President Obama and some of his senior staff met Wednesday with a group of national Christian leaders about the potential effects of the default debate on funding for programs that help the needy.
The group included Evangelical and Catholic leaders who all agreed that the nation can get it's fiscal house in order without hurting those who are, as they say, "the most vulnerable."
Galen, Carey, Vice President of Government Relations had this to say:
"I was pleased that the president made meeting with Christian leaders about the poor a priority in his schedule. I hope all the leaders involved in the negotiations will honor our nation's historic committment in caring for the poor."
The leaders are all part of a non-partisan movement that looks at budgets as moral documents. The group calls itself the "Circle of Protection."
They came up with the following statement:
“As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.”
“Therefore, we join with others to form a circle of protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.”
“The U.S. needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people,” the statement reads. “National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.”
“As Christian leaders, we urge Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult times, our broken economy, and our wounded world.”
The statement was signed by more than 60 heads of denominations and religious organizations and endorsed by other faith leaders as well. The leaders plan to continue to talk with policy makers about the moral issues associated with the budget. They are currently trying to meet with Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress.
President Obama agreed that sacrifices necessary in cutting down the deficit must not fall on the backs of the "least of these."
A list of the representatives involved in the White House meeting is below:
President, Bread for the World
Vice President, Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals
Executive Director, Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ambassador Tony Hall
Executive Director, Alliance to End Hunger
Bishop Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Director, Poverty Initiative, National Council of Churches of Christ
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez
Bishop of Las Cruces, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Commissioner William A. Roberts
National Commander, The Salvation Army
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Stephen J. Thurston
President, National Baptist Convention of America
President and CEO, Sojourners
Co-facilitator, National African American Clergy Network
I'm told White House staff included in the meeting were as follows:
- Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett
- Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes
- Joshua DuBois, Director of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships