Pastors protest Illinois cut to burials for poor

July 5, 2011

The Associated Press

(AP photo)
A worker at Homewood Memorial Gardens cemetery in Homewood, Ill., stacking wooden coffins in a mass grave.

A group of Chicago pastors is protesting cuts to a $15 million state program that pays for funerals and burials for the poor. 

Pastors United for Change says the program pays funeral homes and cemeteries when families on public aid can't afford the cost. 

The Rev. Roosevelt Watkins of Bethlehem Star Church says Gov. Pat Quinn should use discretionary money to help fund the program. 

The Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church predicts "a national embarrassment" if bodies pile up "in President Barack Obama's home state."

Cook County pays for the mass burial of unclaimed bodies. But the pastors say the county doesn't pay for funerals and can't afford to pay for any more burials.