Religion at Occupy Wall Street


KIM LAWTON, Correspondent: For the Occupy Wall street protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park, it’s become a familiar sight—religious groups offering spiritual and moral support.

VOICES AT SERVICE: We represent. We represent. The New York City communities of faith. The New York City communities of faith.

LAWTON: Growing numbers of leaders from across the religious spectrum have been supporting Occupy Wall Street’s protest against greed and economic inequity.

REV. MICHAEL ELLICK, Judson Memorial Church, NY: This is not just a jobs issue. This is not only a health care issue or a pension issue. This is also a spiritual issue of the nature of what has happened in the United States and how we function as a people together. And that is very, very, much a matter of moral concern, not only to my Christian tradition but to Islam, and to Judaism, to Buddhism.

post02-occupywallstLAWTON: There have been regular interfaith prayer services at the park. And religious groups are also providing practical help by donating tents, food and money. They’ve been opening their facilities to the protesters, giving logistical advice and helping to get the message out.

ELLICK: Churches are an excellent place to organize this kind of information because we’re under the radar of commerce or of government.

LAWTON: Many say there is a prominent spiritual dimension to what’s been happening. Inside Zuccotti Park is a makeshift community altar, where protestors of all faiths come to pray or meditate. In several cities, protest chaplains—many of them seminary students—minster to the protesters.

ERICA RICHMOND, Protest Chaplain: We are here to provide a religious presence. We are here to listen to people, to hear what’s on their hearts. And we’re here to pray with people. And people do come up to us and ask us to sit with them in prayer, because people are in crisis and that’s why we are all here.

LAWTON: On this Sunday, United Methodists led a communion service. Participants said concern for economic justice is a core teaching of their faith.

post03-occupywallstREV. K KARPEN, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, NY: The Bible is all about just a fairer shake for people and God’s concern for all of God’s children, not just a small segment of the population.

LAWTON: Some religious conservatives have criticized the faith-based support of Occupy Wall Street calling it a 60’s style, leftist effort to redistribute wealth. The Family Research Council urged its members to pray that God would prevent what it called “these radical organizers from stirring revolution.” But faith leaders at the Wall Street protests deny any political agenda.

KARPEN: It’s a broad movement of religious groups to support what’s going on and really to support the conversation, not to take a particular side or another side, but just to say these are the things that we need to talk about.

And they say it’s only going to spread.

ELLICK: What’s very, very real is the frustration. And if people don’t think that’s real, if people don’t think that reflects a real existential reality for the majority of Americans, the faith communities see it. Because we are who they come to when mom can’t pay rent, when the immigration officers steal grandma and there’s no one home. I mean, we’re who they come to. So for us it is an obvious, immediate, moral imperative.

I’m Kim Lawton reporting.

  • sandra


  • Francesca Tate

    “Some religious conservatives have criticized the faith-based support of Occupy Wall Street calling it a 60’s style, leftist effort to redistribute wealth.” That kind of rhetoric on their part is pure hubris. By putting people out of jobs and taking all of the proverbial “poker chips” not to mention people’s livelihoods, the extremely-wealthy are the ones who have already redistributed the wealth. In order to maintain civil society, what we people of faith are endeavoring to do–in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement–is CORRECT a redistribution of wealth that has already happened. And we believe that the Bible and our faith calls us to do so.

  • JDE

    “Some religious conservatives have criticized the faith-based support of Occupy Wall Street calling it a 60’s style, leftist effort to redistribute wealth.”

    Naturally. Apparently, God favors evangelicals (aka REAL Christians), and wants them to be wealthy. Everyone else loses out, both in this world and in the next.

    Of course, as regards Jesus’ admonition to the young man to sell what he had and distribute the proceeds to the poor, and other “Leftist”, Socialist-leaning statements – everyone knows he didn’t really mean them. He was tricked by Liberals into saying those things.

  • Humanist

    What we need in this country is a humane economic system, which is an intelligent combination of capitalism and socialism. By the way,the American dream is alive and kicking in Denmark.

  • Ruth

    I’m a Christian interested in news of other Christians and aware of the denominations—Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. I don’t think I’m alone in wondering why your reporter does not identify the denominations of the included churches for readers. Judson Memorial what? Put the denomination in parentheses is it’s not revealed in the name. Church of St. Andrew…Catholic? Episcopal?

    Please complete the report. Thanks.

  • Bill

    I have mixed emotions regarding the Occupy Wall Street protests. I agree that corporate greed is a very serious problem, but I’m not sure the OWS is sufficiently focused to really make a difference. I wonder what the motives are when religious groups step in and say they support the protesters. Has anyone investigated whether these protests are having any effect on the CEO and other leaders of Wall Street? Are there any religious leaders meeting with them and discussing WHY greed is bad, or why they should change their ways and show more compassion and charity. We need our humble religious leaders to step up and penetrate the ahllowed halls of Wall Street. If not, I see a Les Miserables scenario here – with the crowds struggling and crying out in the street and the leaders seeing them as a noisey rabble and then simply crushing the revolt when it gets too annoying.

  • Christian

    Judson is affiliated with the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Christ. Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew is United Methodist. However there are other denominations represented. I’m an Episcopalian and I know that a number of my clergy have visited or are working at the site, and Trinity Wall Street has been providing some resources not only to the protestors but to help mediate the conflict. For details please visit

  • JDE

    By the way, Christianity isn’t the only religion represented:

  • Joe

    This is a absurd. take resposabilty for your own actions!. Jesus wanted the individual to be charitable not to have Ceaser take all of your possesions and say who get what piece of the pie! If you want to make a difference, don’t waste your time walking in circles with these whining spoiled brats. go to your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter and serve some sandwhiches. Live within your means. you wouldn’t have $200 K in student loans if you went to a state school, but you had to go to a small liberal arts school and study sand skrit for $50K a year. now you can’t get a job and you wnat me to pay for it? I live and work in NY. there is nothing about these protesters the Christians should be associated with.

    Everyone deserves to be judged on the merits of their charectar and the value of their work. Many of the CEO’s are lacking in both and should be held accountable, but the Occupy Wall Streeters fail in both departments more often than not as well.

  • Chris

    It’s all about greed. I agree with that. However, is it not greedy for a family man who makes 100,000 a year to buy a 3.2 million dollar home that he cannot afford? Is it not greedy to have student loans one can not possibly pay for? Is it not greedy for folks to live above their means because they did not wish to appear working class? I find that interesting. Occupy Wall Street, it seems to me, is about middle-class (so-called cause many of them have no jobs anymore) people wanting to be rich and not understanding that it just doesn’t happen for everyone. Is it not greedy to think you are entitled to more money? I’m not talking about corporate types, I’m talking about the protestors. How is it greedy to be on Wall Street, but not for the occupiers who want the money of the upper class?