‘Circle of Protection’ fights budget cuts

April 28, 2011

Catholic, evangelical, mainline Prot­estant, black and Latino
Christian leaders have formed a "Circle of Protection" against U.S. cuts
to poverty-fighting programs, gearing up for a high-stakes budget
battle as Congress reconvenes.

While recognizing the need for
"fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice," the 50 leaders argue that
Christian values require them "to resist budget cuts that undermine the
lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people."

"Every
budget decision has to be assessed on whether it protects or threatens
human life or dignity," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton,
Cal­ifornia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops'
domestic policy committee. "The central moral measure of any budget
proposal is how it affects the least of our brothers and sisters, the
needs of those who are hungry or homeless, those who are without work,
those who live in poverty."

The Circle of Protection campaign will
range from lobbying elected officials to mobilizing grassroots efforts
in the pews. It includes representatives from the National Association
of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, National Hispanic
Christian Leadership Con­ference and Catholic Charities USA.

More
than 36,000 activists and two dozen members of Congress protested the
current budget cuts by participating in a hunger fast that ended on
Easter, led by Circle of Protection members Ambassa­dor Tony Hall,
executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, and Sojourner founder Jim Wallis.

Deeper
cuts to programs that feed, shelter and provide medical care for people
at home and abroad are unacceptable, the coalition argues, especially
while areas like military spending, tax breaks for vacation homes and
corporate subsidies remain intact.

Commented Barbara
Williams-Skinner of the National African American Clergy Net­work:
"Cutting the budget on the backs of the poor, the vulnerable and sick
and children without spreading the sacrifices is simply not worthy of a
great nation like ours."

While some parishioners may vote
conservatively on social issues, Circle of Protection leaders believe
that Christian economic principles go beyond political affiliation and
partisan conflict. "This is about faith, and what God requires of us,"
Wallis said. "Our duty before God is to defend the people that Jesus
called the 'least of these."'  —RNS

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