To Preserve and
Strengthen Social Security:
Religious Organization Statement of Principles
Washington, D.C., April 26, 2005. Sixteen national religious
organizations today released a joint statement of principles to guide
Congress as it considers how to preserve and strengthen Social Security.
"Our religious communities speak with one voice on the importance of
providing compassionate care for the elderly, widows, orphans, and
persons with disabilities. We believe it is the birthright of each
person to live a
life with dignity and with access to the basic necessities of life,"
said Kay Bengston, Director of Domestic Policy of the Lutheran Office
for Governmental Affairs, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "It is
this deep moral
concern for maintaining and building a compassionate society that brings
us together in this joint statement."
"The Social Security system has been a tremendous success, providing all
participants with economic security when they need it most. It has
demonstrated the positive role that government can play in advancing the
common good. Future generations deserve nothing less," said Kay Bengston.
"We need to strengthen the present system so that it will serve future
The joint statement says future changes to the Social Security system
to reflect the highest moral values of a compassionate society
. assure the fulfillment of basic human needs for all participants in
times of need
. build upon the present structure, assuring equity, fairness, and
. balance revenues and expenditures over time and assure future
generations will not be unfairly burdened by this generation's debts
. promote private savings and employer-provided pensions -- in addition
to Social Security.
"We believe the strength of our country is measured best by the
compassion we show to one another in times of greatest need and
vulnerability. In the months ahead, we will continue to look at
proposals to modify the Social
Security system through the framework of our moral values and religious
experience," said Sammie Moshenberg, Director of Washington Operations,
National Council of Jewish Women. "We will engage with members of
Congress and the public to help find the best way to strengthen and
preserve the Social Security system so that future generations may
continue to benefit, as we do now."
The Religious Organizations Statement of Principles follows:
To Preserve and Strengthen Social Security:
Religious Organization Statement of Principles
We the undersigned religious organizations come from diverse religious
traditions, yet our communities speak with one voice on the importance
of providing compassionate care for the elderly, widows, orphans, and
with disabilities. It is the birthright of each person to live a life
with dignity and with access to the basic necessities of life. It is
because of our deep moral concern for the most vulnerable in our society
that many of our organizations actively supported the creation of the
Social Security system in 1935 and many of its later improvements.
Today, we celebrate the tremendous success of the Social Security
system. For over sixty years, it has provided the foundation for a
compassionate society by providing basic economic security for all
participants. Its present overall structure--universal, compulsory, an
earned right, wage-related rather than means-tested, and protected
against inflation--has served our country well. In 2004, the combined
programs of Social Security provided benefits to 48 million people B
including retirees, survivors, and eight million people living with
disabilities. Survivor benefits supported more than five million
children. Without this basic income security, over 50
percent of women and 40 percent of men over age 65 would likely be
living in poverty. The Social Security system has demonstrated the
positive role that government can play in advancing the common good.
Future generations deserve nothing less.
It is our common concern for the economic well being of future
generations that brings our nation to its current discussion of the
future of the Social Security system. It is a timely and appropriate
discussion. It warrants careful reflection concerning the basic
principles upon which the present system was founded and the moral
values which bring us together in common purpose as a nation. We seek to
contribute to this discussion by offering the following principles,
informed by our moral beliefs and religious experience, as a basis for
evaluating proposed changes to the Social Security system.
Compassion. As citizens and residents of this country, we have a
collective responsibility to care for one another. The federal
government should continue its important, effective, and efficient role
promoting a compassionate society through the Social Security system.
Economic security. Social insurance should remain a basic part of our
society. Disability and survivor insurance must be maintained. Security
for the elderly, survivors, and persons with disabilities should not be
left to the vagaries of fragile family support systems, voluntary
charity, or economic cycles.
Equity, fairness, and progressivity. The present overall structure of
the Social Security system --universal, compulsory employee and employer
contributions, an earned right, wage-related rather than means-tested,
protected against inflation--should be preserved and strengthened.
Overall, the costs and benefits should be distributed progressively in
proportion to each person's ability to pay and level of need. Care must
be given to assure that segments of the population are not
systematically disadvantaged due to gender, race, or marital status.
Savings and pensions. Social Security is intended to be the third leg of
a three-legged stool, the other two legs being personal savings and
employer-provided pensions. Congress should encourage personal savings
employer pensions in addition to (not as a substitute for) the current
system, and, especially, it should explore ways to help low- and
middle-income households save more for their future.
Stewardship of the public trust. Congress has a moral obligation to
fulfill its trust responsibilities to those who have contributed through
their payroll taxes to the Social Security trust fund. Congress must
that future beneficiaries will receive benefits sufficient to meet their
basic needs, that trust fund revenues and expenditures balance over
time, and that future generations will not be unfairly burdened by this
We believe the strength of our country is measured best by the
compassion we show to one another in our times of greatest need and
vulnerability. In the months ahead, we will continue to look at new
proposals to modify the Social Security system through the framework of
our moral beliefs and religious experiences. We will seek to engage with
members of Congress and the public to help discern the best way to
strengthen and preserve the Social Security system so that future
generations may continue to benefit, as we do now.
Organizational sign-ons as of April 26, 2005
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Call to Renewal
Church Women United
Episcopal Church USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of the Churches in Christ in the USA
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
Kay Bengston, Director of Domestic Policy, Lutheran Office
for Governmental Affairs, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
President Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women,
Contact: NCC News, Philip E. Jenks, (212) 870-2252,