A portion of America's religious community is preparing to delve deeply into the nation's federal deficit and debt debate. These individuals, who are using faith as the basis of their activism, are holding prayer vigils, contacting politicians and launching letter campaigns, are seeking to protect programs that assist America's poor.
The "Faithful Budget Campaign," a national coalition that is led by 25 Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim organizations, is seeking to have great influence in the nation's ongoing fiscal discussion. On the group's web site, they explain the reason for their involvement in such intense political issues:
These cuts could impact every federal program under the sun: Social Security, Medicare, nutrition assistance programs, prenatal and infant care, foreign aid, the military, taxes and more. These cuts would be coming at a time when the U.S. poverty rate is at a 45-year high and one in eight people live in poverty.
The campaign essentially seeks to target the 12 Congressional members -- the six Democrats and six Republicans -- who have been tasked with helping prevent the U.S. from falling off of a financial cliff. This "Super Committee" will be working toward an agreement to cut $1.2 trillion from the nation's budget by November 23. Newsy has more about the committee:
These recommendations are especially important, as they will serve as a "make or break" in the ongoing partisan gridlock that characterizes the nation's fiscal debate. The Super Committee will see its inevitable recommendations face votes in both the House and the Senate before the close of 2011.
If there is further deadlock or a defeat of their proposals, as Religion News Service reports, "$1.2 trillion in immediate, across-the-board spending cuts" will be implemented. For this reason, these faith leaders are hoping that an agreement will be met -- one that is preferably favorable to their social justice goals.
Earlier today, Fox News analyzed the committee's goals:
In a letter to the committee last month, the coalition wrote the following:
As heads of U.S.-based religious institutions and faith-based organizations we write to urge that implementation of the debt ceiling agreement not cause further hardship to vulnerable and impoverished individuals and families. Called to love and justice, we must reaffirm as a nation hallowed bonds of mutual concern to ensure that our struggling sisters and brothers receive the assistance they desperately need...
The multi-faith coalition would like to see cuts to the poor kept out of any final agreements that are made regarding federal budget cuts. This call also extends to foreign aid, as signatories believe that it's essential that America help to save lives abroad, while "...helping build a more stable and secure world for all people."
Faith leaders have launched prayer vigils and have even begun targeting the home districts of the 12 government officials who take a lead role in deciding the nation's fiscal fate. On November 13, the group will hold a "Super Vigil" outside of the White House, with other events happening at the same time across the nation.
Randy Block, the director of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, says, “We have to make our faces visible, not just to represent our faith, but also to let elected officials know that people of conscience are paying attention to these issues."
With some experts saying that it will be essential to cut into entitlements and with the ongoing partisan bickering coloring the conversation, one wonders if these faith leaders will be able to see their wishes realized.
Back in July, some of the leaders associated with the movement were arrested at the U.S. Capitol building when they refused to leave the rotunda (they were praying there for 90 minutes despite being asked to leave).
The group was protesting against Republican views on the federal budget. Watch the arrests, below:
Interestingly, among those arrested was Rev. Michael Livingston, the head of the leftist National Council of Churches and Rev. Jennifer Butler, the executive director of Faith in Public Life (we have profiled the far-left views of both of these groups in the past).
A complete list of resources and information about the campaign can be found here.
(H/T: RNS via Huffington Post)