The heads of prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations met Thursday to tell the Obama administration and Congressional leaders not to cut programs that help the poor.
"Teachings about the least of these undergirds our concern for the poor globally and drives our concern about the budget,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Black, president of the United Church of Christ. “We wanted to send a message to congress that the most vulnerable people should not be negatively impacted by these decisions”
As they met with House and Senate leadership, religious leaders warned against deep cuts to programs that assist the needy. The group is particularly concerned about the International Development, Disaster Assistance and Food Aid programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Women, Infants and Children Program, Head Start, Medicaid and other programs where cuts could push more people into poverty.
Religious leaders in the group included Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, the Rev. Gary Cook of Bread for the World and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
“When we hear so much about the fiscal cliff, we were bothered to find out that it could fall on the poor, hungry, those who are marginalized already,” Syeed said. “The strength of gathering was the diversity of denominations speaking with one voice.”
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said little progress has been made between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the “fiscal cliff” when the Bush era tax cuts will expire and billions in spending cuts will launch.
A number of national groups have launched campaigns in response to the budget discussions, including the Faithful Budget Campaign,Nuns on the Bus, African American Voices for Africa, and the Circle of Protection to highlight the needs of the poor.
“This Christmas, we hope our national leaders will honor Mary - and her blessed Son - by honoring God's preferential option for the poor,” said author Brian McClaren.
Last week, the heads of some of the nation’s largest charitable organizations, including Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army, released an open letter from the Circle of Protection to Congress calling for a plan that protects low-income families.
“This is not just about a ‘fiscal cliff’ but about the fiscal soul of the nation,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
President Obama’s plan is to raise taxes for the top 2 percent of Americans to generate revenue. Republicans argue tax increases would hinder job growth, arguing for cutting discretionary spending and making reforms to Medicare and Social Security.