Sixty Christian leaders from across the the theological spectrum have signed onto a statement condemning President Donald Trump's budget proposal and have expressed concern over proposed cuts to federal welfare programs that they say help the United States' "most vulnerable" people.
"We believe budgets are moral documents; they reveal our values and show our priorities, whether for families, churches, organizations, or governments," the document reads. "Budgets show who and what we view as important, and, likewise, who and what are not. We have deep moral concerns about the way this budget would impact those we are called to protect."
The statement was championed by the Circle of Protection, a coalition of Christian leaders committed to advocating for programs that help alleviate hunger and poverty. The statement explains that the group supports "responsible stewardship" that can provide "opportunity for people to thrive and invests in people who are not thriving."
"We recognize the need to address our national debt and believe that Congress should approve a budget that weighs the importance of providing for critical needs and that responsibly manages the country's fiscal issues; but the most vulnerable should not carry the burden of solving this challenge," the statement asserts. "This budget proposes major cuts to programs for the poor, hungry, weak, sick, and most vulnerable."
Such cuts, the statement argues, would disproportionately impact the lives of low-income Americans.
"The budget would increase hunger in America by cutting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) by more than 25 percent, mostly impacting low-income working families," the statement continues. "It would significantly cut the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, and the Community Block Grants which support many vital neighborhood programs."
The signatories to the document include National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Elizabeth Eaton, former General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church Jo Anne Lyon and National Council of Churches President Jim Winkler.
Other signatories include: Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; John Ashmen, president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Soong-Chan Rah, professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago; Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative.
The leaders also take issue with the fact that the House-passed health care bill would cut over $800 billion from Medicaid over a 10-year span and argues that it would take health insurance away from 14 million low-income people. The statement calls on government leaders to pursue "options that do not ask our poorest neighbors to bear most of the weight of budget and health care cuts."
"As in the past, many low-income families would be vulnerable to hunger, poverty and bankruptcy when illness and the high costs of health care strike them," the statement reads. "The administration's budget proposes to cut yet another $600 billion from Medicaid for America's poorest and most vulnerable people."
The leaders also condemn the fact that proposed increases to military spending would come at the cost of important international assistance programs designed to help people get out of poverty.
"There is broad and deep support within the faith community for continued funding of poverty-focused international assistance programs. The budget proposal would reduce U.S. foreign aid by 29 percent — at a time when famines are emerging in four countries across Africa and the Middle East," the statement explains. "Deep cuts to foreign aid are likely to fall especially hard on initiatives that help people get out of poverty — nutrition programs for babies, for example, or improved seeds for struggling African farmers."
According to the statement, the Christian leaders are dedicated to working with members of Congress in both political parties to "build a budget that defends those who need protecting" and improves the health care system without putting low-income Americans at risk of losing coverage.
The statement comes after seven Christian leaders were arrested in April for protesting Trump's "immoral" budget proposal inside of a congressional office building in Washington, D.C.
"Our leaders are looking and talking as if our budget is an economic document. But it's not. They are looking at it like a balance sheet. But, it's not. It's a statement of the moral compass of our nation and we are failing. It should reflect our highest qualities and take care of the most vulnerable and support a just and equitable society," Patrick Carolan, the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network and one of the arrested leaders, told the crowd during the April demonstration. "The budget presented by President Donald Trump turns its back on that quality as evidenced by the laundry list of programs and institutions that he would drain of resources in favor of expanding military spending."