November 30, 2012

Faith leaders speak out against possible program cuts

Faith leaders from 16 states join the heads of numerous national religious organizations to stop deep cuts to programs that help the most vulnerable

WASHINGTON — Church World Service Board Chair the Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent, Jr., joined senior religious officials from 16 states and the heads of some of the nation’s most prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations yesterday to tell the Obama Administration and Congress, “Don’t push the poor and most vulnerable off the ‘fiscal cliff.’”

“Our concern,” said Rev. Trent, “is that Congress and the President in their focus on the fiscal cliff do not become deaf to the cries of those in need, but that they faithfully protect the defenseless, the vulnerable and the powerless here in the U.S. and abroad.”   Trent is pastor of Florida Avenue Baptist Church in the District of Columbia.

In meetings with congressional leaders and budget negotiators, the religious officials reminded lawmakers that the deficit was caused as a result of inadequate revenue, an unnecessary level of military spending and a recession that has pushed even more people into poverty.

They warned that significant cuts in any budget deal to vital humanitarian and poverty-focused assistance programs such as International Development, Disaster Assistance and Food Aid programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, low-income housing assistance, Head Start, and other initiatives, could result in increased poverty.

In addition, the religious leaders asked legislators not to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security that place an additional burden on vulnerable Americans or those living in poverty or that cause more people to fall into poverty.

Members of the faith community organized yesterday’s meetings as part of a multi-denominational and interreligious effort to “speak the truth” about the deficit and to ensure that congressional leaders do not preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while pushing more people into poverty.

Religious officials from Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia attended.

At a media briefing discussing their efforts, the religious leaders noted that the needs of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families have been lost in the public debate, which is pitting the nation’s middle class against the country’s wealthiest. The religious leaders said they are speaking up now to ensure that the needs of those who did the least to create the country’s deficit problems, but who may suffer the most because of it, are not ignored.

The faith community is working through a number of national campaigns, including the Faithful Budget Campaign, Nuns on the Bus, African American Voices for Africa, and the Circle of Protection, to lift up the nation’s moral obligation to protect the poor and vulnerable, and to ask Congress and the Administration to follow the religious imperative to promote the general welfare of all individuals in the United States and around the world.

Contact: Adam Muhlendorf, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, adam@rabinowitz-dorf.com; (202) 265-3000 (o); (202) 641-6216 (c)