As Executive Director of Vermont Interfaith ActionDebbie Ingram knows that the 15,000 Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim members of her grassroots organizing group outnumber what the last census found to be one of the least religious states in the country.
âHowever, that doesn’t mean that Vermonters aren’t people of faith expressed in other ways, such as through the beauty of creation or of living and letting live,â Ingram said. âThere are people of good will who can come together around shared values. “
That’s why the Spiritual Coalition is renewing its statewide push for social and economic justice by promoting affordable housing, racial equity, immigrant rights and prison reforms.
âThere is still so much to do,â Ingram said at the group’s annual convention this month.
The state coalition is part of Faith in action, a national non-partisan network linking 1,000 religious congregations in nearly 50 regional branches.
“We assess what is going on in the world around us and guide the decision on what action to take in response,” said Ingram, an ordained minister and former state senator from Chittenden County. âWe are ready to do a good job.
Members of more than 70 spiritual communities from Brattleboro to Burlington, for example, are pressuring state leaders to invest more in permanent shelter for those who do not have one.
“Not only is it the morally right thing to do, but it is also the right thing to do economically,” the group wrote in a recent. report.
Religious leaders argue that allocating money for permanent shelter costs less than the current practice of spending up to $ 200,000 in federal money per night to house the homeless in hotels and motels.
âProviding stable housing reduces the downstream costs of poor physical and mental health, substance use disorders, educational support for students whose main challenge is chaos and trauma, and ultimately account, the costs of our criminal justice and corrections systems, âthey wrote in their report. .
The coalition drafted a second report calling for reform of the correctional systemincluding more educational and therapeutic opportunities for inmates and more training of staff on ârestorative and better informed methods of interacting with residentsâ.
“If staff are not wellness trained for themselves, it is difficult for them to instill wellness in correctional residents,” the members wrote in the report. âThe basis of treating residents should be to help them become the best people they can be. “
The coalition, which met online after recently hosting a public Covid-19 memorial service in Montpellier, is also promoting racial justice and immigrant rights in the country’s second whitest state.
âI started to think about our role as a Vermont moral conscience,â Ingram said. âWe keep looking back at our own motives to make sure that even when we do the right thing, we also do it for the right reasons. “