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Christian Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Spare Poor as Sequestration Looms

A coalition of prominent Christian leaders has recently issued a letter urging members of Congress to spare the "hungry and poor" when implementing the forced spending cuts, due to take place this Friday.

The letter  encourages President Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to "frame the budget debate in terms of moral choices that are understandable to the American people."

"Important choices must be made: we must weigh the benefits of tax credits for low-income people and tax breaks for high income people; of nutrition assistance to low-income families and subsidies to agricultural businesses," the letter reads.

"Congress can and must develop a balanced and thoughtful path forward that protects the most vulnerable and preserves economic opportunity," it adds.

The group is led by an array of religious leaders, including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Bishop Stephen E. Blaire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Jim Wallis, president of the social justice organization Sojourners.

The letter was signed by 65 pastoral leaders, ranging from specialties in higher education, ministry leadership, and relief work.

Notable names included Bishop Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention; and Jay Barnes, President of Bethel University.

The letter also asks lawmakers to stop their political brinkmanship, as Republicans and Democrats have recently struggled to reach an agreement on government finances, the debt ceiling, and the fiscal cliff.

"Moving from one crisis to another has slowed economic recovery and has kept Congress from finding a sound, moral path to fiscal sustainability. Other important issues go unaddressed, all the while increasing cynicism about our political process," the letter reads.

 "Congress' actions should not provoke a serious economic setback or push more people into poverty," it adds.

The letter was issued by the Circle of Protection, a coalition of influential Christian leaders dedicated  to halting "budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity and rights of poor and vulnerable people."

The press release which accompanied the letter features comments made by some of the signatories, including Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners.

"Leaders in Washington face serious moral choices on sequester and the budget that will have significant consequences for millions of people across the country," Wallis said.

"The faith community is urging them to offer moral leadership by protecting vulnerable people living in poverty from further harm and ending the brinkmanship that has slowed our economic recovery," he continued. "It's time to move away from ideological politics to save our nation's fiscal and moral soul. Now is the time for Washington to create an opportunity agenda that ensures everyone is included in the recovery of our economy."

On March 1, a sequestration, or triggering of automatic spending cuts, may take place because the Obama administration and Republicans cannot agree on a deficit-reduction plan. Critics contend that the possibility of the two parties agreeing on a way to approach the reductions appears unlikely.

According to the National Journal, it is unclear how the $85 billion will be cut on Friday, but what is clear is that the "spending cuts are broad, bad for states, bad for business, bad for the economy, and bad for a lot of people."

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