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What the presidential candidates say about poverty;

Obama, Romney respond to Circle of Protection invitation

Washington, September 13, 2012 - Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have responded to an invitation by the Circle of Protection to go on the record about their intentions for dealing with poverty.
The candidates' video statements can be viewed at

The Circle of Protection is composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations representing a wide array of churches in the U.S. The National Council of Churches is a founding member of the Circle.
The Circle, a unique amalgam of evangelical, ecumenical, Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox churches and groups, came together in 2011 to protect essential poverty programs from being cut from the federal budget.

Earlier this summer, Circle of Protection leaders invited the presidential candidates to submit short video statements.
"We believe that this presidential campaign should include a clear focus on what each candidate proposes to do to provide help abd opportunity for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world," they wrote.
The leaders stressed that God hold nations accountable for the treatment of those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 24:45).
In a press conference Wednesday, Circle of Protection leaders discussed the latest poverty figures, which show that in 2011, more than one in seven Americans or 46.2 million people lived in poverty—including more than 16 million children.  

The Rev. Michael Livingston, director of national policy, Interfaith Worker Justice, and a former president of the National Council of Churches, noted that the candidates have raised over $1 billion for their election campaigns.
"And our candidates have not been talking about helping the people of our nation, over 12 million of them children, living in the most desperate conditions," said Livingston, who until recently directed the NCC's poverty initiative.
"Since the recession began in 2007 two congressional districts in the entire nation have seen poverty decrease significantly.  In 388 congressional districts poverty has deepened.  Our congress, our candidates are not talking about this.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  Shame on us. Children and families living in poverty don’t have a Super PAC representing their interests, buying commercial airtime, making back room deals to improve their lot.  Well, their interests are our interests." 

Presidential candidates can lead the way in a broader and deeper wrestling with our moral obligation to care for the poor," Livingston said. "These videos are a good start on a much needed, much avoided national conversation. Next, let’s get to work repairing our safety net, putting people to work in good jobs and caring for the most vulnerable among us.”

National Council of Churches President Kathryn Lohre said, “Jesus worked and lived with people on the margins of society, and our call as a church is to continue that ministry. God's church is at work bringing offerings of food to share with hungry people, sheltering those without homes in our fellowship halls, and creating support networks like job clubs and employment ministries. Yet, that is not enough. We must also create a society that provides for those in need. Presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle have articulated how they plan to exercise their leadership in order to alleviate poverty. We, as the church, join them and encourage the nation as a whole to make eradicating poverty a national priority.”

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada, said "The Biblical vision of wholeness (shalom) includes a world in which there is enough for everyone. As people of faith who are committed to this vision of wholeness, the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are deeply concerned about the poverty that currently plagues so many of God's children. We therefore support all efforts to end this poverty, from the courageous compassion of our local, regional and general ministries to the public policies that affect all of us. We are pleased that the Presidential candidates from both major parties are giving time and attention to the issue of poverty, and we look forward to hearing more from them about their specific plans to address this problem."
Other statements prepared for Wednesday's press conference:
“The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC) is the denominational home of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, ‘Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.’ The measure of our society and humankind in particular, is how we address the least of these. People who are destitute have no lobbyists or any media machine to advocate for them. That is why the Christian faith community is called upon to constantly bring this issue to our politicians. We must lift the veil of denial and neglect that keeps our nation from confronting poverty. In this election year, the PNBC calls on our politicians and elected officials from the local and federal government entities to break the silence in dealing with issues of poverty. We must make the issue of eradicating poverty a top political and social agenda in this decade.”
Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.                                                                                                             
President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
“Poverty should be a major component and discussion for resolution in this election and our country. My prayers always include the least among us.”
Bishop George E. Battle, Jr.
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
“Our condition now is worse than ever. Hunger and poverty are so pervasive in this country that the poverty rate is the highest on record in the United States. This should be an election issue, so we are grateful that the presidential candidates are publicly stating their positions. We are calling on religious leaders and all people of faith to listen carefully to what the candidates have to say and when voting be mindful of the least among us. Voting is a sacred obligation; supporting candidates who have demonstrated their commitment to reducing hunger and poverty is integral to good stewardship.”
Rev. David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World
“Our faith calls us to place the poor and most marginalized in our communities at the forefront of concern.  Those who struggle economically in our society, the most vulnerable—children living in poverty, people living with chronic health issues, seniors, women trying to escape violence in their homes—do not have a voice at the policy-making table or a hand in influencing political campaigns. The United Church of Christ has a long history of actively serving the needs of vulnerable populations in our communities and advocating for systemic solutions that lift people out of poverty and uphold the common good. We urge all people to let your voices be heard through your vote. As our faith teachings remind us, nations are judged by how they treat the poorest and most vulnerable people.  Our faith calls us to consider how our choices this election affect the “least of these.”
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President, the United Church of Christ
“The Catholic Bishops join with other Christian leaders in calling for a ‘circle of protection’ around our brothers and sisters at home and abroad who are poor and vulnerable. A just framework cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; addressing future unsustainable deficits requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”
Bishop Steven Blaire
Chair, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
“Voters do not accept that allowing one in five American children to grow up in poverty is the best that we can achieve as a nation. Citizens expect a robust debate on the best solutions, and a firm commitment to action over the next four years. The candidate videos prepared for the Circle of Protection are an important first step in this dialogue.”
Galen Carey
Vice President, Government Relations
National Association of Evangelicals
“The Church of the Brethren has firmly believed that as followers of Jesus we are called to serve one another in the way that Jesus demonstrated by washing his disciples’ feet. We urge all leaders to support programs that care for persons in poverty. We recognize that as individuals and families are assisted they will not only lead healthier lives but will be able to assist others in need.”
Nathan Hosler
Advocacy and Peace Witness Ministries
Church of the Brethren
“We must not be misled into believing that the recession is the primary cause of increased poverty in America, for while poverty has increased during the recession, poverty was also increasing before the recession. The gap between the middle class and the poor was widening and more and more people and families were falling out of the middle class. This is especially true among African Americans and other minorities. The people of God, regardless of political party or affiliation, must raise our voices and call upon our political leaders to face and address the issue of poverty, and do it now. Leadership demands it, and the hurt and suffering of the poor, especially children, requires it.”
The Rt. Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Bishop
Office of Ecumenical and Urban Affairs
African Methodist Episcopal Church
“This is unprecedented. For years Christians have been separated by elections, but finally, we have a common ground moral issue: poverty. Across the political and theological spectrum, this group has put aside differences and taken up this mantle of protecting the poor and bringing their stories and struggles to light. It’s because of this unprecedented unity around those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these’ that the Presidential candidates felt they had to respond.”
Rev. Jim Wallis
President and CEO, Sojourners

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

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