Interfaith coalition says houses of worship cannot cover cuts to poverty programs




An interfaith coalition of religious leaders has launched a new campaign to encourage policymakers to maintain a robust US commitment to domestic and international poverty programs. The group includes Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

To kick off the campaign, the leaders sent letters this week to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, stating that "People who are served by government program--those who are poor, sick, and hungry, older adults, children, and people with disabilities--should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden."

The coalition is concerned that the Administration and Congress are enacting a budget deal that will place an undue burden on the poor "while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice."

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are taking part. The campaign announcement featured leaders of the National Council of Churches, Church World Service, Presbyterian Church (USA), Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Islamic Society of North America.

The 18-month public policy campaign will urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the US and abroad from budget cuts. Among other actions it will include a daily prayer vigil on the front lawn of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., near the US Capitol. Led by a different religious organization each day at 12:30 p.m. (eastern) the vigil will continue throughout the budget negotiations.

The letters from the religious leaders make it clear that religious groups would be unable to make up the difference in funding if the government further cuts or eliminates assistance programs. They warn that without a sustained federal commitment to federal- and state-run assistance programs, religious organizations and houses of worship, while doing their best, cannot be the sole support for the country’s most vulnerable.

(This article is excerpted from a National Council of Churches press release. Find more at www.ncccusa.org/news/110714budgetcoalition.html .)

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