With Congress planning to recess on Aug. 5 before addressing budget sequestration, more than 5,000 Christian leaders have issued a reminder that lawmakers must make hungry and poor people a priority as they consider our nation’s fiscal challenges.
The pastoral letter asks elected officials working to reduce our national debt to maintain a circle of protection around programs that effectively alleviate hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. The pastoral letter was initiated by the Circle of Protection, an alliance of Christian leaders who have met with key members of both parties, urging them not to balance the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people.
In the letter, members of the Circle of Protection thank President Barack Obama for his efforts to reduce the deficit while limiting cuts to programs serving poor people, and they let him know that they are praying for him. The faith leaders then ask lawmakers from both parties to work together to end hunger and poverty by engaging in respectful, bipartisan dialogue and by ending brinksmanship. They further ask lawmakers to develop a plan that finds revenue and savings without increasing poverty and to frame budget discussions in terms of moral choices understandable to the American people.
Since sequestration went into effect in March, $84 billion has been cut from government programs across the board. Congress has not yet voted to replace this bad policy with a balanced plan that protects hungry people, preserves economic opportunity, and restores fiscal responsibility. The Circle of Protection now calls on Congress and the administration to reaffirm their commitment to protecting programs that support hungry and poor people.
A copy of the pastoral letter can be found at www.circleofprotection.us.
Quotations from Christian leaders:
“Despite the months that have gone by since sequestration took effect, the stakes remain high for the millions of hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world who depend on the programs on the chopping block. I hope that Congress and the administration can prioritize the least among us and approve a budget that does not further devastate people who are already struggling to get by.”
—Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World
“Thousands of pastors are sending this letter to our national leaders, because they care deeply for those in their congregations and communities who work hard but struggle to make ends meet. We thank the president and members of Congress for moving away from brinksmanship and encourage them now to enact bipartisan agreements that lower the national debt while protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”
—Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals
“It is a scandalous reality that today more than 1 in 7 Americans (46.2 million people)—and 1 in 5 American children—are living in poverty. Budgets are moral documents, reflecting our core values and commitments. For this reason, we urge our elected leaders to continue to seek financial health for this nation while also protecting those living at its margins, those whom Jesus called “the least of these (Matthew 25).”
—Kathryn M. Lohre, President, National Council of Churches
“At a time when jobs are scarce and government budgets trimmed, those who are most in need of assistance are being squeezed. As Christians, we believe private citizens and public institutions should prioritize caring for our most vulnerable neighbors.”
—Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
“The Bible teaches us to pray for those in authority, and prayer contributes to mutually respectful debate that advances the common good. The focus of our nation’s budget negotiations should not be about which politicians win or lose, but about whether our budget decisions reflect our values. We will ask our churches to pray as you continue to work together on the budget.”
—Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners
The Circle of Protection is composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations. To download the pastoral letter, visit www.circleofprotection.us