Budgets: Can’t cut moral responsibility to save lives, say faith leaders

March 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As the Senate moves towards compromise on massive cuts as outlined in House bill H.R. 1, a number of faith leaders say that, despite current financial challenges, the United States has a moral responsibility to maintain the nation’s capacity to save lives in the United States and internationally.

In recent letters to members of Congress, religious leaders are raising their voices “against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic and poverty-focused foreign aid spending.”

In a Feb. 28 letter to the Senate, Church World Service Executive Director and CEO John McCullough urged lawmakers to oppose the House cuts for fiscal year 2011 and enact funding for global disaster assistance and poverty-focused development assistance “at least at the level of the President’s request.”

Such programs are “less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget,” McCullough noted, and cutting them will “not help solve the nation’s fiscal problems,” but instead will “harm American long-term interests.”

The House bill represents “a devastating blow for millions of children and adults struggling to overcome hunger and poverty and to rebuild from crises,” McCullough added.

Meanwhile, heads of communions of major U.S. Christian denomination and ecumenical agencies wrote to Congress opposing cuts to both domestic and international poverty programs. The religious leaders pressed Congress to “find just solutions that will protect future generations both from a legacy of debt and a legacy of poverty and underinvestment.”

The faith coalition reminded lawmakers that “unchecked increases in military spending combined with vast tax cuts helped create our country’s financial difficulties and restoring financial soundness requires addressing these root imbalances.”

The religious leaders say discretionary programs that serve the poor and vulnerable “are a very small percentage of the budget, and they are not the drivers of the deficits. Cutting discretionary programs will devastate those living in poverty at home and around the world, cost jobs, and in the long run will harm, not help, our fiscal situation.”

 “While ‘shared sacrifice’ can be an appropriate banner, those who would be devastated by these cuts have nothing left to sacrifice,” they said.

McCullough’s caution to the Senate reflected the vantage point of a humanitarian agency that daily works with hunger, poverty and people displaced by conflicts and climate migration. He said cuts to bilateral and multilateral programs for clean technology, disaster risk reduction and adaptation funding for communities suffering climate change impacts “will cost us much more in the future when the U.S. may be required to respond to once-preventable disasters threatening to destabilize vulnerable countries.”

He said that only minimal savings would result from H.R. 1’s proposed 67 percent cut in International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and the proposed 45 percent cut in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA).

“These are not worth the loss of life, human suffering and destabilizing impact of discontinuing programs that provide emergency health, safe shelter, and clean water for millions of survivors of conflicts, human rights abuses and natural disasters,” said McCullough.

The religious leaders also urged Congress not to cut the Office of Refugee Resettlement budget, which has been stagnant for decades, arguing that it would further burden already-strapped state and local governments to assist refugees.

And they urge preservation of funding as outlined by Presiden t Obama’s FY2011 request for “sustainable, life-saving global agriculture, nutrition and food aid programs [CR1].

Those who signed the letter include the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister, International Council of Community Churches; the Rev. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, President, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church; the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

Also the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church; the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA;  Arthur M. Larrabee, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends; Bishop Chuck Leigh, President, Apostolic Catholic Church; Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; Stephen M. Veazey, President, Community of Christ; and the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

  1. As a Presbyterian elder, I urge you to try mobilize elders and pastors throughout the denomination to write to the Senate. Provide a list of names. Can we send them a hundred thousand letters or more saying what this letter says? Let them hear God's voice turned up loud!

    by H. Scott Laird

    April 26, 2011

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