Two weeks ago, it took Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to hold a sit-in at the Milwaukee City Hall mayor’s office to get Mayor Tom Barrett to agree that the city’s taxing and taking of churches were wrong.
This time, it took Bishop Tavis Grant, the national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, to disrupt the Milwaukee Common Council meeting on December 14. Bishop Grant was attempting to get the attention of the aldermen to approve a resolution calling for a moratorium on the taxing and taking of churches.
Bishop Grant was accompanied by Milwaukee Pastors United, Pastor IC, Reverend Steven Tipton from El Greg Lewis of St. Gabriel’s COG- Bethel COGIC—who lost his church after being taxed $16,000, but fought back and regained possession of the building—along with several church members.
While they wanted to address the Common Council and ask them to pass a resolution calling for a moratorium on the taxing and taking of churches, it was Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, alderman of District 2, who blocked their efforts.
“He would not allow us to speak to the Common Councilor put us on his agenda,” Bishop Grant said. “We had a conversation with the Common Council president, and he refused to even acknowledge the presence of the white, Hispanic and African-American pastors,” he said referring to President Johnson, who is an African American.
“So, we had no choice, but to engage in civil disobedience, and we disrupted the meeting to demonstrate that these churches and pastors will not be ignored, will not be silenced, and we will not be suppressed.
“We chose to do that in a very orderly, respectful manner by exercising our freedom to fight for these churches that are desperately needing relief and cannot wait,” Bishop Grant stated.
The churches are hurting financially because many of them are being seized by the Milwaukee Assessor’s Office for not paying taxes. “It’s not right,” added Bishop Grant.
The ministers have had meetings with state legislators who agreed to review the state statutes and look at how they can reform and repair the process of foreclosing on church properties, according to Bishop Grant.
Bishop Grant told the Chicago Crusader, “They have commitments from Council members that if state legislators are willing to put forth a resolution to demand a moratorium in the city as it relates to foreclosing on churches, that would be significant in bringing immediate relief to churches that are already in crisis due to the pandemic and the rising inflation that is hitting a core group of constituents, who need the services churches provide.”
During the winter, BishopGrant explained services the churches provide, which include food pantries, benevolence services, childcare, special programs for young people and warming centers.
“We are confident that we are moving in the right direction. We are keeping the work of Reverend Jesse Jackson alive,” shared Bishop Grant.
Several messages were left for Common Council President Johnson. His legislative aide, Todd Miller, did return the call explaining, “No public commentary is allowed during the Common Council meetings.”