A group of nuns fighting for social justice and income equality will protest Donald Trump’s controversial tax cuts outside of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Nuns on the Bus, a Washington-Based Catholic advocacy group, will depart for a 21-state tour across the country in October, when they hope to target Republican candidates who have supported the GOP’s tax cuts — and their voters. The trip will end in Florida just before the 2018 midterm elections, culminating in a demonstration alongside the president’s exclusive estate.
"The reason behind the tour is that the terrible tax bill passed by our Congress is really a detriment to our nation," Sister Simone Campbell, the head of the Nuns on the Bus, said in an interview with The Independent. "After educating people, we’re going to head to their elected officials...I can’t wait to see what they have to say."
With nearly 36 per cent of support nationwide, the $1.2tn Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 is less popular than Mr Trump, who has suffered historically low approval ratings throughout his White House tenure. The law has continued to lose popularity since its implementation, with critics saying it increases income inequality and provides major tax cuts to the wealthy, while doing little for the poorest Americans.
Nuns on the Bus, which began touring the country in 2012 and has completed five trips since then, took a break from travelling to work with lawmakers in Washington after Mr Trump's election.
"It became clear that we had so much work to do, from trying to protect health care, to fighting the awful immigration policy and the tax bill," Sister Campbell said. "Part of the challenge was that we tried to have relationships with White House staff, but things have changed so quickly and people have left from office so it’s very hard."
While on the road, the sisters will meet with voters who have been adversely impacted by the federal tax cuts, bringing them along the journey to speak at town halls hosted by Republican members of Congress. The group will also speak with social service agencies that have been handed federal budget cuts under the Trump administration.
Part of that effort ties back to one of the group’s overall missions for embarking on the trip listed on its website, which is to "focus electoral energy on reasonable revenue for responsible programs".
A number of Mr Trump’s closest allies and their hometowns are included in the Nuns on the Bus’ tour stops, from Claudia Tenney in New York to Martha McSally in Arizona.
The Nuns on the Bus are also singling out candidates in Iowa, Illinois and Michigan, including Rod Blum, Peter Roskam and David Trot, among a slew of other Republicans who supported last year’s tax cuts.
By the end of the trip, the group will host a "Fiesta for the Common Good" just outside of Mar-a-Lago. It remains unclear whether the president will be in the area for the event, but Nuns on the Bus said they hope he will witness at least one of their demonstrations. Should he be available, Sister Campbell expressed a willingness and desire to meet with Mr Trump and discuss the issues her group is advocating for.
The Nuns on the Bus has proven to be an influential group over the years, albeit somewhat controversial.
In 2012 — the same year Sister Campbell spoke at the Democratic National Convention — the Vatican released a report warning against a wave of “radical feminism” influencing American nuns, HuffPost reported. The group was singled out in the report after it announced its support for the Affordable Care Act, despite the bill supporting abortion access, which is rejected by the Catholic Church.
For the Catholic advocacy group, grappling with the fact that Mr Trump's base is largely conservative and deeply religious has been difficult.
"I find it kind of shocking," Sister Campbell said, describing her reaction to support for the president among Catholic voters. "The impact of this tax bill will undermine projects for better roads, good education, food for the hungry, help for the poor".
"There is a strain of fear that’s rampant in our nation, especially among white folks, who fear they are totally alone," she continued. "We want to let people know that we’re in this together and we’ll work on this together as a community."