Churches Close Accountability Gap

The mayor of Fall River,

The mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, sits in the hot seat each year at an accountability meeting of Catholic, mainline Protestant, and Jewish congregations called the United Interfaith Action of Southeastern Massachusetts to answer questions about past and future policies. Though he dislikes the format, Mayor Ed Lambert admits, "I think the United Interfaith process was helpful in maintaining [prior] commitments."

"[Politicians are] very used to making speeches and promises," said Marilyn Denton, a Methodist laywoman and United Interfaith representative. "But we hold them accountable." The assembly’s 20 congregations have effectively influenced political leaders to meet demands for greater security, reduced crime, and more fairly distributed funding for after-school programs. The congregations feel they can now influence policy not only by voting, but also by "engaging with public officials on how to use public resources," according to the director of United Interfaith.

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