Opening Statement: National Advocacy Call and Webinar – The Faithful Budget Campaign

September 27, 2011

By Douglas G. Grace, M.Div., S.T.M., National Coordinator, Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
September 27, 2011, Noon (EDT)

Good afternoon and welcome to The Faithful Budget Campaign national advocacy call and webinar.  My name is Douglas Grace, and I am the Coordinator of Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice.  On behalf of the Washington, DC based staff of more than thirty denominational and faith-based organizations who have joined together to launch The Faithful Budget Campaign, we all say “Welcome and May God’s Peace Be with You!”  Participating in today’s briefing are literally hundreds of religious Americans all across the country who have responded quite overwhelmingly with their desire to join together in ensuring that Congress and the Congressional “Deficit Super Committee” do not attempt to reduce the national deficit by placing an undue burden on the poor, while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.  We are also joined on this national call and webinar by members of the press who have already given extensive coverage to the activity of The Faithful Budget Campaign to date. Following this national call, The Faithful Budget Campaign will host 12 individual state calls where local participants will be able to connect with each other for further organizing.

[Ecumenical Advocacy Days’ 10th annual celebration conference, March 23-26, 2012, is titled “Is THIS the Fast I Seek? Economy, Livelihood and Our National Priorities.” EAD is actively participating in the outreach and community organizing efforts of The Faithful Budget Campaign throughout the country occurring this fall.  The March 2012 EAD gathering of 1,000 Christian advocates in Washington, DC will be a highlighted peak in the overall interfaith effort to seek a global economy and a national budget that breaks to yokes of injustice, poverty, hunger and unemployment in the U.S. and abroad.]

All of our faith traditions place people who are impoverished and marginalized at the forefront of concern.  The current fiscal debates – at their heart – are a struggle for the soul of our nation and its moral conscience.   The Faithful Budget Campaign grieves at the soaring gap between rich and poor; faith and fairness require that we preserve and strengthen vital lifelines for people who are struggling to overcome hardship and poverty in the U.S. and abroad.  The faithful way forward to fiscal health calls for a focus on job creation, revenue increases, a shared commitment to the common good, and cuts in unnecessary military spending.

During the height of negotiations this summer to lower the nation’s deficit, numerous organizations representing Christians, Jews and Muslims came together to launch the Faithful Budget Campaign. (Campaign Link at www.DomesticHumanNeeds.org)  Through the Faithful Budget Campaign, the faith community seeks to influence the Administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty programs by lifting up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable.  In July, the campaign organized high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders, daily prayer vigils at the United Methodist Building next to the U.S. Capitol Building which culminated with the arrest of 11 faith leaders praying in the U.S. Capitol Building just days before Congress passed the debt ceiling compromise.  The work of the Faithful Budget Campaign is grounded in prayer.

A Congressional “Super Committee” has now been charged with finding $1.2 trillion to cut from the federal budget by Novembers 23rd.  These cutes could impact every federal program: Social Security, Medicare, nutrition assistance programs, prenatal and infant care, foreign aid, the military, taxes and more.

This fall, faith communities across the country are being invited to unite with people of faith from across the country to pray and to ask Congress for a just and compassionate federal budget; a “faithful budget.”  Today’s national conversation marks the expansion of The Faithful Budget Campaign into the hometowns and districts of Congressional leadership, members of the “Deficit Super Committee” and all members of Congress.  We seek religious leaders in states and localities to begin organizing now to begin holding prayer vigils in front of the district offices of members of Congress, in-district meetings between U.S. Representatives/Senators and local faith leaders, to join a national “Super Vigil” being planned for November 13th in cities throughout the country, and to register now for the March 23-26th Ecumenical Advocacy Days, “Is THIS the Fast I Seek? Economy, Livelihood and Our National Priorities.”

In addition to the launch of grassroots initiative of The Faithful Budget Campaign, we are also joined today by over thirty heads of religious denominations and faith-based organizations who sent a letter to Congress this morning concerning the ongoing deficit and federal budget debate.  The religious leaders stated, “We urge members of Congress and the President, in the faithful exercise of their Constitutional duty to ‘promote the general welfare,’ to set aside all rancor and narrow partisanship and to strive for the highest level of cooperation, not simply the least common political denominator.”  The religious leaders urged policymakers to look with fairness at potential avenues toward fiscal health, with job creation, revenue, and reducing unnecessary and duplicative military spending, and not at the expense of those who can least afford additional cuts to their life necessities.  A copy of the letter can be found on the Faithful Budget Campaign link at(www.DomesticHumanNeeds.org).

I would now like to introduce two of my colleagues who will further brief you concerning the policy and political reality we face and the potential impact The Faithful Budget Campaign has to influence the national conversation.

First you will hear from Aura Kanegis who is the Washington Director of Public Policy for the American Friends Service Committee.  Aura will be followed by The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, the Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (USA) who was one of 11 faith leaders arrested in the U.S. Capitol Building just days before Congress passed the debt ceiling compromise in July.

[Further information from The Faithful Budget Campaign national advocacy call and webinar, including the webinar powerpoint presentation, can be found atwww.DomesticHumanNeeds.org).]
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