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Politics and Government

Albany religious rally part of a national movement

Karen DeWitt
Rev. Emily McNeill, with the New York Labor Religion Coalition, addresses a rally outside the state Capitol on Monday.

Religious and labor advocates rallied Monday at the New York state Capitol as part of a nationwide movement, known as Moral Mondays, urging state lawmakers to take more progressive stances on issues.

The Rev. Emily McNeill, who heads the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, said her group is not as concerned about the topics promoted by the evangelical right, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Instead, she said, the groups are focusing on helping the poor, battling global warming, increasing voter participation, and rights for immigrants.

“We are called to stand up for justice and tell the truth,” McNeill said.

McNeill and about 100 others gathered at the steps of the state Capitol. They later delivered a letter to lawmakers outlining their concerns. It’s part of what they call the Moral Revival, begun by the Rev. William Barber of North Carolina.

The state legislature is not in session, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in New York City for the day.

Tuesday is primary day for state legislative races, and all senators and assemblymembers are up for election in November.

Labor organizer Joe Paparone said he hasn’t heard much about any of these issues in campaigns for the state Senate and Assembly.

“We’re looking for leaders who will take strong moral stands,” Paparone said. “We’re in a time of divisiveness and vitriol that is unseen in my lifetime.”

Paparone said the groups aren’t deterred by the lack of response so far.

“We’re not going to go away,” he said.

In the past legislative session, Cuomo and lawmakers enacted some new laws that the groups support, including a phased-in minimum wage increase to $15 downstate and $12.50 upstate, and partial paid family leave.