Christian leaders meet with White House in push for child tax credit, voting rights, family support

Longtime progressive evangelical activist Jim Wallis speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, after a meeting between the Circle of Protection and White House officials in Washington, D.C.
Longtime progressive evangelical activist Jim Wallis speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, after a meeting between the Circle of Protection and White House officials in Washington, D.C. | Jim Simpson

A theologically diverse group of Christian leaders met with White House officials on Wednesday to advocate for the expanded child tax credit and other economic proposals as part of a discussion on anti-poverty initiatives.

The faith-based coalition Circle of Protection had a meeting with Biden administration officials advocating for recent expansions to the child tax credit to be made permanent and passage of economic bills and voting rights legislation being considered by Congress this fall. 

The meeting included representatives for Catholic Charities, the National Association of Evangelicals, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, National African American Clergy Network and the National Association of Latino Evangelicals.

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They met with White House Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Melissa Rogers and Deputy Director of the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Josh Dickson, who served as the head of faith engagement for the 2020 Biden campaign. 

Jim Wallis, the former president of the progressive evangelical social justice organization Sojourners and head of Georgetown University's Center on Faith and Justice, was present for the meeting.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Wallis, a longtime evangelical justice advocate, said that he believed the meeting "went very well" with "everyone around the table" speaking "to why they were there."  

"We're there to bring what we said was 'the faith factor,'" explained Wallis. "Religious voices, which are trans-partisan. We don't serve one party or the other."

"We're there because of who is going to be served by these bills, particularly lower-income families and children … these things are good news to poor people."

In addition to the White House meeting, the Circle of Protection also sent a letter to President Joe Biden and members of Congress advocating for the anti-poverty elements to be included in infrastructure and budget legislation, as well as voting rights legislation.

As Congress negotiates a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package shaped by Biden's domestic agenda, the Circle of Protection is urging Congress not to "cut its anti-poverty provisions" and "tax high-income people and corporations to pay for them."

"The Bible is clear in its opposition to the concentration of wealth amid neglected human need," the letter states. "Those who have benefited the most should contribute to the common good of society and invest in the most vulnerable."

The letter argues that while the leaders "don't all agree on every aspect of these multifaceted pieces of legislation or on the legislative processes," many of the provisions in the bill will "protect human dignity, support families, and serve the common good of society."

"We are all pro-family, and that entails support for economic policies that help families escape poverty and flourish," the letter assures. "And when it comes to voting rights, democracy and the moral character of the nation are at stake."

The letter "fervently" endorses the "extension of recent improvements in the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax." 

"Making the full value of the Child Tax Credit available to the poorest households has
substantially reduced child poverty, and we are all of one mind that this provision should be made permanent," the letter reads. "The improvements in the EITC are benefiting those low-income working adults who often see little or no other assistance. In view of America's affordable housing crisis, we also support a generous expansion of housing vouchers, because a place to live for families draws us all together."

Wallis told CP that he believes that "there's no doubt that" the current administration is receptive to a more diverse range of faith-based advocacy than the previous administration. During the Trump years, the White House often invited conservative evangelical and Pentecostal leaders to high-profile events and policy briefings.  

"The last administration seemed to be listening to only a very small group of leaders. Even moderate evangelical leaders weren't listened to," Wallis contends.

He said the Biden administration is "listening to us" and "paying attention."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook 

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