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People of Faith Declare
Proposed 2006 Federal Budget Immoral
Washington, D.C., March 14, 2005 - As the U.S. Senate began debating the 2006 fiscal year budget resolution yesterday, more than 300 people of faith participated in a rally on Capitol Hill to declare that the federal budget that has been proposed by the Bush Administration does not reflect their values.
In the rally, sponsored by the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) and The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), people of faith from across the country gathered at the United Methodist Building, located at 100 Maryland Ave., NE, and marched to the West front of the U.S. Capitol to speak out against the proposed budget, which favors military spending and tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and largely ignores the needs of the poor, children, the elderly, families and communities.
The rally came on the heels of the 2005 Ecumenical Advocacy Days event, which drew close to 900 Christian pastors, ministers and church leaders from across the country and worldwide. The event began on Friday, March 11 and ended yesterday with participants visiting their representatives in Congress and participating in the rally.
The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary (shown here, at left), encouraged rally participants to remind their representatives in Congress that “this budget is immoral and does not reflect the values we hold as people of faith. The proposed budget spends about half on defense and the deficit but very little on addressing the needs of the poor, the dispossessed, children and those who are most in need.”
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest American Jewish congregation, said, “We are here today to say that when we look at this budget, we see that American politics right now are fundamentally broken - corrupted by abuse, world indifference, and politicians who spend their days dialing for dollars.”
He went on to say that the task of people of faith is to share their bread with the hungry and “to send a message to our President and to leaders of both parties that despite squalor for the poor and gated communities for the rich, the great majority of Americans have not given up on ‘We, the People.’”
According to Arun Gandhi, grandson of the founder of the nonviolence movement, Mohandas Gandhi, and founder/president of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence as well as a member of the Board of Directors of The Interfaith Alliance, “The 2006 budget is immoral because while it cuts programs that help the poor and the needy it showers presents on the rich. Clearly, this budget seeks to make the rich richer while reducing the poor to panhandlers.”
Believing that the budget is a moral document, those gathered offered an alternative vision of the federal budget - one that rather than further burden the poor, families, and communities would provide them with the tools to meet their basic needs such as access to nutritious food and quality child care, accessible and affordable housing, comprehensive and affordable health care, high quality education at every stage of life, a fair and just tax system, job creation and a livable income to sustain their future.
Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance, led participants in a litany that declared, “Fairness, compassion, integrity, and justice are the moral principles that should drive the crafting of the federal budget. As a moral document, the federal budget should not, and cannot, be built on the backs of the poor, the elderly and future generations.”
Three Members of Congress also joined the rally and offered remarks, Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey, (CA-6th), Lois Capps (CA-23rd) and Donna M. Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands). Rep. Woolsey, who conducted a workshop on SMART Security (Sensible, Multilateral American Response to Terrorism) at the 2005 Ecumenical Advocacy Days, spoke of a time in her life when she was on welfare although she is educated and in good health. She thanked the rally participants for speaking out and urged those gathered to continue to advocate for a budget that helped those living in poverty.
“Don’t think for a minute that you aren’t being heard. If they (Members of Congress) think they’ll lose their jobs over this, they will listen,” she said.
Rep. Christensen encouraged participants to say no to the tax cuts for the wealthy that have been proposed by the Bush Administration. “Giving the richest people in the country more money takes away from educating our children. It robs our people, our families and communities of the opportunity to compete on a fair playing field. It takes safe, strong roofs from over our heads, and leaves us at salaries below a living wage or without any job at all,” she said.
Quoting President Bush’s 2005 State of the Union address in which he said that society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, NCC Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy, asked, “The President said he wants to ‘pass along freedom’…but how can we experience freedom when the basic values of our society are mocked by a budget that makes so many morally indefensible choices?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: These photos and others from the March 14 rally, by Rick Reinhard, are available to the media. For photos or to schedule follow-up interviews contact, Leslie Tune, NCC, at 202/544-2350 or 202/297-2191 (cell) or Don Parker, The Interfaith Alliance at 202/639-6370.
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