Faith groups and religious leaders have asked congressional leaders to spare programs that help the nation’s poor, as members of Congress attempt to slash more than $1 trillion from the federal budget by Nov. 23.
An informal coalition of religious leaders launched “Faithful Budget Campaign” earlier this year. The campaign has included addressing congressional leaders through regular letters outlining the concerns of the group, as well as weekly prayer vigils in Washington D.C.
Organizers and faith-based leaders now are ramping up their efforts to convince the 12 members of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to save programs that help the poor.
Prayer vigils and demonstrations are planned in the hometowns of the 12 members of the committee, according to reports. Faith leaders are also looking to meet directly with representatives and congressmen.
“We are living in a climate in which two societies are emerging - one rich and one poor,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church.
“This is happening as a result of many of our politicians being more concerned about the interest of corporations over the needs of the people,” he added.
The coalition of religious leaders is urging congress to protect programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and WIC.
It’s something leaders say is a natural calling.
“At a time when the gap between the rich and poor grows wider and wider, we believe faith and fairness call us to preserve vital lifelines for the most vulnerable and renew our shared investment in the common good,” said Sandy Sorensen Washington Director for Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
It is unclear what budget reduction measures will be recommended by the Congressional Committee.
The “Faithful Budget Campaign” will host a massive prayer vigil across from the White House in November, according to reports. Smaller vigils are expected across the country.
The coalition of campaigners includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.
"All our faith traditions place people who are impoverished and marginalized at the forefront of concern,” DHN said on its Website.
Congress has until Dec. 23 to enact more than $1 trillion in planned debt reduction, according to reports. Failure to meet the deadline would automatically enact sequestration cuts to defense spending and Medicare benefits.
The "Faithful Budget Campaign" is expected to stay active throughout the entire budget season, organizers said.