As the deadline for a federal deficit-reduction plan inches closer, an alliance of religious organizations have banded together to ask the congressional Super Committee tasked with making $1.2 billion in budget cuts to spare safety net programs that assist the nation's poorest citizens.
The Faithful Budget Campaign, a faith-affiliated advocacy group that includes a variety of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations, began over the summer and aims to run for 18 months. The effort aims to persuade the 12 members of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with cutting the budget by Nov. 23 to make decisions that take into account the interests of the poorest demographic.
All our faith traditions place people who are impoverished and marginalized at the forefront of concern. The current fiscal debates -- at their heart -- are a struggle for the soul of our nation and its moral conscience, the Inter-religious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs stated on its Web site, under a section devoted to the campaign.
The Super Committe's recommendations will face votes in the House and Senate before the end of the year.
Although the coalition has been holding weekly prayer vigils on Capitol Hill since the summer, in a Sept. 27 press release the Faithful Budget Campaign announced the American faith community planned to host prayer vigils and demonstrations in the hometowns of all the members of the Super Committee, as well as in the districts of congressional leadership. Moreover, faith leaders will also seek direct meetings with their local congressional representatives to voice their concerns about even considering budget cuts that will impact at-risk families.
The Social Compact: Support for the Least of These
People of faith are reminded of our calling to support 'the least of these.' We are living in a climate in which two societies are emerging -- one rich and one poor. This is happening as a result of many of our politicians being more concerned about the interest of corporations over the needs of the people, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, the Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said in the statement.
A coalition of religious leaders also sent a letter to members of the congressional Super Committee entreating them to make it so the implementation of the debt ceiling agreement will not cause further hardship to low-income individuals and families. Although the agreement protects some social programs aimed at assisting those in poverty, the organization wrote that funding for the Women, Infants and Children Program, Head Start and low-income housing are at risk.
The group also implores them to keep funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused foreign assistance programs, which make up only 1 percent of the federal budget.
We urge policymakers to look with fairness at potential avenues toward fiscal health, with a focus on job creation, revenue, and reducing unnecessary and duplicative military spending, and not at the expense of those who can least afford additional cuts to their life necessities, the letter states.
The Faithful Budget Campaign -- named after the campaign's desire for a just and compassionate federal budget, which the organization has called a faithful budget-- will regroup on Nov. 20 in a massive prayer vigil in Lafayette Park across from the White House that will be joined by smaller vigils across the country.
The Faithful Budget Campaign is not the only faith group that has voiced their objection to sacrificing the poor in order to benefit the interests of the highest earning Americans. On Monday, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a lengthy appeal advocating the reform of the global financial and monetary systems in order to bring ethics and spirituality back into the industry and ultimately, promote the interests of the common good.
The fruit of such reforms ought to be a greater ability to adopt policies and choices that are binding because they are aimed at achieving the common good on the local, regional and world levels, the Vatican said. Among the policies, those regarding global social justice seem most urgent: financial and monetary policies that will not damage the weakest countries; and policies aimed at achieving free and stable markets and a fair distribution of world wealth, the letter states.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the Faithful Budget Campaign was created by the Inter-religious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs. It is in fact its own independent effort, although the DHN has devoted a section of its Web site to it.