WASHINGTON (USCCB) —Religious leaders, including representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), met with President Barack Obama July 20 to urge the President and congressional leaders to protect programs for hungry and poor people in decisions surrounding the deficit and debt.
The delegation to the White House included Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of La Cruces, New Mexico, member of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals; David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Jim Wallis, chief executive of Sojourners; as well as representatives of the Salvation Army, the Alliance to End Hunger, the National Council of Churches of Christ USA and others.
“As the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, we come here not to advance a particular plan, but a fundamental moral principle: put the needs of the poor first in allocating scarce resources,” said Bishop Ramirez. “As religious leaders, our concern is not which party wins the current political battles, but we know, if we don’t speak up, who is like to lose: the families trying to feed their kids, the jobless looking for work, the children who need health care, the hungry and sick and hopeless around the world.”
Leaders who met with the President are signatories to the Circle of Protection, a non-partisan movement that insists that poor and vulnerable people should be protected, not targeted in efforts to reduce long term deficits.
Representatives of USCCB and other religious leaders also met with Rep. Paul Ryan, House budget chairman, on July 8 as well as the staff of House Speaker John Boehner.
The Circle of Protection statement has been endorsed by more than 60 heads of Christian denominations and religious organizations, as well as 45 heads of development agencies and other faiths, as part of the Circle of Protection movement. The movement was launched in response to the the disproportionate budget cuts proposed to programs for hungry and poor people.
“As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people,” the leaders wrote in a statement. “Therefore, we join with others to form a circle of protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.”