FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2013
CONTACT: Brian P. Duss, Sojourners, firstname.lastname@example.org , (202) 745-4615
Washington, DC, September 30, 2013 – On the eve of a possible shutdown of the U.S. government, religious leaders denounced the political brinkmanship prevailing in Congress today.
“Shutting down the government will do real damage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking at a press conference today. “Risking our nation’s creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy.”
“The problem with a government shutdown is not merely political—that the art of compromise has disappeared in Washington, D.C.—but is more deeply theological. The extreme elements that are pushing to shut down the government are not just against both Republican and Democratic traditions of governing: They are hostile to the role of government per se, and that is a biblical problem,” said Rev. Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners.
Faith leaders denounce the brinkmanship of members of Congress who put political partisanship ahead of the people they were elected to serve. Members of Congress and their staff are currently scrambling to find ways to keep the government running when its FY2013 funds run out on September 30. Either they will continue funding the government at 2013 levels or the government closes down. Even if Congress does not shut down the government, the funding battle will continue with the October 17 deadline for raising the US debt limit.
Rev. Wallis added, “The Bible sees the role of government to protect from evil and promote the good, especially helping and protecting the poorest and most vulnerable people. To protect the common good and the most vulnerable is being denied as the role of government by those who are so eager to push for the brinkmanship of one government crisis and confrontation after another. Those who are eager to shut down the government now and later risk defaulting on the nation’s debt need to read their Bibles—at least the ones who claim to be Christian do.”
In a letter released today, 33 faith leaders urged members of Congress to keep the government open. The letter states:
“Our democracy rests on principles of reason, compromise, and a commitment to the common good. To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation’s near term financial being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.”
Participating in the press conference this morning were Sister Simone Campbell SSS, executive director, NETWORK, A National Catholics Social Justice Lobby; Rev. David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World (press conference moderator); Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO, Church World Service; Rabbi David Saperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America; and Rev. Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners.
A copy of the letter with a list of signers is below:
September 30, 2013
As leaders of faith communities and organizations comprising millions of people from all walks of life across our nation, we are deeply concerned by the completely avoidable budget and financial crises we are fast approaching as a nation.
Though Congress must pass the federal budget, it belongs to every American. This common fund formed of our combined tax revenues is designed to support the shared infrastructure, well-being, and long-term ethical values of our society. As people of faith we find it morally irresponsible to blockade the process by which we provide for our nation’s shared needs in a bid to force any individual legislative priority.
It would likewise be reckless to propel the United States into financial default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling for spending that Congress has already approved. Shuttering the federal government or defaulting on the nation’s financial commitments is likely to reverse our fragile economic recovery, punish the middle class, and deeply harm our most vulnerable neighbors.
Our democracy rests on principles of reason, compromise, and a commitment to the common good. To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation’s near-term financial well-being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united in community.
We ask that lawmakers address their concerns through the proper legislative channels. It ill serves our nation and people to stand in the way of funding federal operations or raising the debt ceiling in an effort to block implementation of health care legislation that Congress duly enacted. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.
We commit to keeping you in prayer, asking that God continue to give you wisdom as you faithfully serve our nation during this time when the country most needs your principled leadership.
Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Dr. Lester A. Myers, President, Center of Concern
Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service
Dr. Jack Sullivan, President, Disciples Justice Action Network
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Executive Director, Faithful Reform in Health Care
Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF, President, Franciscan Action Network
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Rabbi Steve Gutow, President, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ, Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Fr. Tim Mulroy, SSC, U S. Regional Director, Missionary Society of St. Columban
Salam Al-Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, National Coordinator, National Advocacy Center of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Jack Payden-Travers, Director, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
Peg Birk, Transitional General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Nancy Kaufman, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Sr. Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rev. Kip B. Banks, Interim General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rev. Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners
Rev. Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, President, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President, and Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries United Church of Christ
Bishop Peter D. Weaver, Executive Secretary, The Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee