer vigil in the U.S. Capitol July 28, provided they stay out of the Capitol for six months and meet a few other conditions.


The religious leaders were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda while praying during the debt ceiling debate in Congress as part of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an inter-religious group representing the poor. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministers among them were:  J. Herbert Nelson, director of the denomination’s Office of Public Witness in Washington; Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith and Public Life; and Michael Livingston, past-president of the National Council of Churches.


During an Oct. 11 court appearance, the court agreed to dismiss the misdemeanor charge ― “intention to disrupt Congress” ― in April 2012 if conditions are met.


The Faithful Budget Campaign seeks to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty programs.


The campaign’s July activities included high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders and daily prayer vigils near the U.S. Capitol. It culminated with the arrests after the 11 prayed for 90 minutes and refused to leave the Rotunda after repeated requests from U.S. Capitol Police.


Outlook staff also contributed to this story.