U.S. religious leaders urge moral solution to debt talks
Don’t balance the U.S. budget on the backs of the poor and sick, religious leaders said, suggesting that their churches’ charity work is already overstretched and social havoc could result if the government’s social safety net is abandoned.
Representatives from Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith groups and churches expressed their collective disappointment with the tone of blame in the debt debate between President Obama and congressional negotiators.
The faith groups have organized a vigil alongside the U.S. Capitol and released a letter appealing to the president and Congress to consider the poor and vulnerable in their negotiations.
“The middle class are being crushed. The poor see no hope from getting up from the doldrums of despair and whole communities are facing struggles with joblessness, crime, addictions, violence, and lack the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and adequate education. While these struggles exist in communities, we are witnessing our president and Congress engaging in political posturing, while bickering for power and control,” Rev. Herbert Nelson of the Presbyterian Church USA said.
“It’s time for people of faith to step up and say we as Americans can do better,” The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches said. She could not believe Americans would abandon the poor to “maintain tax loopholes,” illustrating the support among the faith leaders for more revenues favored by Democrats. However, they also pointed to the need to examine the defense budget for savings.
The concern, Nelson said, should be that social havoc could follow draconian budget cuts. “Poverty isn’t going to be contained,” he said. “No bars on windows, no gated communities are going to stop people desperate to feed their families.”
Nelson said he has spoken to people with wealth who are willing to pay more in taxes if it would help people, and he said he was surprised at the resistance to the rich paying more.
The Reverend John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, protested proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid that would cut funding that feeds some 9 million people in refugee camps around the world.
“America is better than this,” McCullough said, citing the threat aid cuts would pose for global security.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (Homeless people rest in the parking lot of the Presbyterian church in Dallas, Texas, November 7, 2007)