Faith-Based Leaders Speak Against Food Stamp Cuts for the Poor

Leaders of faith communities have spoken out again to urge members of the House Agriculture Committee to ''dust off their Bibles'' and preserve food stamps.

Leaders of faith communities have spoken out again to urge members of the House Agriculture Committee to "dust off their Bibles" and preserve food stamps.

"We all need to speak," said Sojourners Executive Director Jim Wallis during a press conference Wednesday, calling the budget cuts on the Food Stamp Program a "biblical alarm on the poor people."

"You don't cut the people who are the most vulnerable while enriching [the wealthy]," stated Wallis.

Religious and faith-based heads have been amplifying their interfaith voice in a fight to protect hundreds of thousands of America's poor families. The Agricultural Department had proposed spending cuts that targeted food stamps, Medicaid, welfare and other social services, and at the same time, provided tax cuts for the wealthy.

The "moral outrage" has brought leaders across the religious spectrum to their feet in opposition to the budget reconciliation bill.

"In Virginia, we know that we have 490,000 people a month on food stamps," said Rev. Douglas Smith, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. "It clearly concerns us greatly."

Pointing to the term of the proposal, Smith said, "In Virginia, 'reconciliation' means something very different. Reconciliation means healing [and] coming together."

He continued by saying that the budget process has nothing to do with any of those related terms, calling it "oppressive" and "painful."

With hunger and poverty still on the rise, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said in a statement, "Now is the wrong time to cut the nutritional safety net for poor people. There are alternative ways to balance our budget and we should take them."

While Beckmann and other faith-based leaders celebrated an earlier victory when U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), head of the Senate Agriculture Committee, removed the Food Stamp Program from proposed cuts, food stamps are still at risk.

Senate representatives have mainly backed away from agreeing to the proposal. However, outraged leaders now turn to House members and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, to do the right thing and protect the program.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders had signed and sent a letter to every member of Congress on Sept. 21 to protect the federal food stamp program during the budget reconciliation process.

"I cannot imagine leaving the powerless and invisible behind through this kind of budget reduction," said the Right Rev. David Colin Jones, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, during the conference. "I believe Congress should abandon this so-called reconciliation process."

Beckmann predicts that the budget process will not be settled until Thanksgiving. Until then, religious leaders are staying on top of the issue, channeling their voices through one megaphone in a committed and united stance for the poor.

"People of faith are speaking clearly on behalf of poor people ... and you can't ignore what they're saying," said Wallis.

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