The UCC's moral voice on capital hill has been "loud and clear" in the 2006 federal budget debate, says the leader of the church's Washington, D.C. office.
"At stake in this budget is the fate of 36 million people in the U.S. living below the federal poverty line, 45 million without health insurance and 13 million hungry children," said the Rev. Ron Stief of Justice and Witness Ministries.
Representing the UCC, Stief joined leaders from the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in an April meeting with three U.S. senators, including House Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss moral implications of the proposed budget. The delegation requested a similar meeting with Majority Leader Bill Frist (RTenn.), but Frist did not respond.
"The Senate is depending on us to provide the language of moral values in the political debate over budget priorities," Stief said, "as we are depending on our nation's political leaders to fight for policies which protect the poor and the disadvantaged."
Also in April, UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas joined heads of communion from the ELCA, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and United Methodist Church in calling on members of Congress to remember the biblical story of the rich man and Lazarus as a warning that "should deeply trouble those of us who live in a wealthy nation."
"As we view the 2006 federal budget through our lens of faith, this budget, on balance, continues to ask our nation's working poor to pay the cost of a prosperity in which they may never share," the religious leaders' statement read. "Therefore, we ask Congress to reject this budget and begin anew."
Portions of the statement were read aloud on both the House and Senate floors.
The Christian leaders continue to oppose a mid-April congressional resolution that proposes cuts in Medicaid by $10 billion over five years and cuts of at least $35 billion from child care, foster care and other programs assisting those with lower incomes. In addition, Stief said as much as $7 billion may be cut from popular student loan programs.
"Not everyone loses in this budget," Stief said. "Nearly $100 billion in new tax cuts, mostly going to those who earn $500,000 a year or more, are part of this budget agreement as well."
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"Winners and Losers," a resource produced by Justice and Witness Ministries, offers faith-based reflections on the proposed 2006 budget. It is available online at ucctakeaction.org.
A letter addressed to members of Congress on April 28: 'Congress should reject this budget'
. We believe our federal budget is a moral document and should reflect our historic national commitment for those in our own country who suffer from hunger, lack of education, jobs, housing, and medical care, as well as concern for our global community. There are good programs that can help solve all of these problems. We know - we have seen them at work and we our doing our part with our own programs. But we cannot do it alone. Government must be a partner in providing opportunities for our fellow women and men to pursue their God-given gifts. We commend those who attempted to improve the Fiscal Year 2006 budget by adding funds for Medicaid, education, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and international family planning. We regret that the speed with which this document is being brought to the floor does not allow time for the careful examination such a document requires.
As we view the 2006 Federal Budget through our lens of faith this budget, on balance, continues to ask our nation's working poor to pay the cost of a prosperity in which they may never share. We believe this budget remains unjust. It does not adequately address the more than 36 million Americans living below the poverty line, 45 million without health insurance, or the 13 million hungry children. Worldwide, it neither provides sufficient development assistance nor adequately addresses the global AIDS pandemic. Therefore, we ask Congress to reject this budget and begin anew.
We conclude . by asking that together we pledge ourselves to creating a nation in which economic policies are infused with the spirit of the man who began his public ministry almost 2,000 years ago by proclaiming that God had anointed him "to bring good news to the poor."
The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, UCC
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church
The Right Rev. Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church