Budgets: Can't cut moral responsibility to save lives, say faith leaders

As the Senate moves towards compromise on massive cuts as outlined in House bill H.R. 1, humanitarian agency Church World Service and leading faith groups say that, even as lawmakers address current financial challenges, the United States has a moral responsibility to maintain the nation's capacity to save lives in the United States and internationally.

WASHINGTON./NEW YORK--As the Senate moves towards compromise on massive cuts as outlined in House bill H.R. 1, humanitarian agency Church World Service and leading faith groups say that, even as lawmakers address current financial challenges, the United States has a moral responsibility to maintain the nation’s capacity to save lives in the United States and internationally.

In letters sent yesterday and today to members of Congress, CWS and other religious leaders are raising their voices "against the proposed deep cuts in FY2011 discretionary domestic and poverty-focused foreign aid spending."

In a Monday letter to the Senate, Church World Service Executive Director and CEO John L. McCullough urged lawmakers to oppose the House cuts for fiscal year 2011 and enact funding for global disaster assistance and poverty-focused development assistance "at least at the level of the President’s request." Such programs are "less than one percent of the U.S. budget," McCullough noted, and cutting them will "not help solve the nation’s fiscal problems," but instead will "harm American long-term interests."

The House bill represents "a devastating blow for millions of children and adults struggling to overcome hunger and poverty and to rebuild from crises," McCullough added.

CWS, faith coalition entreat Congress today 

The faith coalition reminded lawmakers that "unchecked increases in military spending combined with vast tax cuts helped create our country’s financial difficulties and restoring financial soundness requires addressing these root imbalances."

The religious leaders say discretionary programs that serve the poor and vulnerable "are a very small percentage of the budget, and they are not the drivers of the deficits. Cutting discretionary programs will devastate those living in poverty at home and around the world, cost jobs, and in the long run will harm, not help, our fiscal situation."

"While ‘shared sacrifice’ can be an appropriate banner, those who would be devastated by these cuts have nothing left to sacrifice," they said.

McCullough’s caution to the Senate on Monday reflected the vantage point of a humanitarian agency that daily works with hunger, poverty and people displaced by conflicts and climate migration. He said cuts to bilateral and multilateral programs for clean technology, disaster risk reduction and adaptation funding for communities suffering climate change impacts "will cost us much more in the future when the U.S. may be required to respond to once-preventable disasters threatening to destabilize vulnerable countries."

CWS states that only minimal savings would result from H.R. 1’s proposed 67 percent cut in International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and the proposed 45 percent cut in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA).

"These are not worth the loss of life, human suffering and destabilizing impact of discontinuing programs that provide emergency health, safe shelter, and clean water for millions of survivors of conflicts, human rights abuses and natural disasters," said McCullough.

CWS similarly urges that the Office of Refugee Resettlement budget, stagnant for decades, should not be additionally cut, to prevent additional burdens on already-strapped state and local governments to assist refugees.

CWS and McCullough also urge preserving a level of funding as outlined by President Obama’s FY2011 request for "sustainable, life-saving global agriculture, nutrition and food aid programs [CR1]."

Leaders of U.S. churches who signed today’s letter to Congress along with CWS’s McCullough include:

Rev. Donald H. Ashmall, Council Minister, International Council of Community Churches; Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr., President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, President, Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church; Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries; The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA; Arthur M. Larrabee, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends; Bishop Chuck Leigh, President, Apostolic Catholic Church; Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren; Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church USA; Stephen M. Veazey, President, Community of Christ; and Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.

Related CWS Action Alert: Tell Congress not to cut humanitarian foreign aid

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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