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Jeff Walton March 23, 2012
Jewish, Muslim, and Mainline Protestant church officials joined the heads of several left-leaning religious groups Thursday to release their own U.S. budget proposals, naming tax increases and defense cuts alongside increased funding for Obamacare implementation. The proposal did not delve into specifics, but outlined points it said were consistent with a budget that is “faithful.”
“If this means that those who have been richly blessed must contribute more to the wellbeing of all, then so be it,” announced Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness Director J. Herbert Nelson. Nelson, who read comments on behalf of PCUSA Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, stated that “this nation has an abundance of resources,” and that budget decisions should be based on need rather than on “ideas of scarcity.”
Nelson also asserted that religious institutions required a free spending government partner in order to successfully meet the needs of the poor, claiming “the faith community needs a social safety net to remain strong.”
Among the officials gathered in front of the Capitol Hill United Methodist Building were United Methodist Church Council of Bishops Executive Secretary Neil Irons, United Church of Christ General Minister Geoffrey Black and former National Council of Churches President Michael Livingston. Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Bread for the World President David Beckman also spoke, as did Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of the liberal Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) National Director Sayyid Syeed.
“We believe that God assesses the value of a nation by the way in which it cares for the marginal – for those people who cannot care for themselves,” Irons explained, calling for a budget which he said addresses health, education, community formation, “and the possibility of hope for all the people and not just for part.”
Calling itself the “Faithful Budget Campaign,” the group listed 37 organizations supporting the preamble to the budget principles, a five-page statement outlining basic concepts. Among the endorsers were the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Council of Churches and Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
“Our task is not simply to address the world of today, it is to see to it that those who come after us in this world will be advantaged by the abundance of this wonderful planet on which God has placed us,” explained Irons. “Therefore, we call upon Congress to adopt a faithful budget which recognizes that security is something that all people have a right to, and not just a part, and that in the process of that we harbor our resources in order to give a gift to those who come after us on this planet.”
The officials were scheduled to meet with staff from the offices of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid following the press conference, to which they planned to present their proposed budget.
“It’s time for hard decisions to be made, and for Congress to stop standing up for the extremely wealthy,” intoned Livingston, who addressed changes to the tax system by saying “in Jesus day it was camels through the eye of needles, today it is corporations through loopholes.”
In addition to cuts in defense such as “substantially” reducing the number of nuclear armed submarines and aircraft, along with active nuclear warheads, the budget proposal calls for cutting border patrol expenditures, funding for employment verification and “ceasing cooperation with the enforcement of state anti-immigrant laws.” The budget proposal provided at the press conference calls for increases in social spending, public school improvements, home energy assistance, and a “substantial increase” in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) funding. The proposal also calls for expanded entitlement spending and increased subsidies for “renewable energy research and development.”
“Our concern is a budget that is faithful to the will of God,” claimed Black, who dramatically expanded the scope of the U.S. budget by asserting it was a “moral statement” necessary so that “all people and the Earth can live out God’s will.”
“When we stepped back and looked at our values, we said yes, indeed, we can agree on a faithful budget,” said Campbell.
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