The Common Good

Jim Wallis and Faith Leaders Call for a Moral Budget and Urge Congress to Say 'No' to Social Cuts that Pay For Tax Cuts

Source: Sojourners
Date: November 3, 2005

Contact: Jack Pannell,

Jim Wallis and Faith Leaders Call for a Moral Budget and Urge Congress to Say 'No' to Social Cuts that Pay For Tax Cuts

Following the press conference today near the Senate floor, four prominent religious leaders and nearly 20 others walked in silence to the U. S. Capitol Rotunda and held an impromptu meeting with Speaker Dennis Hastert before a brief protest of public prayer.

Washington, D.C. - (Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005) Jim Wallis, the progressive evangelical founder of Sojourners and convener of Call to Renewal, joined several national religious leaders in a press conference on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005, at the U.S. Capitol. The national religious leaders included: Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the USA; Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, president of the National Council of Churches, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory of the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Following the press conference, the religious leaders had an impromptu meeting with the Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R- Ill). The religious leaders utilized the opportunity to voice their concerns about cuts in taxes, food stamps, health, and Medicaid. Although this was a brief meeting in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, the religious leaders succeeded in pressing Speaker Hastert to consider the unity of the faith community in challenging the pending plans to make deep budget cuts that hurt poor children and families. After the impromptu meeting, the religious leaders stood in silence under the dome of the Capitol and prayed for compassion and understanding from members of Congress during the upcoming floor debates on budget and tax cuts.

From l-r, Rabbi David Saperstein, Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, and Jim Wallis meet with Speaker Dennis Hastert.

As the campaign to challenge the budget and tax cuts by the faith community continues to build momentum, Jim Wallis said in today's press conference: "Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to prevent a social disaster. The waters of Katrina have washed away our national denial of just how many Americans are living in poverty. But some in Congress are not paying attention. Cutting social services from this year's budget that help the poor - to pay for tax cuts for the rich - is a moral travesty that violates biblical priorities."

"Plans for deep cuts to social supports are contrary to national priorities we need to protect our most vulnerable citizens," continued Wallis. "We need strong moral leadership in Congress, especially during this time of war, record deficits, rising poverty and hunger*, and natural disasters. Cutting food stamps and health care that meet the basic needs of poor families would be a moral failure."

Speaker Dennis Hastert in impromptu meeting with religious leaders challenging morality of budget cuts.

"As this moral battle for the budget unfolds, I am calling on members of Congress, some of whom make much out of their faith, to start some Bible studies before they cast votes to cut food stamps, Medicaid, child care, and more that hurt the weakest in our nation. The faith community is drawing a moral line in the sand against these priorities. I call on political leaders to show political will in standing up for 'the least of these,' as Jesus reminds us to do. Instead of wearing bracelets that ask 'what would Jesus do' perhaps some Republicans should ponder 'what would Jesus cut.' If this ideology and politics of rich over poor prevails and our leaders fail to govern from a set of moral values, then the religious community will conclude that compassionate conservatism is dead."

Religious community protests in prayer under the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

For the past four weeks, Jim Wallis and religious leaders from diverse traditions have met with members of Congress to discuss how social cuts for poor families and tax cuts for wealthy Americans are unconscionable and immoral. "Budgets are moral documents and they reflect our national priorities and values. In the name of social conscience, fiscal responsibility, equality of opportunity, protecting our communities and the very idea of a 'common good,' the upcoming budget votes will be closely watched by people of faith," said Wallis.

* Last week, the USDA documented the fifth consecutive annual increase in the number of food insecure Americans - people living in households suffering from hunger without resources to purchase an adequate diet. T he increase was the worst since 2000. See also August 2005 Census Report on poverty.

About Sojourners : Founded in 1971 as a faith-based organization, Sojourners provides an alternative perspective on faith, politics, and culture through its award-winning monthly magazine, e-mail services, Web site, media commentaries, and public events. Ecumenical and progressive, Sojourners lifts up the biblical connection between social justice and spiritual renewal and nurtures community by bringing together people from the various traditions and streams of the church. Sojourners also hosts an annual program of voluntary service now in its 21st year.