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Several religious groups reacted to President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address on FEB-02, and the 2006 U.S. federal budget issued on FEB-07. They viewed them as moral documents, and came to opposing conclusions.

Most of the reaction came from mainline and liberal religious groups. We could locate only two responses from conservative religious organizations. If you can point us to more of the latter, we would be deeply appreciative.

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Center for American Progress:

This is a group of individuals, pastors, representatives of religiously mainline and liberal groups, and other "leaders of this nation's religious communities." Prior to the release of the 2006 federal budget, they sent an open letter to all members of Congress, outlining criteria by which they felt the fairness and justice of budget should be judged. They outlined six considerations:

  1. Does the budget provide those in need with the assistance necessary to build self-reliant, purposeful lives?
  2. Does the budget provide adequately for all of God's children, including the poor and sick, the old and very young?
  3. Does the budget strengthen the foundations of our country in order to make us safer and more secure?
  4. Does the budget protect God's creation, the environment?
  5. Does the budget spread its burdens and rewards fairly, or are some groups given special unearned privilege, while others are excluded from America's bounty and opportunity?
  6. Does the budget promote justice and equality by providing for basic human needs in health care, education, housing and other areas? 5

After the budget was released, they sent a second letter to members of congress indicating their concern about the "just-released federal budget and by the disastrous impact many of its provisions will have on the lives of millions of man, women and children." Included among their concerns are:

bulletTax cuts that will reduce revenues by $1.4 trillion over the next decade.
bulletReduction of Medicaid funding by at least 45 billion over the next ten years will adversely affect the health protection of over 50 million Americans.
bulletReduction by 1.1 billion in food-stamp aid which will eliminate nearly 300,000 people from the program.
bulletA five-year freeze on child-care assistance which will prevent 300,000 low income children from receiving child care by 2009.
bulletA cut in educational funding.
bulletA $12 billion shortfall in 2005 of the No Child Left Behind initiative.
bulletA 8.4% cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program which helps the poor heat their homes.
bulletA $118 million cut in housing aid for the disabled.
bulletA $360 million cut in EPA programs which help communities build waster-water treatment plants.
bulletA $1 billion cut in the Community Oriented Policing program. 1

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Call to Renewal:

This is a "...a national network of churches, faith-based organizations, and individuals working to overcome poverty in America." They describe them selves as working "Through local and national partnerships with groups from across the theological and political spectrum, [to] ...convene the broadest table of Christians focused on anti-poverty efforts. Together we work to influence local and national public policies and priorities, while growing and developing a movement of Christians committed to overcoming poverty." 2 They believe that examining the priorities in the budget "-- who will benefit and who will suffer in President Bush’s budget -'' is a moral and religious concern." They conclude that the budget's record $427 billion deficit and its proposal to "make tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest permanent" lacks moral vision. "A budget that scapegoats the poor and fattens the rich, that asks for sacrifice mostly from those who can least afford it, is a moral outrage....Rather than moving toward a “living family income,” the budget stifles opportunities for low-income families, which are vital for national economic security. Our future is in serious jeopardy if one in three proposed program cuts are to education initiatives (after a highly touted “No Child Left Behind” effort), there will be less flexibility to include working poor families with children on Medicaid, and reductions in community and rural development, job training, food stamps, and housing are accepted as solutions for reducing the deficit. Cutting pro-work and pro-family supports for the less fortunate jeopardizes the common good. And this while defense spending rises again to $419 billion (not including any additional spending for war in Iraq).3

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Concerned Women for America:

Dr. Janice Crouse, spokesperson for the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America said that the Bush 2006 budget is moral because it focuses on three main factors: defense of America, reducing the deficit, and strengthening families. She said: "This is the secret for building a strong society. You've got to have strong families, you've got to have communities that are concerned about the kind of opportunities that people have for getting out of poverty—and that means strengthening families." She added that this is more than shouting slogans: "We have to look at what's best for the nation, what strengthens the nation internally and externally. And this is a budget that does that." 7

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Evangelicals for Social Action:

A declaration by this religiously conservative group was issued just before the release of the 2006 budget. It does not refer to the budget specifically, but covers two of the main areas that the budget impacts: poverty and health care. In a letter to President Bush, ESA stated:

"Poverty in our own nation has increased in the last several years and millions more working poor lack health insurance.

We agree with you that there is a poverty of the soul and a poverty of the wallet and that government should not try to solve the first. We pledge to you to strengthen the armies of compassion in order to do more through our faith-based organizations to overcome the poverty of the soul.

But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance." 6

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FaithfulAmerica.org "is an online community of people of faith who want to build a more just and compassionate nation." It is a project of the National Council of Churches which is composed of mainline and liberal Christian denominations.

On their home page, as it existed in 2005-MAR-03, they note that the South Asian Tsunami killed about 162,000 people. They compare this death toll with others around the world:

bullet25,000 people starve to death daily, according to Bread for the World. This is equivalent to more than one tsunami every week.
bullet14,000 people are infected with HIV every day. AIDS kills at a rate of more than 19 tsunamis each year.
bulletThe total Sudan genocide death toll will equal from 2 to 7 tsunamis.
bullet18,000 Americans died in 2004 because they lacked health insurance.
bulletDeaths of non-combatants in Iraq are approaching the death toll from the South Asian Tsunami.
bulletThe rejection of the Kyoto Protocol by the U.S. may "prove the costliest and most preventable mistake of our time." 9

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National Council of Churches, USA & Interfaith Alliance:

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is an umbrella group representing many mainline and liberal Christian churches in the U.S. The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) represents a broad spectrum of liberal wings of various religions. They sponsored  a rally on Capitol Hill to emphasize that the federal budget proposed by the Bush Administration does not reflect their values:

bulletRev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary said: "this budget is immoral and does not reflect the values we hold as people of faith. The proposed budget spends about half on defense and the deficit but very little on addressing the needs of the poor, the dispossessed, children and those who are most in need."
bulletRabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism said, "We are here today to say that when we look at this budget, we see that American politics right now are fundamentally broken - corrupted by abuse, world indifference, and politicians who spend their days dialing for dollars." He suggests that people of faith: "...send a message to our President and to leaders of both parties that despite squalor for the poor and gated communities for the rich, the great majority of Americans have not given up on 'We, the People'."
bulletArun Gandhi, grandson of the founder of the nonviolence movement, Mohandas Gandhi,  founder/president of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, and member of the Board of Directors of The Interfaith Alliance said: "The 2006 budget is immoral because while it cuts programs that help the poor and the needy it showers presents on the rich. Clearly, this budget seeks to make the rich richer while reducing the poor to panhandlers."
bulletRev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance, led participants in a litany that declared, "Fairness, compassion, integrity, and justice are the moral principles that should drive the crafting of the federal budget. As a moral document, the federal budget should not, and cannot, be built on the backs of the poor, the elderly and future generations."

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"Several prominent faith leaders:"

"Several prominent faith leaders from [unidentified] major faith communities" who appear to be on the liberal side of the Christian spectrum, joined together to produce an "Alternative State of the Union" address in response to the President Bush's State of the Union Speech on 2005-FEB-02. 1

They raised a number of points of concern:

bulletFreedom, democracy and compassion are imperiled in America.
bulletThe Patriot Act threatens civil liberties and the right to privacy
bulletThe "Fairness Doctrine, increasing control of the media by corporate conglomerates, and the appointment of ideologically far-right judges are undermining the most basic building blocks of a free and fair society."
bulletWealth has increased 150% since 1966, but infant mortality, education access, livable wages, child welfare and access to health care have degenerated precipitously.
bulletThe percentage of citizens imprisoned in the U.S. is one of the highest in the world.
bulletPrograms to help those released from prison are woefully inadequate.
bulletThe wealthy have benefited from tax cuts but indicators of social well-being have not increased for most Americans.
bulletThe U.S. needs to cooperate with the free nations of the world in combating terrorism, rather than "launching pre-emptive wars, ignoring international agreements against torture, and arbitrarily advocating the overthrow of some undemocratic regimes while counting other tyrants as allies."
bulletThe U.S. is lagging the much of rest of the world in the preservation of the environment.
bullet"We grieve for our government’s loss of respect abroad. We call on our country to rejoin the nations of the world in guarding human rights, repudiating torture, protecting democracy, preserving our environment, upholding the Geneva Conventions, and being an exemplar in caring for those least able to care for themselves. A nation of freedom, democracy, and compassion, which violates its own bedrock values cannot long endure. We shall not rest until the soul of our country has been restored. For the sake of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, we must restore our common good, for liberty and justice for all."

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References used:

  1. "Dear Member of Congress," Center for American Progress, http://www.americanprogress.org/
  2. "What is Call to Renewal?," Call to Renewal, at: http://www.calltorenewal.org/
  3. Jim Wallis, "Without Vision the People Perish: A Reaction to President Bush’s 2006 Budget Proposal," 2005-FEB-07, at: http://www.calltorenewal.org/
  4. "People of Faith Declare Proposed Federal Budget 'Immoral'," World Faith News, 2005-MAR-15, at: http://www.wfn.org/
  5. "Religious Community on Morality of the Federal Budget," Center for American Progress, 2005-FEB-03, at: http://heartsoulandhumor.blogspot.com/
  6. Letter to President Bush, 2005-JAN-17, at: http://www.esa-online.org/
  7. Keith Peters, "Liberal Clergy Attack Bush Budget," Family News in Focus, 2005-MAR-16, at: http://www.family.org/
  8. Rabbi Balfour Brickner, and 12 other religious leaders, "Reclaiming the soul of our country," 2005-FEB-02, at: http://faithfulamerica.blogspot.com/
  9. Vince Isner, "Tsunamis Threaten Us All," Faithful America.com. 2005-MAR-03, at: http://www.faithfulamerica.org/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAR-17
Latest update: 2005-MAR-18
Author: Arthur J Levine

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