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Church Council Calls Proposed $50 Billion Cuts
To U.S. Social Programs ‘Inconceivable’ 

October 20, 2005, Washington, D.C. The National Council of Churches USA, which opposes proposals to cut $50 billion in social programs from the federal budget, praised Congress Thursday for delaying action on the cuts.

The proposed amendments would reduce childcare benefits, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, student loans and other social programs. The NCC said yesterday in a letter to U.S. senators that the cuts are “inconceivable” at a time when millions of poor people are still dealing with the devastating affects of recent hurricanes.

Congress will take another look at the budget next week before final action is taken.

Signed by NCC President Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. along with other leaders representing 17 of NCC’s member denominations, the letter stated, “This is not the time for the budget reconciliation process to create greater hardships for those who are already experiencing great suffering. To do so is not only unjust; it is a sin.” (The full text of the letter with signatories is below).

According to NCC’s General Secretary Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, who also signed the letter, “We are thrilled that Congress is not acting on plans to further cut social programs. These proposed budget cuts were appalling and it seemed as if we were supplementing tax cuts for the wealthy on the backs of the poor,” said Edgar.

The National Council of Churches is composed of 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations in the United States.

The letter also stated that the proposed cuts violated all the fundamental Christian principles of loving thy neighbor, caring for the poor, and showing mercy. “As religious leaders, this violation is unacceptable to us. How is it that we show mercy for oil millionaires and not hurricane survivors? We urge you to change this destructive course of action for the sake of our nation and for generations to come,” said the letter.

In addition to sending the letter to the Senate, NCC and several of its member denominations sent out electronic alerts asking people to call their Congressional representatives and urge them not to support the $50 billion in cuts to programs for those most in need.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The full text of the letter and the signatories are below.  

For more information, call Leslie Tune at (202) 297-2191 or Philip E. Jenks (212) 870-2252.

National Council of Churches USA
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115 

October 19, 2005 

Dear Member of Congress:

As leaders of America’s major faith communities, we write to you at a moment of great moral urgency for our nation when hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are at risk. We urge you to put aside partisan politics and pass a federal budget that reflects the moral priorities of the wide majority of Americans. We urge you to work for, not against, the common good of all of America’s citizens and not just a privileged few.

This is a grave time in our nation. We are in the midst of a tremendous social and economic crisis, thrust vividly into public view by the recent natural disasters along the Gulf Coast. The times demand profound changes if the quality of life is to improve for millions of families. The United States budget is a reflection of who we are and what our priorities are as a nation. It is inconceivable—in the wake of the devastating impact of the recent natural disasters—that Congress would propose $50 billion in cuts for child care benefits, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Head Start, student loans, and other vital services for people in need. In the aftermath of these disasters, such catastrophic cuts can only deepen the pain and suffering and dramatically increase the number of people living in poverty in this nation.

We watched as members of Congress vowed to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. We heard our representatives promise to make helping those affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita a national priority. Yet despite those pledges, members of Congress now stand ready to cut $50 billion in essential programs that help those in need, while maintaining excessive tax cuts that help only the wealthy. The hurricanes were a natural disaster. But this proposed budget reconciliation would be a moral disaster of monumental proportion—and it is one that can be avoided.

The role of government is to protect its people and work for the common good. This is not the time for the budget reconciliation process to create greater hardships for those who are already experiencing great suffering.

To do so is not only unjust; it is a sin. It violates all the fundamental Christian principles of loving thy neighbor, caring for the poor, and showing mercy. As religious leaders, this violation is unacceptable to us.

How is it that we show mercy for oil millionaires and not hurricane survivors? We urge you to change this destructive course of action for the sake of our nation and for generations to come.

The outrage  expressed by Americans across the country to the images of injustice following Hurricane Katrina—and the subsequent outpouring of generosity from these same citizens—is a message from the grassroots that our government’s priorities and budget must reflect American values by helping those most in need at their time of need.  Please call a halt to budget reconciliation negotiations that are detrimental and direct your attention to healing rather than harming our society.

Respectfully submitted, 

Signed (as of October 19, 2005) 

Bishop Thomas Hoyt, Jr.
National Council of Churches USA 

Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar
National Council of Churches USA 

The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Alliance of Baptists 

His Grace Bishop Vicken Aykazian
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America 

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 

Friend Retha McCutchen
Friends United Meeting 

Friend Thomas H. Jeavons
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends 

His Grace Bishop Dimitrios
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
International Council of Community Churches 

His Grace Metropolitan Zachariah Nicholovos
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church 

The Rev. David L. Wickmann
Moravian Church in America 

Rev. William Shaw
National Baptist Convention USA 

Dr. Melvin Wade
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 

The Most Reverend Robert M. Nemkovich
Polish National Catholic Church of America 

The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 

The Rev. Dr. Major L. Jemison
Progressive National Baptist Convention 

Rev. Tyrone Pitts
Progressive National Baptist Convention 

Ms. Christine Laintner
Swedenborgian Church 

The Rev. John H. Thomas
United Church of Christ 

Mr. James Winkler
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church


 

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