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Religious groups feel the pinch of government shutdown
First Published Oct 10 2013 10:57 am • Last Updated Oct 10 2013 10:57 am

Washington • As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.

More than 90 Catholic, evangelical and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking "pro-life" lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are "appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families" who won’t receive government benefits.

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Earlier this week, evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders began a daily "Faithful Filibuster" on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor "to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people."

Here’s how the shutdown is impacting religious groups in ways large and small:

Rescheduled weddings

The national parks closure has prompted a blessing for some couples locked out of their planned wedding venues. Churches are opening their gardens and doors to shutdown refugees.

First, Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde invited displaced couples to wed at the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral. There are at least 11 weddings booked during the next two weeks, diocesan spokesman Jim Naughton said. Three have been held so far.

Then, a small church near Cincinnati, Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador in Mount Auburn, Ohio, followed the cathedral’s lead.

"We have a small garden, but it’s really nice," the Rev. Paula Jackson told a local website. "We don’t know how long this shutdown is going to last … This is one thing we can do for people, who have a very important moment in their lives planned."

For couples whose Grand Teton National Park wedding dreams were dashed, there’s hope: St. John’s Church in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is offering shut-out sweethearts the spacious community green in front of the main sanctuary.


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St. John’s Rector Ken Asel said he will put out the word that the biggest private green space in Jackson Hole will be available for the couples. Unfortunately, St. John’s most famous chapel, the Chapel of the Transfiguration with its window view of Grand Teton, will not be available because it is surrounded by the national park.

Workmen who needed to winterize the building for the season had to outrun park rangers once the roads through the park to the chapel were locked down.

D.C. sites shuttered

The play "The Laramie Project," about gay rights icon Matthew Shepard, was scheduled to be performed at the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, but several of its October dates have shifted to the nearby First Congregational United Church of Christ. The theater, where President Lincoln was shot in 1865, is operated through a partnership between Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service.

Church bus accident

The National Transportation Safety Board might have investigated the Oct. 2 church bus accident in which eight people died in eastern Tennessee. But all of its highway investigators were furloughed.

"In this particular case I think it’s highly likely that we would have responded to it, but again, with our investigators furloughed, it’s impossible to do that," Sharon Bryson, the NTSB’s deputy director of communications, told NBC News.

Charitable funds dry up

The government shutdown also threatens to reduce or shutter charitable services operated by faith-based groups that use federal funds.

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