While all of Washington is caught up in the he said-he said back and forth that has turned the debt ceiling negotiations into a high-wire act without a net, one group continues to attempt to be the voice of sanity, and the voice of the poor.
The Circle of Protection is what some have labeled an "unprecedented coalition" within the Beltway, made up of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ.
From the Washington Post's 'In the Loop':
It’s unprecedented because “we don’t agree on much else,” said John Carr of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The coalition focuses on those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45), which speaks to obligations to look to the less fortunate. One goal is to get lawmakers to consider “What would Jesus cut?” (Actually, to ask the question is probably to answer it.)
...“Poor people don’t have an office on K Street,” said Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They don’t have lobbyists, so their voice is muted. That’s why it’s important for people of faith to step into the void.”
So how have the meetings on the Hill gone? “Most people say, ‘Yes, that’s a good point,’ ” Carey said. “We haven’t had anyone say that the goal is to take food out of hungry children’s mouths.” Well, that’s hopeful.
In a related story, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, called on Congress to remember the human and moral dimensions of the ongoing budget and debt ceiling debate, in a July 26 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives.
From the bishops' letter:
A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.
...In this letter we do not offer a detailed critique of the entire measure before the House, but we ask you to consider the human and moral dimensions of several key choices facing the Congress. We fear the human and social costs of substantial cuts to programs that serve families working to escape poverty, especially food and nutrition, child development and education, and affordable housing.
...The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.
Bishop Blaire and Bishop Hubbard respectively chair the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Read the full text of the letter by clicking HERE.
Meanwhile, the Circle of Protection, which has sponsored prayer vigils on Capitol Hill and fasts of up to 27 days, lists the following key principles on its website:
To read the full Washington Post story, click HERE.
- The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
- Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
- We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
- National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
- A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
- The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect "the least of these." "What would Jesus cut?" "How do we share sacrifice?"
- As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.
- God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our task is to share these blessings with love and justice and with a special priority for those who are poor.